Review of Week 6 (Tuesday Feb 14, so far; Thursday to follow)
(by Jay Greenfield)
NOTE: DON’T FORGET TO GO TO YOUR CONFERENCE WITH DR. SEAMAN!
Oryx and Crake Discussion (Tuesday, February 14, 2012)
On Tuesday, we discussed the ending of Oryx and Crake. The novel leaves us on a cliff-hanger. We discussed Crake’s master plan and the role the ending plays in his plan. We also explored Jimmy’s (or Snowman’s) “enlightenment” view of an apocalyptic society in contrast to Crake’s progressive view. Many of the characters’ motives are left to interpretation as this story is told through the limited perspectives of Snowman and Crake.
The big question at the end of the novel is why Atwood kills Crake and Oryx, leaving Jimmy to live. Jimmy and Crake compete with each other throughout their childhood into their adult life on all fronts. We explored the idea that this competition lasted until Crake’s death and Jimmy’s secret relationship with Oryx gave Crake a way to win. By killing Oryx, Crake may have ‘the last laugh’ in their life long competition. Crake claims to despise the concept of love, “Falling in love, although it resulted in altered body chemistry and was therefore real, was a hormonally induced delusional state… it gave the love object too much power.” (193) Crake thinks love is a fault in human beings because it makes us vulnerable. He uses this concept to defeat Jimmy in their ‘competition’, before Oryx’s throat and his own death. Crake tells Jimmy, “‘I’m counting on you.” (329) Crake, who saw no purpose for love in his society, uses faults in love to execute the last part of his plan. He may have kept Oryx around to keep Jimmy around. This could also support the claim that Oryx’s plan to keep Jimmy alive was pre-meditated long before the apocalypse. Besides competition, this discussion also begs the question, why Jimmy?
Jimmy did the most to help the Craker children. Jimmy, immune to the apocalypse-causing vaccine intended to prevent violence and STDs, is the most human person left. At this point, everyone will die, leaving Jimmy to be the Craker’s only hope for the ‘human rebirth’ Crake envisioned. Beyond that, Jimmy is an observer and has an opinion, but he lacks an agenda and isn’t known to push his views. We see this when Jimmy held a job in the library and was unable to throw anything away. Similarly, Jimmy isn’t viewed as a detriment to the Crakers because he may be too attached as he often becomes. Jimmy is empathetic.
We also discussed Jimmy and Crake’s parents, including the role they play in the novel and their executions.
Jimmy’s mom likes Crake because he is an eloquent speaker and the only friend of Jimmy’s she can hold a conversation with, “More like an adult.” (69) She realizes how unethical and immoral corporations have become and ops out by fleeing and is possibly executed later (hinted by her use of the word “killer” in chapter four). Jimmy’s father is not impressed by Jimmy’s scientific abilities. The parents’ view of Crake compared to Jimmy shows the difference between the two boys and reasons for outcomes later in the novel. We also agreed Jimmy’s stepmother, Romona, becomes increasingly hyper-feminized (frisky 1950’s sitcom mom). Women play a standard, stereotypical feminine role role, yet our view of this role is restricted through the eyes of Jimmy and Crake (especially noted with Oryx).
Crakes family becomes a science experiment for Crake and his creation of the Crakers. We are told Crakes dad is killed because he recognized that corporations are infecting people with viruses to help sell product. He is pushed off a bridge. We are told Crakes mother contracted a sudden deadly virus from being a nurse. Jimmy suggests that Crake, who knew his parents (and Uncle Pete) would be killed regardless, used his mother and Uncle Pete to perform experiments on.
Why Crake’s mom and uncle? They are available and he knows them best. Crake believes his mother routed-out his father and uncle, thus making them expendable. Crakes dad was trying to change the system by rejecting it. The system may be so flawed that there is no way for peace or change to it. Crakes hopelessness may make him a sociopath.
The world Atwood depicts may be an extension of our world. She critiques the abuse of the liberal humanist idea, stating that everyone is free to do as they wish, including harm to others. We discussed the idea that people are losing their uniqueness and independence, causing diverse examples of subjectivity to disappear. Something about Jimmy embodies these “enlightenment” ideas and traditional views of the human.
We ended class with the question, “What is Atwood trying to preserve in the human that we may be losing now? Do we need to renew our investment in humans from an older prospective, or looking ahead for new methods and developments?”
-Crake hates love (pg. 193) “Falling in love…”
-Oryx behaves how people need her to (pg. 191) “She refused to feel…”
-Jimmy wants to assume a liberal humanist subject position. (pg. 176 top)
“Who cares, who cares….”
Preview of Week 7
(by Dr. Seaman)
Those of you who submitted a proposal for your mid-term paper, which is worth up to five extra points on your grade for the paper, can find my comments on your proposals in OAKS.
Tuesday, those of you who’ve not already met with me in your scheduled slot for your individual meeting will do so.
In class on Tuesday, we will discuss Wall-E and Hayles’ Chapter 8 (“The Materiality of Informatics”). You may recall that Wall-E is essentially a two-part movie, the first the developing love story between Wall-E and Eva, and the second focused more on the experiences of the globular humans who long ago fled the planet. Each part addresses different issues we’ve been discussing through the critical and imaginative texts this semester, so I’ll be very interested to see what that frame might provide your (re)watching of the film. Hayles in this chapter takes on embodiment–central to her argument throughout the book–directly, arguing that a new kind of subjectivity has been produced by the “crossing of the materiality of informatics with the immateriality of information,” and she provides a “new, more flexible framework in which to think about embodiment in the age of virtuality” (193). First, through Foucault as an example, she traces the postmodern “erasure of embodiment” (against which she argues), and then moves on to practices of incorporation, with an orientation toward the significance of context (connecting this to what we discussed with her on Thursday).
As you read Hayles’ chapter, please be sure to locate online resources to provide you a sufficient understanding of the following. (For such purposes, Wikipedia is a helpful starting point):
Cartesian dualism (re: Descartes on 203)
phenomenology (208 and elsewhere)
Thursday, we will not meet for class.
Friday, your paper is due at 11pm in OAKS. Please take a final look over the paper assignment on the blog before submitting your paper, just to ensure you’re not forgetting anything.
There is no blog post due this week.
There is also no Battlestar Galactica episode review due this week. (But you know you’ll watch at least one episode anyway.)