Oryx and Crake

Margaret Atwood
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Summary

Chapter 6

Summary Chapter 6

Summary: Chapter 6

Snowman wakes up suddenly in the night. He hears an owl hooting, which conjures memories of Oryx. Snowman ponders Oryx’s mysterious nature, and he wonders how long it took him to piece together an understanding of Oryx from the fragments of information he gathered about her.

The narrative shifts to the past and begins to recount Oryx’s life story. She was born in a rural village somewhere in Asia, although she doesn’t remember exactly where. Most families in the village were poor, and Oryx’s family was no exception. In order to make ends meet, families often sold one or more of their children to a businessman named Uncle En from the city, who would take them away and claimed to employ them as flower sellers. This fate befell Oryx, who, along with a brother, was sold to Uncle En.

Oryx, her brother, and two other children traveled with Uncle En from the village to an unknown city, the chaos of which shocked the children. Once they arrived at their destination, Uncle En confined the newcomers in a room with other children, who related stories about their experiences.

Soon after their arrival Uncle En taught Oryx and the other newcomers how to sell flowers to tourists. Oryx had a natural gift for the work. She was small and fragile, and because she looked like an “angelic doll” she had no problem selling her daily quota. However, her doll-like appearance also put her in danger of sexual predators, and one day a man asked her to come with him to his hotel. She refused and reported the encounter to Uncle En. He responded that that if another man asked her to accompany him, she should say yes. The next time a man approached Oryx, she followed him back to his hotel, where he removed his clothes and coaxed her to touch him. At this point Uncle En burst into the hotel room, and the man, mortified at having been caught, paid Uncle En a large sum of money. Oryx and Uncle En began to run this scam regularly.

One day a new man appeared claiming to have purchased Uncle En’s flower business, though Oryx later learned that Uncle En had been murdered and thrown in a canal. The new man sold Oryx to a man who made child pornography. Later, Oryx told Jimmy about the men who paid to have themselves filmed with the girls, and she explained that her experiences taught her a valuable life lesson: “That everything has a price.”

The man who operated the camera was named Jack, and he referred to the movie studio as “Pixieland,” after all the young girls. Jack occasionally snuck the girls forbidden cigarettes, and he also coaxed Oryx into performing sexual favors in exchange for English lessons. Jimmy had a strong negative reaction to Oryx’s story about Jack, and he pressed her for more details about what Jack and the other men did to her. Oryx resisted Jimmy’s questions and said, “We should think only beautiful things.” Jimmy rejected Oryx’s “sweetness and acceptance and crap” and insisted that her experiences must have traumatized her.