Summary: Chapter 11

Snowman has a dream of himself as a child waiting for his mother to come. Snowman wakes up in the gatehouse, but he can’t tell how much time has passed since he fell asleep. He hears a scraping sound coming from a hole in the corner where a large crab is scrounging in the rubble.

Snowman sets out from the gatehouse, but three blocks away he comes upon the pigoons from the previous day. Snowman hurries back to the gatehouse, and, knowing the pigoons will be able to nose their way in, he retreats into another room where he finds a door leading to a stairwell. He scrambles up the stairs just as the pigoons force their way into the gatehouse. The pigoons can’t follow him up the stairs.

Upstairs Snowman finds himself in one of the two watchtowers that flank the gatehouse. There are no bodies up there, which makes Snowman suspect that the guards fled the premises like everyone else, attempting to avoid the contagion. He suspects that the men in the biosuits downstairs may have been the guards.

Snowman finds a variety of supplies in the watchtower, including a pack of cigarettes, some food, and two bottles of beer. He also finds a windup radio. He searches the AM and FM bands but hears nothing. He switches to the short-wave radio and hears a voice speaking in Russian. He switches again to the CB radio to see if he can find a local transmission. He turns the radio dial to the receive function, and the voice of a man asking “Anyone out there?” comes in faintly. Snowman tries to respond, and though he has second thoughts about his haste to reply, he nevertheless feels elated by the idea of other survivors like himself.

Snowman notices a cut on his foot and tries to clean the wound with expired antibiotic ointment. Afterwards, he lies down on a cot. He thinks about how a dead man used sleep there and how that man couldn’t have known what was coming. By contrast, Snowman thinks, Jimmy did have clues but failed to read the signs. Even so, Snowman wonders whether it would have made any difference if he had killed Crake sooner.

The next day he eats, packs a laundry bag with supplies, and escapes from the watchtower onto the twelve-foot-high rampart wall surrounding the Compound. He hurries along the rampart wall toward his next destination, the domed structure known as Paradice. Along the way Snowman notices a trail of smoke in the distance. Snowman considers that the smoke might come from a fire started by lightning, or else by the Crakers, but he remains suspicious of either explanation. He eats a Joltbar and continues on his way.

Analysis: Chapter 11

Chapter 11 features a lot of foreshadowing related to events from Snowman’s past that the narrative has not yet fully explained. For one thing, the reader gets more details about the nature of the apocalyptic event. Snowman specifically thinks that the watchtower guards may have tried to flee the facility in biosuits because they wanted to avoid a contagion, suggesting that whatever caused the apocalyptic event may have been connected to an epidemic. For another thing, the reader learns that the apocalyptic event wasn’t simply local. In addition to Snowman’s discovery of a Russian-language message coming from far away via the short-wave radio, he also wonders whether people in places like New Zealand and Madagascar escaped. These thoughts clearly indicate the global reach of the apocalyptic event. But the most significant piece of foreshadowing in this chapter comes in the revelation that Snowman killed Crake. This revelation creates a feeling of suspense for the rest of the novel.

As Snowman recalls the story of his relationship with Crake and laments that he failed to see the signs that were right in front of him, the reader learns that Snowman feels some degree of responsibility and guilt for the apocalyptic event. This revelation of Snowman’s guilt points the reader both forward and backward in the narrative since it makes the reader curious about the extent of Snowman’s responsibility and rehink what is already known about Snowman. Up until this point, the novel has presented Snowman as a victim. Though predisposed to cynicism, and despite his questionable treatment of women, Snowman comes across as an essentially good person. He’s a long-suffering casualty of his friend’s ambitions, and despite the hopelessness of the situation created by Crake, he continues to look out for the Crakers. But if Snowman was personally involved in the events that led to the apocalypse, then that revelation makes the reader question his motivations and his apparent innocence.

For all that this chapter focuses on the catastrophic event that lies in Snowman’s past, the multiple signs of other survivors give Snowman his first sense of hope for the future. At the beginning of chapter 9, Snowman speculated vaguely about a bleak future in which nature would overtake the ruins of civilization. In this chapter, however, the radio messages and smoke signals provide Snowman with two important signs that he is not as alone in the world as he previously believed. These signs also provide Snowman with the only surge of joy and hope that he has felt thus far in the novel. Yet Snowman is deeply conditioned by his cynicism. After he tries to respond to one of the radio messages he immediately regrets having done so, and his suspicious reaction shows that he struggles to believe that the future could really turn out okay.