Summary: Chapter 10

Jimmy graduated from Martha Graham and began working for the Academy’s library. The job entailed sorting through old books, selecting some to be digitized and others to be destroyed. Jimmy, however, could not bear to throw away any books, so he lost his job partway into the summer.

After losing his job, he moved in with his then-girlfriend, Amanda Payne. Amanda was a conceptual artist who had been working on a series of Vulture Sculptures, which involved transporting truckloads of dead animal parts to fields or parking lots, arranging the parts into words, and photographing the action once vultures descended. She only used four-letter words for her installations, like “WHOM” and “GUTS,” and she claimed that “vulturizing” these words activated them and brought them to life.

Amanda had two roommates, who frequently shared their opinions on the state of the world. For instance, they claimed that humankind was doomed from the time when agriculture was invented. Jimmy did not get along with Amanda’s roommates, and he rejected their theory of humanity.

Eventually Jimmy landed an advertising job at AnooYoo, a company that designed and sold a variety of self-help products. Jimmy got the job due to his undergraduate dissertation on twentieth-century self-help books. At AnooYoo, Jimmy quickly mastered the art of using fear, desire, and revulsion in his advertising campaigns, which made him a hit with his bosses. Jimmy got a promotion, and he also began to sleep with a variety of women whom he thought of as his “lovers.” Many of these women were married, and none of them wanted to leave their husbands for Jimmy.

Jimmy’s life at AnooYoo grew increasingly tiresome and depressing over the years. Crake, by contrast, already had an impressive career. Soon after graduating early from Watson-Crick, he began working at RejoovenEsense. He quickly climbed the ladder there and became the head of his own “white-hot” special project.

Around this time, Crake told Jimmy that Uncle Pete had died from a virus that took him down suddenly and violently. Jimmy asked whether Crake was there when Uncle Pete died, and Crake responded: “In a manner of speaking.” After this news, communication between Jimmy and Crake dwindled.

As time passed, Jimmy felt more and more restless. Sex no longer gave him the same thrill, and the news was full of stories about plagues, famines, floods, and droughts. The news also reported on a story about adolescent girls who had been brought from other countries and locked in garages. Jimmy thought he recognized one of the girls, and he wondered if she was the same girl he and Crake had seen in the HottTotts video years prior.

In his fifth year at AnooYoo, agents from the CorpSeCorps appeared at Jimmy’s apartment and showed him a video of a blindfolded woman about to be executed. A Corpsman in the video removed the woman’s blindfold, and it was Jimmy’s mother. She looked straight into the camera and said, “Goodbye. Remember Killer. I love you. Don’t let me down.” The camera then panned back out, and the soldiers completed the execution. The Corpsmen wanted to know what she meant by “Killer,” and Jimmy informed them that Killer was the name of his pet rakunk.

In the weeks following the Corpsmen’s visit, Jimmy spiraled into depression. He retreated from communication and began to drink alone at night. Language no longer felt solid, and he no longer took comfort in words.

Analysis: Chapter 10

Jimmy’s relationship with Amanda marked a significant transformation in how he related to women. Amanda had endured a number of traumatizing experiences in her life, having grown up in a working-class family that the narrator describes as “abusive, white-trash, and sugar-overdosed.” Jimmy found Amanda’s emotional wounds compelling, and he wanted to “mend” her. During his earlier college years, Jimmy had exaggerated his melancholy personality to bait women who might want to fix him. With Amanda, Jimmy has a similar desire but in reverse. Whereas before he positioned himself as the love object that others pursued, now he positioned himself as the one who pursues the love object. This new pattern reappeared later, in his fascination with the girl imprisoned in the garage. Jimmy’s interest in this girl stemmed from his desire to mend her psychological wounds. This change in Jimmy’s romantic behavior also marked a shift in his sexuality, which, as the rest of the chapter indicates, became increasingly obsessive, to the point of addiction.

Although Jimmy disliked Amanda’s housemates and dismissed their theory that humanity was doomed from the start, the reader, who know about the apocalypse to come, is more likely to find their bleak theory credible. Though the narrator doesn’t fully spell out the logic of the housemates’ theory, the implication is that the seeds of the world’s current environmental crises were sewn back when humans first invented agriculture some six or seven thousand years ago. Before that, humans had survived by foraging and hunting. Agriculture stabilized the food supply, making it possible for the human population to expand. Over thousands of years, this expansion eventually led to a population so large that people felt the need to fight over territory. Hence the housemates’ conclusion that ever since the invention of agriculture, human society had proved itself “a sort of monster, its main by-products being corpses and rubble.” At the time, Jimmy dismissed this theory of humanity as absurd. However, the news stories he encountered later about climate change and related environmental disasters suggested that Amanda’s housemates may have been right about how humans had doomed themselves.

Crake’s news about his Uncle Pete’s death struck Jimmy as suspicious, particularly given how the mysterious circumstances of his death echoed the mysterious circumstances of Crake’s mother’s death many years prior when she was suddenly infected by a violent, unknown virus. Crake witnessed her death, and when he recounted the experience to Jimmy, he spoke with curiosity rather than horror. At the time, Crake’s emotional distance alarmed Jimmy, and a similar feeling arose when Crake informed Jimmy of Uncle Pete’s death. Just like Crake’s mother, Uncle Pete died suddenly from a virus that didn’t infect anyone else. Jimmy wanted to know whether Crake had been present to witness the death, as he had been with his mother, and Crake responded cryptically: “In a manner of speaking.” As Jimmy would come to suspect much later, Crake had something to do with Uncle Pete’s death. From Snowman’s retrospective perspective, this moment represents one of many signs of Crake’s sociopathic personality that went unnoticed at the time, but which led directly to the apocalypse to come.

The most significant event in chapter 10 comes near the end, when Jimmy learned of his mother’s execution. By this point, many years had passed since his mother had abandoned him. Over those years, Jimmy continued to feel the pain of his mother’s absence as well as anger and resentment. Yet these feelings about his mother also grew increasingly dull over those same years due to the CorpSeCorp’s frequent appearances in his life to interrogate him about his mother’s whereabouts. When the Corpsmen showed up for yet another interrogation, Jimmy had become so used to the sessions that he wasn’t prepared for the footage the agents showed him of his mother’s execution. Furthermore, the words she uttered when she turned to the camera were clearly meant for Jimmy, and they immediately brought back a flood of competing emotions. The word “goodbye” offered him a kind of closure he never had after she left him, but at the same time the words “I love you” also reactivated Jimmy’s longing for her. These are words he didn’t hear much as a boy, and the belated news of his mother’s love sent Jimmy into a spiraling depression.