In Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, a dystopian futuristic society is envisioned and our world as we know it is crumbling into ruin. Oryx and Crake presents a society in which individuals have lost all their sense of social ethics. The main forms of entertainment for these people involve the enjoyment of human suffering in which Crake and Jimmy enjoy in their teen years. This society places all their emphasis on technology and science which ends up completely devaluing the role emotion and connection in their society, but the characters show a longing to feel emotion throughout the novel.
The people of Oryx and Crake care more about their appearances and vanity because they want to reach that peak of physical perfection rather than considering or even caring about the implications of such a practice. Everything they do is for the sole purpose of human greed which appears to be a common theme demonstrated within the novel. There are scientific advancements that have created a world where scientists have become capable of producing new kinds of life and completely manipulating natural processes. There is experimentation done on plants, animals, and humans performed by scientists throughout the novel that are completely immoral. These scientific advancements are driven by the desire for vanity, physical perfection, and immorality. As teenagers, Jimmy and Crake spend their time watching violent and graphic videos on the Internet such as child pornography and people getting tortured. Once they’d made real-time coverage legal, the guys being executed had started hamming it up for the cameras”. This quote shows just how desensitized the boys grew to become to such gruesome content and due to the fact that this content was legalized in their society shows the desensitization of everyone else as well. There seems to be a complete lack of emotion stimulation which is the root of the problem causing them to turn to these graphic and violent videos in order to feel anything rather than feeling nothing at all.
Feeling emotion is devalued in their society and experiencing emotion is what makes us human. Even though Jimmy and Crake turn to watching these videos online to feel even a little bit of something, it is a twisted way of the seeking the human desire of emotion that is looked down upon in their society. The more gruesome the content, the more emotional it becomes which is why they look to extremely violent videos to feel. Individuals in this society have reached such a high level of corruption as this point that acts of violence such as these do not even phase them due to their desensitization.
“The viewers wanted to see the executions, yes, but after a while these could get monotonous..” This is yet another example of how even videos of such violent content got old to viewers due to them getting bored because they have become so used to these acts being normal to them. There is immense pressure on the youth to possess physical perfection placed on them by society. Throughout the novel, the obsession that society has with youth and physical perfection is majorly emphasized. People constantly feel like they need to change and remove all of their flaws in order to be accepted by everyone else. Perfection seems like the ultimate goal to these individuals, but trying to live up to this idealistic concept of complete physical perfections always ends up creating negative effects because true perfection is not attainable. One example of this in the book is the Anooyoo Spa where people go in order to prevent the effects of aging which shows the need society has to try and preserve their beauty and stop death.
“Cosmetic creams, workout equipment, Joltbars to build your muscle-scape into a breathtaking marvel of sculpted granite. Pills to make you fatter, thinner, hairier, balder, whiter, browner, blacker, yellower, sexier, and happier.” This spa is a reflection of society’s desire to remain young and beautiful forever due to the fact that they feel so insecure in their own bodies and faces because of all the pressure society puts on individuals in trying to meet a goal that is unrealistic, but it is like an addiction to them. There are multiple instances in which this is demonstrated throughout the book even at the end where Jimmy is reading a magnet on Crake’s refrigerator that says, “To stay human is to break a limitation” in which this quote is a prime example of how everyone in their society is always seeking more. They are always looking for the next new skin product or the next procedure they can get done in order to look young because they feel as if they cannot live in their own skin. People get so caught up with having to compete with others and try to keep up their lavish lifestyles because to be true to yourself by living in your own skin would break the limitation placed on individuals by society.
The scientific progress is a main theme shows in this novel where science and technology is extremely valued by society and affects many aspects of individuals and their lives. The role of humans change when they decide they want to stay young forever which prevents them from death. In this novel, science is dangerous and can be associated with destruction in which our society is experiencing. There are experiments done to alter plants, humans, animals and so on, the main example being the Crakers in which Crake genetically altered them so that parents could pay more for “perfect” children. The Crakers are perfect in every way; their bodies survive off of pure vegetation, they're extremely beautiful, and they have flawless skin. “Immortality,” said Crake, “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. Babies are immortal. Edit out the fear, and you’ll be . . .”. The Crakers were designed to not feel any human emotion, one of these emotions being the fear of death in which Crake created them immortal by his own definition of the term. He designed them in his own likeness by removing the unknown aspect of death and having them die at age thirty without any knowledge or awareness that it will happen. Crake is like the Crakers’ God in which he created them and the plan for their lives by preventing them from never needing more than what they already have because they were created as a means to an end. However, the Crakers eventually realize what is happening to them and around them in which Crake’s desire to create an immortal world fails when they become aware. This instance is extremely ironic due to the fact they were specifically created to avoid the desire for immortality, yet inevitably gain understanding of it.
“Sex is no longer a mysterious rite, viewed with ambivalence or downright loathing, conducted in the dark and inspiring suicides and murders. Now it’s more like an athletic demonstration, a free-spirited romp.” This quote is Snowman describing how the Crakers have sex in which it means nothing to them except a means to an end when it used to be a very special and intimate act among people who love each other. “Do they make jokes?” “Not as such,” said Crake. “For jokes you need a certain edge, a little malice. It took a lot of trial and error and we’re still testing, but I think we’ve managed to do away with jokes.” This is yet another quote describing how the Crakers are much like robots that were programmed a certain way in which Crake did not want them to even laugh due to the fact it involves a sense of malice. Crake created the Crakers to have no sense of human emotion in which they do not laugh, they see sex as a means to reproduce but nothing more, they cannot feel love and so on.
In conclusion, the aspects of this dystopian futuristic society given to us through Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake parallels to many aspects of our society today which is quite terrifying. People are fascinated with violence as entertainment, people get dangerous and expensive procedures to look a certain way in order to feel better about themselves or be accepted in society, and our scientific advancements are being more and more immoral. Human life has began to become less valuable in this novel as well as in our own society. We do everything out of human greed much like the individuals in this book because life has become a competition of who can be the prettiest or the richest or the skinniest and so on. Each of the aspects mentioned shows a distinct view of the distorted relationship between society and the individual.