A Problem with Crake’s Thought

Out of all the books we read this semester, I probably found Oryx and Crake to be the most engaging.  At the heart of it is Crake’s motivation for including the virus in the BlyssPluss pill.  But what do we really know about this motivation?  Margaret Atwood doesn’t really give the reader much to go on.  The project that John and I did attempted to access the interiority of this character and open up some of the driving elements behind the novel.

However, when working through Crake’s reasoning, I came up against a wall that I couldn’t seem to work around.  His main thought is that the ability for abstract thought and analogical reasoning is what has gotten humans in trouble throughout our past.  He specifically points to the creation of art as the beginning of symbolic thought.  He warns Jimmy that it is something to watch out for.  Religion is only a few steps behind.  Theoretically, the Crakers don’t have the ability for this kind of thought.

The question, then, is if they’re still human.  People point to many different things to define “human” and separate it from animals.  The most convincing one, I believe, is our ability for language and the abstract thought that it entails.  The Crakers do still have the faculty of language.  But I believe that the ability for language is always already the ability to think abstractly.  Nietzsche said that all language functions by metaphor.  In order to link signifiers and signifieds one must connect two unrelated items (namely a sound and an object, or a written word and an object).  All metaphor is abstract, ergo all language is abstract.  By including language in the Crakers’ abilities, Crake has given them the ability to do exactly that which he was attempting to eradicate.  Without abstract thought, there is no language, and thus no humanity.  With language and humanity necessarily comes the ability for abstract thought.  Crake was trying to remove the human-ness from humans.  His project was doomed to failure from the very conception.  If anyone has a rebuttal, I’d love to hear it.

-Wade Wheatley


~ by wadewheatley on April 30, 2010.

One Response to “A Problem with Crake’s Thought”

  1. I felt the same way about Crake and the beings he created. The Crakers seemed like some kind of sub-human species to me too. They aren’t given the ability to believe in a higher being, create art, or really interpret anything around them. By accepting everything at face-value I really believe that they have lost a vital quality of the human race. The only hope I see is the strange idol they create about Snowman. They miss him, idolize him a bit, and create an object to replace him. Maybe they aren’t sub-human, just very primitive but with the power of growth.

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