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#81574 - 12/20/04 10:02 PM Re: December 2004 Book Club: Oryx and Crake
Jenny
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Registered: 12/01/04
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It is indeed interesting that people read different things into various characters in a book. What we probably do is mirror our own experiences and project these onto the characters, hence such various perceptions.

Someone mentioned they saw Crake as the villain and Jimmy as the hero, and Oryx as nice(?). Personally I was very ambivalent about Crake. I couldn't see Jimmy as a hero though, he was a rather pathetic being, a yes-sayer, a follower, he didn't do anything to try to make things better. Oryx, I loved her, she's a character I probably projected a lot of myself onto.

Spoilers... spoilers... spoilers

Question: How did everyone see the scene where Crake kills Oryx and then gets shot by Jimmy? This is when they're in Crake's very private compound. Crake has not long ago let out the virus. Jimmy is the only one left in the compound, he opens the door for Crake and Oryx, Crake cuts Oryx's throat and Jimmy shoots him.
Why did Crake kill Oryx?

I have my own take on this scenario (which was very different from a friend's who had also read the book). I'd be curious to hear other people's opinions.

Jenny

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#81575 - 12/21/04 03:35 PM Re: December 2004 Book Club: Oryx and Crake
Kivrin Moderator
Ching Shih


Registered: 06/01/00
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Loc: Santa Cruz, CA, USA

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Hi Jenny--just a quick reminder that you do not need to sign your posts here. I'd agree with you that with any book, our perceptions of the characters and themes are mirrored in our own experiences. It is interesting to see how people react differently in a discussion, and how we can alter our viewpoints, by listening to others. I have already begun to see Crake in a different light than when I began the discussion a few days ago!

You pose a good question, especially because I do imagine your take will be different. I assumed Crake killed Oryx, in front of Jimmy, because he had already decided to kill himself--but lacked the courage. He knew if he harmed O, Jimmy would immediately react by killing him himself. Crake wants Jimmy to be the only human left. And, he can't fathom the notion of Jimmy and Oryx together without him, nor can he fathom a continued existence in the new world reality he has created. What are your thoughts?

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#81576 - 12/21/04 08:06 PM Re: December 2004 Book Club: Oryx and Crake
Jenny
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Registered: 12/01/04
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Hello Kivrin,

Funnily enough, your view of the killing scene is basically the same as mine; that Crake killed Oryx in front of Jimmy because he wanted Jimmy to kill him as a form of assisted suicide. I don't think it's got anything to do with him not wanting Jimmy and Oryx to be together without him though. I think he felt that Jimmy's passive but functional character would be the best person to look after the Crakers, Oryx would be likely to interfer too much and teach them to be 'human' if she was left to her own devices.

I think that it is this scene that shows that Crake is not acting out of menace or power hunger. He recognises himself as one of the worst kind out there and realises that if he were allowed to continue, then the paradise he's envisioned for the Crakers would never come to be.

My friend had a completely different view. He thought Crake was Jealous of Oryx's and Jimmy's relationship and killed Oryx in front of Jimmy as a sort of jealous revenge. It could be true of course but personally I found this very implausible.

How did everyone view the kind of triangular relationship that existed; Jimmy-Oryx, Oryx-Crake, Jimmy-Crake?

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#81577 - 12/21/04 09:12 PM Re: December 2004 Book Club: Oryx and Crake
Kivrin Moderator
Ching Shih


Registered: 06/01/00
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I think the two views (ours, and that of your friend) are the ones I've heard most often mentioned, Jenny. I'm still gathering my thoughts about the relationship between the three characters, among other things. Promise to return soon.

Now, if I may put my moderator hat on for a moment...

I just wanted to mention to all of you posting in this thread, that yes, spoilers are allowed now, but for the sake of the posters who check in through Today's Active Topics first, please leave a few lines of non-spoilery comment before launching into major plot lines. If you aren't sure what this means, check the Chicklit FAQ . Okay. Thanks.

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#81578 - 12/22/04 03:20 PM Re: December 2004 Book Club: Oryx and Crake
AngDS
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I think projection is always part of the reading experience. I often have trouble with books when I can't like or identify at all with the characters (I think Kivrin has seen some of that here in this club). On this one, I keep trying to decide what I would think of the book if I could divorce myself from my own environmental concerns. But I'm not having much success.

On that last scene, my interpretation was very similar to yours, Jenny and Kivrin. Probably the main difference is that I think Jimmy got it right when he asked Oryx if Crake had sent her. I think that's very likely. Crake didn't trust himself to stay around after and therefore had to engage Jimmy sufficiently to see that he would take care of the Crakers and set things in motion. To that end he got Oryx involved and staged the assisted suicide. Even if he didn't manipulate the relationship, killing Oryx is still necessary to engage Jimmy. It could be lack of courage on Crake's part, but mostly I just think he had a plan. Yes Jimmy as ultimate pawn, I feel like a conspiracy theorist!

