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.

Analysis: Chapter 6

Although Oryx has already come up many times in previous chapters, chapter 6 provides the first substantial insight into who she is and where she came from. As the chapter recounts, Oryx went through a number of difficult experiences. In addition to being sold to a mysterious man at an early age, she was also forced into sex work when she was still a young girl. These experiences forced Oryx to grow up quickly, and they also taught her important lessons about the world. In particular, she learned about the power of money to fulfill desire as well as money’s ability to reduce human beings to commodities. While working for a child pornographer, she witnessed how the men who paid for the films could do anything they wanted as long as they had enough cash. Seeing this, Oryx learned that everything has a price, a lesson she would later recount to Jimmy. Furthermore, as a slave in the sex industry, Oryx realized that her whole existence had been reduced to monetary value. Having been wrenched away from her family and then separated from her brother, Oryx learned another lesson: “A money value was no substitute for love.”

Throughout chapter 6, the narrative moves between the account of Oryx’s past and a later conversation between Oryx and Jimmy in which Jimmy questioned Oryx about her traumatic experiences. Jimmy clearly cared for Oryx, but his aggressive and invasive interrogation demonstrated an emotional immaturity and a warped sense of romantic love. Although it isn’t clear why Jimmy was so fixated on Oryx’s trauma, one possibility is that he wanted to connect with Oryx over his own traumatic experiences. Although Jimmy fixated on his own terrible childhood, Oryx refused to dwell on the dark parts of her past and instead insisted, “We should think only beautiful things.” This demonstrates that Oryx had a fundamentally different approach to life than Jimmy. Whereas Jimmy believed that Oryx was hiding something from him, or else repressing her trauma, Oryx really did focus on the positive. For example, Oryx took it as a sign of her mother’s love that she sold Oryx and her brother together so that they could keep each other company. It may seem terrible that their mother would sell either of them, but Oryx prefers to see evidence of love in a desperate choice.

In addition to providing the first information about Oryx’s background, chapter 6 also offers the first reference to a triangular relationship between Oryx, Crake, and Jimmy. When Jimmy pressed Oryx to admit that Jack took advantage of her, she responded by telling him that his behavior merely confirmed Crake’s assessment that Jimmy lacked an “elegant mind.” Oryx’s revelation that she and Crake spoke about him behind his back disturbed Jimmy. Not only did it incite feelings of jealousy, but it also humiliated him to think that both Oryx and Crake saw him as intellectually deficient. Jimmy had long felt inferior, initially because of his father’s ill treatment when he didn’t show a knack for math and science, and later because Crake proved himself a genius in both math and science and went on to study at a much more prestigious university. The reference to Jimmy’s inelegant mind therefore reignited his old feelings of shame, made worse because he also felt betrayed by both his friend and his lover.