May the Best Human Win

I’ve noticed in the section we have read so far in Oryx and Crake that Jimmy is often described as being more of a beast than a human, while the genetically modified humans (Crakers) are presented as the more ideal version of humanity. The scene on pages 100-101 where the Crakers being Jimmy a fish to eat especially creates this impression.

On page 100, when Jimmy smells the fish he drools, like dogs do; the Crakers place the fish “on the ground in front of him,” as if he is a dog that eats off of the ground; and Jimmy says, “he’ll eat anything,” which is again a characteristics of many dogs. Further on in the scene, Jimmy is said to have a “beastly appetite” (101) and is compared to a lion eating, “it’s like hearing a lion gorge itself…a rending and crunching, a horrible gobbling and gulping” (101). These descriptions caused me to cringe, as I can see this horrible image of my cat eating a lizard. Even more reflective of this brutish imagery is the name “Snowman” that Jimmy has taken in reference to the Abominable Snowman, which is a fictional beast known for being fierce and murderous. All of these bestial references suggest that even though Jimmy is a “real human” that hasn’t been genetically modified, the Crakers act more like “proper” humans.

In this scene the Crakers are clearly opposed to Jimmy’s bestial ways, as Jimmy remarks that they kill the fish for him in such a way that, “the unpleasantness is shared among them and no single person is guilty of shedding the fish’s blood” (101).  They are such peaceful creatures that even killing a fish is morally offensive to them. The Crakers’ morality and intelligence is shown again in the line, “They’ve accepted Snowman’s monstrousness, they’ve known from the beginning he was a separate order of being, so they weren’t surprised by this” (101). However, the line also solidifies the stark difference between the kind of human that Jimmy is, versus the kind of human they are since according to the Crakers he is “a separate order of being.”

From the diction and imagery used to describe Jimmy versus the Crakers, do you think Atwood is implying that genetic modification can be moral and beneficial, and that the destruction of humanity in order to establish a new, peaceful humanity is actually a good thing?

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