Mad Scientist or Altruistic Saviour of the Earth?: Crake as a Villain in Oryx and Crake.

Atwood certainly presents us with an interesting character in Crake. His evil deeds should surely rank him up there with the most evil of villains in literature; wiping out the vast majority of the human population through means of an organ liquefying, eye rupturing, hemorrhagic virus is no saintly deed. And yet he presents us with an unsettlingly redeemable excuse for his actions: the human race was rapidly destroying itself and the planet anyway; his means were severely drastic, yes, but didn’t something have to be done?

And after all, it’s not like he intended to leave the planet completely devoid of human life; well, humanish life anyway. He did create a small group of genetically modified super-humans to inherit the planet. And perhaps these ‘Crakers’ are an improved version of humanity; in them Crake claimed to have eliminated all tendencies towards racism, sexual abuse, social hierarchy and territoriality, along with the need to create weapons, clothing, structures, gods, icons or money; so what if they eat their own faeces and wouldn’t know joke if it slipped on a banana skin?

Caecotrophs aside, it is perhaps possible to view Crake’s intentions as those of an altruistic visionary, willing to do whatever it takes. But this notion is a rather disturbing one. Scientific genius he may be, but Crake’s vision, like his personality, is somewhat flawed in what it is lacking. Along with the negative aspects of humanity, he also claimed to have done away other unnecessary things such as love, art and literature; he swears he’d have done away with dreams too, if he could. Described in the thoughts of Snowman as, “placid… animated statues,” these Crakers seem to be a mere echo of humanity.

Crake himself displays a severe lack of emotion. One notable display of this is his description of his mother, dying from a virus that it is later suggested he may have created: “It was impressive… Froth was coming out.” ‘Impressive’ is hardly the adjective we would expect here, ‘horrific’ would perhaps be more appropriate. ‘Impressive’ suggests an admiration of the virus and, more unnervingly, perhaps even pride in his own success. He makes no utterance of sympathy or regret.

Crake’s lack of emotion, combined with that quiet but assured sense of narcissism, perhaps hints towards a fundamental lack of humanity, and may well put one more in mind of a monster than a man. This is echoed after Crake’s demise with the description of his skull: “Crake’s empty eye sockets look up at Snowman, as his empty eyes, once before. He’s grinning with all the teeth in his head.” In comparing the ‘empty eye sockets’ to Crake’s once ‘empty eyes’, Atwood is perhaps alluding to the void in Crake where compassion and humanity may be found in others. The verb ‘grinning’ suggests Crake as being, at least to Snowman, gleefully triumphant in death; elated that his plan has succeeded. The imagery created here, of this empty grinning skull, has a macabre and demonic effect.

It is Crake’s lack of ability to see the horrors in his actions, the ease with which he justifies mass genocide, that for me make him a true villain. I cannot consider Crake’s actions to be any less than monstrous atrocities. And yet I found myself left with a disturbing question at the end of the novel; is the planet in Atwood’s imagined future in some ways better off because of them?

  1. Very interesting! 😀

    • jennafer
    • February 22nd, 2012

    love it, very well written 🙂 x

  1. June 13th, 2014
    Trackback from : MaddAddam | crush

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