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Oryx and Crake Summary, Characters and Themes

Oryx and Crake is a 2003 dystopian novel by Margaret Atwood. It explores a post-apocalyptic world where genetic engineering and corporate greed have ravaged humanity. 

The story follows Snowman, formerly Jimmy, as he navigates this desolate landscape, haunted by memories of his friends Crake and Oryx, and their roles in the catastrophic events that unfolded. Atwood’s work serves as a cautionary tale about the potential dangers of unchecked scientific advancement and the consequences of societal inequality.


The story unfolds in a dystopian future where genetic engineering and corporate power have run rampant. 

The narrative is presented through the eyes of Snowman, formerly known as Jimmy, who appears to be the sole human survivor in a world ravaged by a devastating plague. 

Snowman lives amongst the Crakers, genetically engineered humanoid beings created by his childhood friend, Crake.

Through flashbacks, we learn about Jimmy’s past and the events that led to this bleak future. Jimmy and Crake grow up in a society sharply divided between the privileged Compounds, where scientists and corporate elite reside, and the impoverished Pleeblands. 

They share a fascination with science and technology, particularly genetic engineering, but their motivations and worldviews differ significantly. Crake is driven by a coldly rational desire to control and improve humanity, while Jimmy is more concerned with emotional connection and artistic expression.

Their paths diverge as they pursue their studies and careers

Jimmy immerses himself in humanities, while Crake excels in genetic engineering and joins RejoovenEsense, a powerful corporation specializing in life extension and bioengineering. 

Jimmy struggles to find meaning in his work and relationships, drifting through a series of unfulfilling jobs and romantic encounters.

Meanwhile, Crake rises through the ranks at RejoovenEsense, secretly developing a project called BlyssPluss. 

This project involves creating a new species, the Crakers, designed to be docile, peaceful, and devoid of complex emotions that lead to conflict and suffering. Crake sees the Crakers as a solution to humanity’s self-destructive tendencies.

Jimmy and Crake reconnect through Oryx, a enigmatic woman with a mysterious past. Oryx becomes involved in both of their lives, working for Crake as a teacher for the Crakers and forming a romantic relationship with Jimmy. Jimmy remains unaware of Crake’s true intentions and the extent of his manipulations.

As Crake’s project nears completion, he engineers a global pandemic through the BlyssPluss pill, wiping out the human population. Jimmy is spared due to Crake’s intervention, but he is left to care for the Crakers in the aftermath of the apocalypse. He adopts the persona of Snowman, a mythical figure for the Crakers, and guides them in their new world.

Snowman’s narrative is filled with grief, guilt, and uncertainty. He grapples with the loss of humanity, his complicated relationships with Crake and Oryx, and the moral implications of Crake’s actions. 

He questions his own role in the events that led to this dystopia and struggles to find purpose in his existence as the guardian of the Crakers.

The novel concludes with Snowman embarking on a journey back to the RejoovenEsense facility, hoping to find answers and closure. 

His encounter with other human survivors leaves him with a glimmer of hope for the future, but the ultimate fate of humanity and the Crakers remains uncertain.

oryx and crake summary


Snowman (Jimmy)

Snowman, formerly known as Jimmy, is a complex and conflicted character. 

He represents the human element struggling to survive in a world reshaped by science and corporate greed. Jimmy’s past is marked by a sense of alienation and a search for meaning. He finds solace in art and literature, yearning for emotional connection in a society increasingly dominated by technology.

As Snowman, he grapples with the guilt of being the sole human survivor and the responsibility of caring for the Crakers. 

He questions his own role in the events that led to the apocalypse, haunted by his past relationship with Crake and Oryx. Snowman’s journey is one of grief, acceptance, and a tentative hope for the future. 

He embodies the human capacity for resilience and the enduring power of storytelling.


Crake is a brilliant but emotionally detached scientist. Driven by a cold rationality and a desire to control, he views humanity as flawed and in need of improvement. 

Crake’s ambition manifests in the creation of the Crakers, a genetically engineered species designed to be peaceful and devoid of the destructive tendencies he sees in humans.

Crake’s actions raise complex moral questions. He is a villain who engineers a global pandemic, yet his motivations stem from a twisted sense of environmentalism and a belief that he is creating a better future. Crake’s character compels us to consider the dangers of unchecked scientific ambition and the ethical boundaries of genetic engineering.


Oryx is an enigmatic and alluring figure. Her past is shrouded in mystery, and her motivations remain ambiguous throughout the novel. 

Oryx possesses a raw sensuality and a deep connection to nature, existing on the fringes of society. She forms complex relationships with both Jimmy and Crake, representing a force of wildness and untamed nature that both men are drawn to.

Oryx’s role in the story is open to interpretation. Some see her as a victim of Crake’s manipulations, while others view her as a potential accomplice. Her ambiguous nature adds another layer of complexity to the narrative.


Dangers of Progress with Unchecked Ambition

The novel serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of scientific progress without ethical considerations. 

Crake’s relentless pursuit of genetic engineering, driven by his desire for control and perfection, ultimately leads to the destruction of humanity. 

He views humans as flawed and self-destructive, seeking to replace them with a more docile and manageable species. 

However, his actions demonstrate the hubris of playing God and the unintended consequences of manipulating nature. 

The novel questions the boundaries of scientific exploration and the responsibility that comes with knowledge and power. It highlights the need for ethical frameworks to guide scientific advancements and the potential dangers of prioritizing technological progress over human values.

Commodification of Life in a Capitalist Society

The novel portrays a world where corporations like RejoovenEsense wield immense power and influence, controlling every aspect of life from health and beauty to food and entertainment. 

Life itself becomes a commodity, subject to manipulation and exploitation for profit. 

This is evident in the creation of genetically modified creatures for entertainment and the marketing of life-extension products to the wealthy elite. Oryx herself is commodified, exploited for her beauty and exoticism, and ultimately used as a pawn in Crake’s grand scheme. 

The novel critiques the dehumanizing effects of capitalism, where individuals are reduced to mere consumers and life is valued only in terms of its economic potential. It raises questions about the ethical implications of treating life as a product and the social consequences of unchecked corporate power.

Loss of Innocence and the Search For Meaning

Oryx and Crake explores the loss of innocence experienced by the characters growing up in a dystopian society. Jimmy and Crake grapple with the harsh realities of their world, shaped by corporate control and environmental degradation. 

They both seek meaning and connection in different ways, with Jimmy drawn to art and relationships, and Crake seeking control through science. 

The destruction of the human world forces Snowman to confront his own lost innocence and grapple with the burden of survival. 

He searches for meaning in his role as guardian of the Crakers, attempting to create a new world free from the mistakes of the past.

The Power of Storytelling and Myth-Making

Atwood highlights the importance of storytelling and myth-making in shaping human experience. Snowman relies on stories and myths from the past to connect with the Crakers and provide them with a sense of identity and history

The stories of Snowman and Oryx become foundational myths for the Crakers, guiding their understanding of the world. The novel itself functions as a form of storytelling, preserving the memory of the lost world and prompting readers to reflect on the themes of the narrative. 

Oryx and Crake’s story serves as a cautionary tale, passed down through generations, to prevent the repetition of past mistakes.