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4 April 2016
Unanticipated Consequences of Technology
Dystopian novels are generally considered to be dependent upon their ability to
effectively criticize present world through the extension of their consequences. Their
consequences are represented within a future world dramatically devoid of morals. Margret
Atwood demonstrates this in her novel, Oryx and Crake. It depicts the ruins of a dystopian
society once ruled by power hungry corporations. Snowman, also known as Jimmy, is the main
character of the novel and apparently the only real human alive. He is left to survive in the
contaminated environment his society has created. Through Jimmy?s recollection of the past,
Atwood is able to develop the theme that a society no longer governed by morals or ethics.
Atwood presents a technoscientific society where genetic engineering itself is not inherently
dangerous, but where blatant disregard for questions of morality and ethical concerns, and cause
First, the society in Oryx and Crake is where technology and scientific advancement is
wildly praised by several characters, since it is believed that technology enhances life. Most of
the technology went into genetic alterations, which gave several dystopian features. For example,
there is merge between a goat and a spider to make a gider, which was helpful in making "high
tensile spider silk filaments used for bulletproof vests? (Atwood 199). This escaladed to rakunks,
a racoon and skunk hybrid; snats, a rat and snake hybrid; wolvogs, a wolf and dog hybrid; and
more. Creations such as pigoons, bioengineered pigs, are used to grow and harvest human
organs. Furthermore, some of these splices were useful but most were only for making scientists
"feel like God"(Atwood 51).
Jimmy and Jimmy?s mother demonstrates that they feel uncomfortable about genetic
engineering as they thinks it is unnatural and dangerous. Atwood also reveals a subtle connection
between the narrator?s identification as a ?words person? and his relatively isolated sense of
morality compared to the blatantly immoral and inhumane society in which he live. Jimmy feels
empathetic for the animals around him. He thinks, ?Why is it he feels some line has been
crossed, some boundary transgressed? How much is too much, how far is too far?? (Atwood
206). The ChickieNobs, that are headless chicken breast, were made because the corporations are
only in it for the money. Instead of valuing food grown naturally and the spread of wealth
throughout a population, everyone is concerned with getting cheap stuff in bulk.
On the other hand, Jimmy?s father and Crake, say that genetic engineering is simply
humanity?s next, natural step in evolution, without which their potential becomes unnecessarily
limited Another similar example is the Happicuppa beans, which made the coffee cheaper but
took away numerous jobs for workers. Thus, this showed that moral lines were crossed and
beginning to disregard nature.
The characters in the novel execute ultimate control over nature. Snowman's father, who
works for the OrganInc Farm, where human organs were donated and are grown in actual pigs
called pigoons. The opportunity to make money off selling these organs is a huge
accomplishment for OrganInc Farm. The practice itself is extremely unnatural and many fear the
idea of the corporations, who are not under the control of any governing body, passing on these
crosses between humans and pigs as pork due to the lack of meat. ?Still as time went on and the
coastal aquifers turned salty and the vast tundra bubbled with methane and the drought in the
mid-continental plains region went on and on and the Asian steppes turned to sand dunes and
meat became harder and harder to come by, some people had their doubts?(Atwood 24). This
environmental upset that Jimmy describes is caused by society's lack of regard for nature and
directly relates to why meat is no longer available. Thus, protecting the environment is no longer
a factor in the world of big business.
Atwood demonstrates the corporations have a lot of power over on the character?s
lives. For instance, Jimmy?s father also shows a lack of emotions and feelings towards Jimmy.
When Jimmy was young, Jimmy?s father was trying to explain what a disease. However, Jimmy
did not understand it fully and became upset. His mother replied saying, ?Leave Daddy alone
[?] Daddy is thinking. That?s what they pay him for. He doesn?t have time for you? (Atwood
47). Snowman?s father not having enough time for his own son shows how corporations take
over one?s compassionate and time for their family. Jimmy's father is also irresponsible as a
parent, since he is always forgetting Jimmy's birthday every year. The corporations in the novel
employ science and marketing techniques that make the public powerless consumers.
Atwood also reveals a dark world of childhood bondage through the character of Oryx.
When Oryx first appears in the novel, she is an eight year old child. Crake and Snowman
discover her on an Internet pornography website. Oryx wears a garland of flowers and a pink
hair ribbon, and in the movie, she licks whipped cream off a grown man. She turns to the camera
and smiles contemptuously at whomever will watch this pornography. Crake downloads and
prints out the frozen image of that moment. When Oryx is a teenager, she appears on the news as
a foreign girl who has been kept locked in a garage by a San Francisco pharmacist. She claims
that he saved her from a life of pornography and locked her in his garage to keep her safe. In
addition, Atwood shows that there is an elimination of human interaction due to technology.
