The novel Oryx and Crake isset in a post-apocalyptic world and narrated by a character called Snowman.During this time the human population has been wiped out and the only remainingliving things are the Crakers and him. The plot of the novel has twostorylines. The first is present-day and the second is the past when he has hisflashbacks.
These flashbacks help the reader to understand what life was likebefore this new world was created and provide a subplot that add structure tothe story. During these flashbacks we start to see how Jimmy slowly turns intothe person he is today. In chapter 2, Snowman recalls his earliest memory at a bonfire. “Hemust’ve been five, maybe six. He was wearing red rubber boots with a smilingduck’s face on each toe; he remembers that, because after seeing the bonfire hehad to walk through a pan of disinfectant in those boots” (P.
15). During thissection of the book we experience his first flashback and start to gain some insightinto his relationships as a child. His parents are introduced early in the story; a married couplewith very different personalities who fought a lot. His father is portrayed asa tough and masculine man with little regard to women, and his mother isportrayed as an absentee mother, never really connecting with Jimmy. Althoughboth worked at Organ Inc Farms, his mother did not agree with the work they didon genetic engineering and decides to quit her job and leave her home to protest.Snowman recalls a conversation that took place with his father where he commentedon his mother’s temperament, saying “women always get hot under the collar. She’llcool down” (P. 16).
Throughout the book his father makes misogynistic commentsand de-values women. At first, Jimmy questions his father’s comments, but as hetranscends into young adulthood, he grows to become a similar kind of man. In addition to his sexist remarks, his father also puts pressureon Jimmy to be a tough and masculine person.
One memory relating to this isJimmy’s ninth birthday, when his father gave him a knife as a gift. “His fatherwas always giving him tools, trying to make him more practical” (P. 37). These arejust a few examples of how the memories from his childhood have a large effecton the person he is now.In the chapter Rakunk, Snowman’smemory begins to fail him. He thinks about his tenth birthday and remembersthat he was given a pet Rakunk, but cannot remember what his father lookedlike.
“What did his father look like? He can recall his father only in details;the Adam’s apple going up and down when he swallowed, the ears backlit againstthe kitchen window, the left hand lying on the table” (P. 49). He can, however,picture his mother in clear and perfect detail. His reasoning for this is thathe was never far away from his father enough that he could see all his parts atonce. In my opinion, I think that he is trying to suppress some of his memoryof his father due to them not having a very good relationship.
One character that he has fond memory of is Oryx, the woman he wasand still is in love with. Snowman experiences frequent hallucinations of her.These hallucinations are a projection of his loneliness and gradual descentinto mental instability.
Oryx is his most common “guest” from thepast. This could be in relation to the emotional connection and feelings he hasfor her and the horrible way in which she was killed. He seems to rely on thesehallucinations to keep him sane, even though these in fact make him theopposite of sane. The sentence “If he put outhis hand he could touch her; but that would make her vanish” (P. 113), can beanalyzed to suggest that he looks to her false presence to fill an emptiness inhim and he doesn’t want the hallucinations to stop.The theme of memory is vital in Oryx and Crake. Without the flashbacks that take place, much of theplot would be lost. The flashback chapters in the story could even beconsidered more important than the chapters set in the present day.
Snowman’smemories offer us a much deeper perception of how and why he is the person hecame to be. Without his recollection of the relationships and experiences hehad in his past, we could not begin to comprehend how the Crakers and him cameto be.