I don't think jealousy played much part and I was surprised by the first use of the phrase 'assisted suicide', but I guess that's what it was.

One last note on the science thing. I think Atwood did a marvelous job of showing that science is merely a tool. And then here it is in action today, helping Kivrin's child grow normally and also helping chickens to grow three ever-larger breasts :-) Just fascinating. I totally agree on the slippery slope and I guess we can just hope and keep our eyes peeled for that arresting factor.

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#81579 - 12/22/04 07:58 PM Re: December 2004 Book Club: Oryx and Crake
Kivrin Moderator
Ching Shih


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Yes, I think she did a wonderful job also. I love this stuff. It makes me wish I'd paid closer attention in Biology class once upon a time! Heh.

Lorrie Moore sums the novel up quite nicely in a review of Oryx and Crake she wrote for The New Yorker .

 Quote:
But a dystopian novel is not intended as a literal forecast, or even necessarily as a logical extension of our current world. It is simply, and not so simply, a bad dream of our present time, an exquisitely designed horror show in which things are changed from what we do know to a dream version of what we don’t. Atwood does this well. To ask a novel to do more is to misunderstand its nature. Besides, given what is known about fish-gene-enhanced tomatoes—or those genetically modified goats that produce spider silk—the biologically reëngineered world of “Oryx and Crake” ceases to seem very far-fetched.
Moore's article is very well-written. I wish I'd written it myself! She brings up one idea I rather like, towards the end of the article-- about the power of maternal love, and how it plays as a recurrent theme through-out the novel.

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#81580 - 12/23/04 04:05 AM Re: December 2004 Book Club: Oryx and Crake
Jenny
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Registered: 12/01/04
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I would like to comment on the science in the novel and how likely it is that the technologies in the novel will actually be used in the future.

I think that the world picture Attwood paints is very realistic. I don't think that it necessarily will go that way but it is in no way unlikely.

The science that is portrayed is not as far off as most of you probably think. I am a scientist by education and training and my job is to analyse cutting-edge-technologies. It is what I do all day long, every day. And I do it partly from "what would benefit humans" but even more so from a "what is commercial" perspective. I reckon that many of the technologies described in the book will be available within the next 50 years.

At the moment there are many regulations in place. The companies as described in the book would never be allowed to do what they do but it is easy to see how it could go that way.

There are many people that are concered about the environment, about ethics, about dignity. But sadly, there seems to be even more people who are concerned more about their immediate comforts, about looks and about living/staying young forever. When technologies become available that can make you live longer, look young longer (and now I mean really live longer, really look young, not those fake anti-wrinkling creams etc.) then the majority of people will probably do almost anything to obtain them.

In democracies it is after all the majority that do drive the policies (even though it's not obvious at all times) so if the people want that stuff they will give those companies increasing power. And those companies will exploit their power because even though some probably start off idealistic, most of them are simply companies existing to make profits and create wealth for themselves and their shareholders.

If anyone has any particular questions about any of the scientific technologies in the novel, I'd be happy to comment if I can.

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#81581 - 12/26/04 08:14 PM Re: December 2004 Book Club: Oryx and Crake
Kathleen6674
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Registered: 06/26/03
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Some words about Oryx that no one seems to have touched on:

Were her relationships with Crake and Jimmy *really* about love, or about their projections of a rescue fantasy? - Jimmy in particular is very, very curious about her past, seems to view her both as very strong and independent and also a very delicate creature who needs protecting. The protective impulse may stem from Jimmy's feeling of being of no great importance to society in his work life - a desire to make some kind of contribution to *someone* in the light of his very obvious sense of inferiority in life. However, she shows up, has sex with him, eats, and leaves in most of their encounters, and refuses to reveal much about her past or even her present dealings with Crake, just like Jimmy did with the series of women he slept with before he met Oryx in person. Hence, I have a hard time seeing the love story others do - it doesn't seem geniune. I think on some level she likes Jimmy's protective impulses toward her, though, which I believe is what sustains her interest in him.

No one's mentioned the fetishistic elements of both Jimmy and Crake's fascination with Oryx. She was in exploitative Asian kiddie porn when they first saw her, for Chrissakes! Very stereotypical. Crake's collection of pornographic web printouts are all of the bondage, leather, implant, spike heel variety, and given his college's emphasis on avoiding emotional entanglements and the lure of the chase in sexual pursuits, his tastes say something about the way he probably views Oryx. Yes, he seems to be touched by her emotional generosity, but given that he murders her and is downright embarrassed about admitting his affection for her when questioned by Jimmy, I think that he ultimately becomes self-loathing about their affair. Jimmy's preference for real, non-surgically enhanced women is mentioned repeatedly, so I think Atwood's intent is to show that Jimmy at least *tries* to get at who women really are and not the illusions they create. How successful he is in getting at the genuine Oryx is up in the air for me, though.