The society in Oryx and Crake consists of large corporations and their workers who live
in compounds that serve as cities. The cities itself serve as uncivilized wastelands called the
pleeblands. This distinction draws the thick line between the rich and powerful and the average
working class. Jimmy lives during a time where there is medication or a vaccine for anything and
everything. People also survive off of food that is not even made from real ingredients, rather,
from soy or some type of genetically modified product. Thus, this shows that ethics and morals
are no longer questioned in the society by characters living in this society.
Once the damages were caused by technology, the characters in the novel are greedy
enough that they will destroy the environmental to the point where it is unrecognizable. Atwood
used her novel to point out the possible dangers of creation if ethical concerns are not addressed.
Crake?s ego in his search for god-like capabilities overpowers his humanity. His work stems only
from his own greed. Crake?s genetically engineered humans are programmed to worship him as a
deity. It also shows that humans have stopped worrying about the ethical issues revolving around
genetic engineering. To Crake, "Immortality [?] is a concept. If you take 'mortality' as being,
not death, but the foreknowledge of it and the fear of it, then 'immortality' is the absence of such
fear? (Atwood 356). Crake explains his alternate interpretation of the concept of immortality.
This understanding of immortality drives Crake?s dream for making the Paradice Project.
Furthermore, the Crakers? existence is shaped by Crake's quest to achieve a manifestation of his
version of immortality.
The human-derived Crakers also play a part in demonstrating the lack of communication,
as human language holds little context for them. The Crakers show enthusiasm in learning new
ideas and words, since they do not know what anything is. This is due to feelings such as
suspicion, fear, doubt, aggression, and several more, have all been programmed out of them by
Crake. The Crakers take Snowman?s explanation for every question very seriously, no matter
how ridiculous the explanations actually are. However, Snowman must be careful when
answering their questions because usually they simply trigger more questions. For instance,
when Snowman tries to explain the meaning of a simple word to them, such as ?toast,? it only
raises more questions.
The Crakers have no concept of manufactured food, agriculture, or technology. Human
civilization does not exist in their frame of reference, so there is no commonality upon which to
base understanding. Snowman recognizes that even if he writes a diary, ?he?ll have no future
reader,? not only because of the Crakers? inability to read, but also because of their division with
his reality which ?any reader he can possibly imagine is in the past? (Atwood 32). The Crakers
were created to maximize quality of life and minimize impact on the Earth. Among the traits
genetically given to them, an inability to read, a lack of interest in art, a lack of desire to worship
a higher being, and an ignorance of death were the most pertinent to achieving Crake's desired
When Crake?s BlyssPluss pill came out, it eliminated many of the non-biological causes
of death. It created everlasting youth and immortality. However, after taking the pill, rapidly a
deadly virus makes the body disintegrate and shut down. Neither Oryx, Snowman, nor the
scientists working for Crake knew what is really in the BlyssPluss pill. When one night the news
begins reporting a serious outbreak of an unknown virus occurring simultaneously all over the
world, Oryx realizes from the specific locations being reported that she unknowingly assisted
Crake?s destruction of the human race.
Although society?s roles are increasingly central to the functioning of a technoscientific
society, technical responsibility, while continuing to be framed in terms of roles, is gradually
weakened in the moral sense. According to Jimmy, who was the last human left in the society, he
thought that, ?maybe there weren't any solutions. Human society, corpses and rubble. It never
learned, it made the same cretinous mistakes over and over, trading short-term gain for long-term
pain? (Atwood 243). This reflection made by Jimmy is a conversation with his girlfriend?s
roommates. Her roommates are forward-thinking, feeling that humanity needs to change its
course to avoid destruction. However, society had already been corrupt due to humans not
learning from their past mistakes, and would only lead to a greater destruction. Thus, Jimmy
thought that it had been too late to solve any problems that society has.
Margaret Atwood shows a horrific portrait of genetic engineering gone completely
wrong. Scientific freedom was creating as much problems as it seemed to solve. On one hand
making a lot of interesting products, however on the other hand, it is causing a lot of. During the
last half of the 20th century in contemporary technological societies, professional roles gained
such prominence that, together with their associated expectations and codes of conduct, they
constitute one of the major foundations of contemporary ethical problems and dilemmas. Given
the chance to create scenic images and that one might never be afforded the opportunity to, these
authors use their novels as a medium for foreshadowing a world that could be if humans continue
at the rate they are going. Now, the only question is if their predictions will ever come true.
Atwood, Margaret. Oryx and Crake: A Novel. New York: Anchor Books, 2004. Print.
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