Oryx and Crake

Margaret Atwood
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Main Ideas

Symbols

Main Ideas Symbols

Blood and Roses

Blood and Roses is the name of a game that Crake and Jimmy played when they were in high school and which pits humanity’s greatest offenses (“blood”) against humanity’s greatest achievements (“roses”). Snowman recalls that it was always more difficult to play on the roses side, since there were far more examples of humanity’s offenses, and in any case the spectacular and shocking nature of the “blood” events proved easier to remember. Although it’s just a game from Snowman’s past, Blood and Roses symbolizes the experience he is having in the present. Snowman is possibly the only survivor of a human-made plague that caused a devastating global pandemic. Undoubtedly, Crake’s plague counts as the most horrific example of a “blood” event in all of human history. Yet Snowman managed to survive the event, and against all odds, he continues to try to remember the few examples of human civilization that he can still feel proud of. In other words, Snowman is playing a real-life game of Blood and Roses, and although he knows it’s much harder to win on the “roses” side, that side still does have a hand to play.

Alex the Parrot

Snowman first encountered Alex the Parrot when he was a boy, and this bird, which continues to come up in his thoughts and dreams, symbolizes Snowman’s unfulfilled desire for meaningful companionship. Shortly after he started going to school, Snowman spent his extra time at lunch watching old instructional videos. One of his favorite videos featured a parrot named Alex who had to perform certain tasks involving a blue triangle and a yellow square. Snowman especially liked the part when Alex became annoyed with the researchers and said, “I’m going away now.” Snowman’s fascination with Alex made him want a parrot for his birthday. His parents were generally distant and unaffectionate, so his longing for a pet indicated a desire for companionship. Later, when Snowman returns to Paradice and sleeps in his old room there, he has a terrifying dream in which Alex the Parrot says “the blue triangle,” and then announces his departure. Snowman cries out, “No, not yet,” then wakes up. The fright Snowman experiences when Alex says he’s leaving speaks to his abandonment issues, which primarily relate to his mother, but also to the now-dead Crake and Oryx. The blue triangle in the dream references their broken love triangle.

The Children of Oryx

According to the mythology of the Children of Crake, all plant and animal life are counted among the “Children of Oryx.” The Crakers have been taught to respect the Children of Oryx. In order to avoid harming any animals under Oryx’s protection, the Crakers maintain a strict vegetarian diet. And whenever one of the Children of Oryx harms one of the Children of Crake, the Crakers pray in order to calm Oryx’s anger. The Crakers’ respect for the Children of Oryx recalls pagan nature cults that have existed for centuries, and which understood all animals and plants to be inhabited by some kind of spirit or energy. Such a belief would clearly be alien to the pre-apocalyptic world of Oryx and Crake , in which no plant or animal is sacred. On the contrary, scientists feel entitled to mix and match plant and animal DNA on a whim, mostly for the purposes of scientific research but sometimes just for fun. The reverence the Crakers display for the Children of Oryx therefore symbolizes the resurrection of an earlier form of respect for the earth that has the capacity to help the environmentally devastated planet begin to heal.