Crake’s Failure

Oryx and Crake.

Despite what the title of the novel suggests, the reader never actually gets a clear, substantial reading of character for either of these individuals. For as much as we get to know the life of Jimmy / Snowman and grow accustomed to his innermost thoughts, both Oryx and Crake are but legends, myths from Snowman’s earlier life. On a general level, we grow to understand that Oryx is caring, gentle, and has a sensitive soul, whose winged image descends upon Snowman on the verge of consciousness to offer guidance and hope. Crake, on the other hand, we know as an esteemed scientific prodigy with an expansive intellect who both revolutionizes and subsequently destroys not only the sphere of genetic engineering, but human civilization itself. Whereas one seems to embody the cerebral side of the human mind, calculating, stalwart, and precise, the other appears to be graceful, organic, and adaptive.

Of the pair, I find Crake to be more of an anomaly. He’s excessively arrogant and self-assured in his genius. His rationale for the devastating effects of his BlyssPluss pill is solely based on his utilitarian yet flawed perspective: the world, having surpassed carrying capacity, has run out of many critical resources and we must hit the “restart” button. In the end, he makes the decision for the rest of the world, and willingly puts billions of people to their deaths.

In many ways Crake reminds me of Dr. Moreau. While I find Crake’s experiments far more relevant and practical than creating beast-people for the sheer hell of it, they both display a startling lack of empathy and understanding with their human counterparts. Maybe it comes with the burden of being so much smarter than anybody else around you, but I’m relatively positive both are somewhat crazed (between Moreau’s nonchalant attitude towards stabbing himself in the leg and insisting that it doesn’t hurt and Crake’s sudden murder-suicide after he unleashes his super-bug unto the unsuspecting world, I don’t believe I’m wrong in espousing this viewpoint).

Enter the Crakers. Like Moreau, Crake engineers his own human hybrids, with which he plans to use to repopulate the planet. Granted, he doesn’t name them himself (rather, it is Oryx who bestows this upon them), but he does build them from the “ground” up, building in a bevy of favorable traits he insists makes them superior to humans. This, together with his collection of suspicious fridge magnets (Where God is, Man is not; To stay human is to break a limitation) leads me to suspect a development of some sort of “creator-complex.” He’d surely disagree with this assertion – had he known Snowman would instill the religion of Oryx and Crake into the minds of his genetic marvels, he may have picked another man for the job.

Regardless, Crake doesn’t even really understand his creations. “We’re hardwired for dreaming…we’re hardwired for singing.” For all his intent to only allow fair and practical traits to develop in his creations (like recyclable waste and a neurologically-enhanced appreciation for equality), Crake was never able to squash out these “distractions” of the human condition. Despite his attempts at shielding them from a theology, they adopt Snowman’s teachings to fit their own belief system, going so far as to construct Snowman’s idol and chant around it for his protection and safe return. For all his poking and prodding through the human genome, he was never able to abstract the artist, the spiritualist, the soul, as it were, from the vessel.

I have no doubts that, left unattended, the Crakers will go on to form their own semblance of human civilization, similar in many ways to the one their creator wiped out. Had Crake but understood his fellow humans more, perhaps he would have rethought his own philosophy. Maybe he did, but by then it was too late.

– R

Credit goes to embley of deviantART for the picture. Here’s a link to their profile.

~ by vandyryan on March 26, 2012.

One Response to “Crake’s Failure”

  1. This is possibly my favorite reaction post to Oryx and Crake because you take us through two critical things — Crake’s character motives, and the design of the Crakers, who, as you put it, still have the critically “human” flaws of dreaming, of art. (If you’ve finished Year of the Flood, you know that… you hear them singing, by the end.) I completely agree that Crake’s motives are utilitarian, in a twisted fashion. You can sort of see his perspective, if you squint. In the world which Atwood describes — hell, even in our own world — there is no way to slow down capitalism’s hunger or exploitation; there are no functional political processes (outside, say, totalitarian government, but that’s as abhorrent, for different reasons) or economic checks to slow down the cancer of humans. We are feeders. It’s all part of the system — and Crake, understanding that he would lose if he attacked the system directly, simply unplugs the machine.

    I wish you would have addressed something that’s baffled me, though: Jimmy throws a wrench in both of those things. Specifically, Jimmy lends mystery to the Craker culture and speeds up the process of artistic reclamation through his myths (“Children of Oryx, Children of Crake”). Additionally, I’ve always wondered why Crake spares Jimmy yet no one else… for the protection of the Crakers, he says, but is that really true? How much use could Jimmy — weak, selfish, cowardly — really be? He is hardly a useful bodyguard. Why him?

    Loved this.

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