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He knew he was faltering, trying to keep his footing. Everything in his life was temporary, ungrounded. Language itself had lost its solidity; it had become thin, contingent, slippery, a viscid film on which he was sliding around like an eyeball on a plate.
This quotation appears at the end of chapter 10, soon after Jimmy learned about his mother’s execution. In the wake of this devastating news, Jimmy spiraled into a deep depression. He retreated from his already limited social life, and he began to drink alone at night, attempting to drown his sorrows. Jimmy lost his sense of purpose, and he also began to lose his footing in reality. The growing sensation that everything in Jimmy’s life was “temporary” echoes a similar quotation from chapter 3, in which Snowman reflects on just how temporary civilization turned out to be. More important, however, is Jimmy’s feeling that language “had lost its solidity.” As a self-defined “words guy” who had devoted years to studying rhetoric, Jimmy felt most grounded in language, which had the extraordinary power to produce meaning in an otherwise meaningless world. Without this power to create meaning, the world devolved into a disorienting chaos. Although Jimmy later emerged from his depression when Crake offered him a job at RejoovenEsense, the sense of disorientation and meaninglessness indicated in this quotation will return to afflict Snowman in the aftermath of the apocalypse.