I find it interesting that she pretty much forgives all her abusers - even thanks them for their role in ultimately getting her to North America. She then takes on the role of nurturer for the Crakers - she's giving them the protection and kindness she never experienced while young, and appears to be a natural at the role and very sincere.

I think her tendency to forgive wrongdoers is what blinded her to Crake's megalomania and bad intentions (I do think his intentions were evil and driven by ego and lack of ethical thinking through) until the very end.

For what it's worth, I DO think he knew about Jimmy and Oryx's affair, and that he did mean to hurt Jimmy by slitting her throat. I don't think he meant to commit suicide because of guilt over destroying humanity - there's not the slightest sign he feels bad about it - in fact, he seems exhilarated that his project succeeds beyond his wildest dreams. I think he wanted to hit Jimmy where he lived as well as leave him foundering as the last human alive. He did, however, want to protect the Crakers, his "baby," and knew that Jimmy was likely to do so.

I also think part of the reason Crake liked Oryx is that he projected qualities of docility, guilelessness, and obedience on her - sort of the typical Asian fetish thing (please don't flame me - I didn't say Asian woman are REALLY like this, just what the commonly believed projections of some men may be). He appoints her teacher of the Crakers, who are engineered to be obedient, innocent, peaceful, sincere, honest, etc., under all terms. He's in a way trying to create an entire race of people emulated on the model of the qualities he projects onto Oryx, who to me remains much of a cipher throughout the book to an extent that Jimmy and even Crake do not for me.

Regarding the end: I suspect that Jimmy will continue to protect the Crakers and will not shoot the three human beings he finds unless they shoot first, which I don't think they will. His personality isn't inherently combative, just that of a survivalist, and if for no other reason than preserving Oryx's memory, he will continue to help the Crakers. I also suspect he will die of the infection in his foot, especially since the strongest antibiotic still extent - the one he found in the Paradice lab - isn't very effective. I have a hunch he will entrust the care of the Crakers to the humans he came across.

I find it interesting that Jimmy doesn't get much of an ego boost, and in fact finds it kind of creepy, when the Crakers make an effigy of him in a proto-religious fashion. Crake WOULD in the same situation, although he would also be alarmed at the artistic and spiritual leap this means for the Crakers.
_________________________
since feeling is first who pays
any attention to the syntax of things will never wholly kiss you - e.e. cummings

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#81582 - 12/31/04 07:59 PM Re: December 2004 Book Club: Oryx and Crake
Kivrin Moderator
Ching Shih


Registered: 06/01/00
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Kathleen6674--Wow. Thanks for such a thoughtful post about Oryx! I had definitely been feeling like I wanted to write about Oryx' part in the story more than the one or two lines I gave her upthread. I just didn't know where to begin.

 Quote:
Were her relationships with Crake and Jimmy *really* about love, or about their projections of a rescue fantasy?
After reading what you wrote, I'd have to agree that it seems a relationship based on their projections of rescue fantasy. Maybe even an extention of the sorts of fantasy computer games they obsessively played as teens.

 Quote:
No one's mentioned the fetishistic elements of both Jimmy and Crake's fascination with Oryx.
The stereotypical elements of their captivation with her bothered me also. A lot, the first time I read the novel, and less so the second time. The second time I could see why Atwood wrote the character of Oryx as she did--and how it added more dimension to Jimmy and Crake's characters.

I'm finding myself nodding my head in agreement to what you wrote, Kathleen6674, and can't think of anything new to add to it at the moment. I just wanted you to know I hadn't abandoned the discussion, I was away from computer access for the past week!

 Quote:
I also suspect he will die of the infection in his foot, especially since the strongest antibiotic still extent - the one he found in the Paradice lab - isn't very effective. I have a hunch he will entrust the care of the Crakers to the humans he came across.
After pondering the ending again, I think this could very well be a likely scenario.

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#81583 - 12/31/04 08:37 PM Re: December 2004 Book Club: Oryx and Crake
ainsley
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Registered: 02/26/02
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I don't feel as though I have much to add, but I said I'd participate, so I am. \:\)

Had I not heard so many people I trust, respect, and admire speak so frequently of this book, I don't know that I would have managed to finish it. I'm finally learning to distinguish between fantasy, sci-fi, and spec fic, and determining what I like and don't like. For all that I have enjoyed other dystopic books, this one... I'm glad I read it, and will read it again (I reread everything), but it's too bleak for me.

I can see how plausible this outcome for our society is, and Atwood is a great writer. I think this is different because I did not and could not like Snowman/Jimmy. Maybe I see too much of myself in him, identify with his passivity too much.

I think it all comes down to the lack of hope. Atwood used that deficiency to make her point admirably, but I struggle with depression too much to intentionally surround myself with bleak thoughts. In other dystopias, someone was fighting against the system, someone tried to make things better. No one did here. What are we without hope? So many people have so much. How can it be leeched out of everyone as it was in that book?

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