Genetic Modification as Creation?

One of the aspects of Oryx and Crake that has stuck out to me thus far in reading it is how Snowman deifies the titular characters.  He paints Oryx and Crake as the creators of the people that live around him in his post-apocalyptic world and says that he speaks to them, that he is their prophet.  Since I haven’t finished the novel yet, I do not yet know all of the details surrounding the creation of these humans(?) that live around Snowman, but it is clear that Crake at least in part genetically engineered them.  Snowman creates his own little Genesis with Crake as the creator.

This is not the only instance of religious allusion in the novel – in one of the sections that retrospectively examines Snowman’s childhood, it talks about them playing Extinctathon.  Atwood writes that the game login screen reads, “EXCTINCTATHON, Monitored by MaddAddam.  Adam named the living animals, MaddAddam names the dead ones.  Do you want to play?” (80).  This (somewhat passing) reference to the Genesis creation story further sets Crake up as a sort of image of that.  Snowman, as the last living human, almost seems to be thrust into this role of “MaddAddam,” living in a world of mostly extinct animals, the only person left to even remember their names.

Since the book’s present is clearly in some sort of biological wasteland, I’d say that really Crake is a sort of perversion of the Genesis creation story.  We talk about messing around with genetics as “playing God…”  I think that indictment has bearing on what plays out in this book.  I don’t mean to say that I think Atwood is condemning genetic engineering or progress or anything like that, but she hasn’t exactly painted a rosy picture of the sort of creation (or rather, destruction) that results when we try to make our own creation story.  Snowman obviously blames Crake for his terrible situation, so this creation story is not a benevolent one.  Furthermore, Crake is dead.  So does this creator end up dying by his own work?

Moving forward, then, I’m interested to see if Atwood continues to play up the religious imagery and allusions, and I’m interested to see how exactly Snowman arrived at his current end.  I wonder if there will be a post-apocalyptic Eve.


~ by ethanbdixius on March 30, 2014.

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