The Nature of Monstrosity in Oryx and Crake Free Essay

The Nature of Monstrosity in Oryx and Crake Free Essay

This essay comments on how Atwood’s Oryx and Crake uses Shelley’s novel to problematize the theme of the nature of monstrosity.


Set 200 years apart, Atwood in her novel Oryx and Crake uses the classical character in Shelly’s Frankenstein to problematize the theme of nature of monstrosity. The main characters in both novels exhibit the same traits. The two characters; Crake in Atwood’s novel and Shelly’s Frankenstein attempt to replace the creator of men, by making new humans by their own scientific means leading to disastrous results. The two characters are similar as they immaturely refuse to stay responsible for the mistakes that they have made. This similarity in traits signifies that the problems that Victor Frankenstein faced in 1817; the year which Shelley’s novel is based, are the same problems that Crake faces in the future in Atwood’s Oryx and Crake (Ku 109). This essay comments on how Atwood’s Oryx and Crake uses Shelley’s novel to problematize the theme of nature of monstrosity.

Crake tries to create a new race of mankind which he names Crakers without knowing what he is really getting himself into. At first, his intention is to create a society made up of pure and innocent beings in a view of bettering the world that he lives in. To accomplish his intention, Crake does not instill the aspects of warfare or any aspect related to brutality which is rife in the society he lives in. Crake fails to instill knowledge on social statuses or the aspect of competition amongst themselves. This is evident in the book as it asserts that there is no existence of hierarchy amongst the Crakers since they are not accorded neural complexities that create a hierarchy (Alban 86). Further, the creatures do not know any form of territorial boundaries and posits that the effects of human superiority had been unwired.

According to Crake in Atwood’s novel, the one way he can better the lives of the Crakers is by taking the problems he believes plagues his current society and removing them in the lives of his new creatures. The character in Atwood’s novel first annihilates and obliterates humanity by a biological weapon of JUVE. Then the transgenic creatures that results outnumber humans run amuck and these creatures start engaging in dominance challenge. Upon realization of what he has done, Crake tries to save humanity by giving his antidote to Snowman (named Jimmy before the plague), who survives the plague. However, Snowman’s survival is threatened by the speed with which the viruses and the transgenic creatures evolve and get released from the laboratory. The pigoons and the Crakers have human beings’ DNA inherently in them and forces Snowman to make a reconsideration of how the life of a human being can be when transgenics are dominating (Ku 109). Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, in essence, inherits, modifies, and critiques the character of Frankenstein in Shelley’s novel and uses it to complicate the nature of monstrosity as either a form of ethical transgression in the setting of her book or corporeal misrepresentation.

In Atwood’s novel, before the plague, human beings are placed in some kind of hierarchy of ‘numbers people’ and ‘word people’ (Ku 110–111). Later, Crake changes this situation in his bioengineered and non-bioengineered creatures. In a society where humans were placed atop, Crake and his creatures take over as the favored while his friend, Snowman becomes inferior. Snowman is dehumanized by Crake’s bioengineering manipulations. This thus challenges Crakes’ initial intention of wanting to create a new breed of beings who knew no territorial or hierarchical dispositioning. Therefore, this complicates and problematizes the nature of monstrosity that seeks to destroy human lives and whether Crake is a mad/monstrous scientist.

Atwood’s novel is thus a recap of Shelley’s novel as it uses her character’s to relive and problematize the same issue that Victor Frankenstein, the scientist, had in Shelley’s novel. Frankenstein, unlike Crake, recognizes what a bad idea it was to try to create an alternative human race. However, Frankenstein loves new sciences have an unbridled interest in discovering new things and this becomes his sinews for the creation of a monster. Atwood must have drawn the character of Crake from the instance where Frankenstein in Shelley’s novel asserts that he wanted to pioneer a new dispensation, make an exploration of powers not known before and show all the deepest mystery that creation had (Jain 1). Frankenstein proves monstrous just like Atwood’s Crake by immediately abandoning it as soon as it comes to life. Frankenstein does not calculate all the possible variables that would result from his scientific project thereby failing to make adequate plans in case of a catastrophic outcome.

Shelley’s character seeks to bring a new creature to life and begins his scientific enterprise by making visits to many charnel halls to collect pieces that would be parts of his creation. He secludes himself physically and emotively. Frankenstein aims at challenging nature by diminishing the reproductive role of females and makes just a male creature. He creates a destructive creature which challenges mankind’s existence which makes him a mad/monstrous scientist. Atwood bases the character of Crake, who creates a new breed of species, to complicate the nature of monstrosity that Frankenstein in his deep individuality disrupted the harmonious co-existence of mankind, by making Crake bring a new order of life where human life is threatened (Jain 1–2).

Just as the monsters that Crake creates; the Crakers and pigoons which are deformed in the face, but mimic human forms thus challenging human physical characteristics. These creatures are always considered monstrous due to their outlook, generic hybridity, and submissiveness to the standards set by their creator. The occurrence of plague makes it able for pigoons which have high adaptive features and also Crakers who are highly refined to take over from Snowman who is just a little human (Ku 112). Thus, this can be seen as a way in which Atwood uses to problematize and complicate what was the monstrous and disastrous behavior that Frankenstein’s creature portended. Frankenstein shunned his creation immediately due to its physical deformity. Frankenstein’s creature wanted to care and love and wants to be submissive to Frankenstein but is hurt. After being rejected by De Lacey’s family, he refuses to use the language the family communicates with and starts howling and comes back to Frankenstein who refuses him forcing the creature to become monstrous (Jain 6).

Atwood has used this similarity to problematize the monstrous nature of human beings who refuse or degrades others based on their physical looks which makes this creature become monstrous by engaging in initial self-hate but due to their ability to dominate human beings, consider themselves superior. This is evident by Atwood’s reliving of Frankenstein’s creature by Crake’s creations which challenge the physical form of humans (Alban 88). The physical deformity that was viewed of Snowman which was created by Crake’s engineered plague which made the other creatures reject Snowman and made Snowman monstrous are the same which made Frankenstein’s creature become monstrous.

Thus, the nature of monstrosity has been complicated and problematized by Atwood as one begins to look at the theme from two perspectives. The monstrous creatures are a reincarnation of what their creators think. It is their creators and the societies which make them the way they are (Alban 94). Had Frankenstein created a similar but female version of the monster in Shelley’s book, maybe the creature might have found acceptance and lived well. Similarly, Snowman and Crake’s creation going monstrous were as a result of Crake’s unbecoming behavior. Similarly, the societies upon which these monstrous creatures are located in are also monstrous as Shelley’s novel depicts De Lacey family and relived by Atwood’s Crakers and pigoons.

In conclusion, Atwood has problematized and complicated the theme of nature of monstrosity that her novel and Shelley’s share. Albeit the outcomes from Crake and Frankenstein’s scientific and chemical projects brought disastrous effects to their societies, the same might not have been their intentions. However, the dispositioning of other creatures and rejection are apparent and makes the societies and the creators equally monstrous as the creatures themselves. Atwood has successfully used Shelley’s novel to bring out the nature of monstrosity of the societies in spite of the wide differences between the settings of the two novels. It shows that the nature of monstrosity amongst humans is not going to be soon over. In addition, it should be taken that her position in matters extreme scientific experiments can prove to have far-reaching outcomes for the human life since the results might be monsters who will want to wipe out humanity so as to dominate.