The novel Oryx and Crake is
set 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 remaining
living things are the Crakers and him. The plot of the novel has two
storylines. The first is present-day and the second is the past when he has his
flashbacks. These flashbacks help the reader to understand what life was like
before this new world was created and provide a subplot that add structure to
the story. During these flashbacks we start to see how Jimmy slowly turns into
the person he is today.
In chapter 2, Snowman recalls his earliest memory at a bonfire. “He
must’ve been five, maybe six. He was wearing red rubber boots with a smiling
duck’s face on each toe; he remembers that, because after seeing the bonfire he
had to walk through a pan of disinfectant in those boots” (P. 15). During this
section of the book we experience his first flashback and start to gain some insight
into his relationships as a child.
His parents are introduced early in the story; a married couple
with very different personalities who fought a lot. His father is portrayed as
a tough and masculine man with little regard to women, and his mother is
portrayed as an absentee mother, never really connecting with Jimmy. Although
both worked at Organ Inc Farms, his mother did not agree with the work they did
on 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 commented
on his mother’s temperament, saying “women always get hot under the collar. She’ll
cool down” (P. 16). Throughout the book his father makes misogynistic comments
and de-values women. At first, Jimmy questions his father’s comments, but as he
transcends into young adulthood, he grows to become a similar kind of man.
In addition to his sexist remarks, his father also puts pressure
on Jimmy to be a tough and masculine person. One memory relating to this is
Jimmy’s ninth birthday, when his father gave him a knife as a gift. “His father
was always giving him tools, trying to make him more practical” (P. 37). These are
just a few examples of how the memories from his childhood have a large effect
on the person he is now.
In the chapter Rakunk, Snowman’s
memory begins to fail him. He thinks about his tenth birthday and remembers
that he was given a pet Rakunk, but cannot remember what his father looked
like. “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 against
the 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 that
he was never far away from his father enough that he could see all his parts at
once. In my opinion, I think that he is trying to suppress some of his memory
of his father due to them not having a very good relationship.
One character that he has fond memory of is Oryx, the woman he was
and still is in love with. Snowman experiences frequent hallucinations of her.
These hallucinations are a projection of his loneliness and gradual descent
into mental instability. Oryx is his most common “guest” from the
past. This could be in relation to the emotional connection and feelings he has
for her and the horrible way in which she was killed. He seems to rely on these
hallucinations to keep him sane, even though these in fact make him the
opposite of sane. The sentence “If he put out
his hand he could touch her; but that would make her vanish” (P. 113), can be
analyzed to suggest that he looks to her false presence to fill an emptiness in
him 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 the
plot would be lost. The flashback chapters in the story could even be
considered more important than the chapters set in the present day. Snowman’s
memories offer us a much deeper perception of how and why he is the person he
came to be. Without his recollection of the relationships and experiences he
had in his past, we could not begin to comprehend how the Crakers and him came