ID/Ego of Snowman vs. ID/Ego of Crake in Atwood's Oryx and Crake
Snowman and Crake were the two main characters in Margaret Atwood's novel Oryx and Crake, who suffered from complexes within the ID/EGO that ultimately resulted in their problems. Snowman showed clear signs in his childhood of the Oedipus complex while Crake had a fetish for anal fantasies. Snowman seemed to feel inferior to all others around him, as he was a “words” person in a “numbers” person’s world. Crake demonstrated few social skills throughout the text. The Crakers and Oryx were the common tie that Snowman and Crake both shared. Crake was more obsessed with creating them, which ultimately caused him to become a God in their eyes. Snowman was their “Moses” leading them to their own promised land. However, despite all that was happening around Snowman and Crake, Atwood shows that it was clearly their subconscious desires that drove both of these characters.
The only way to understand Snowman is to start with his very complicated
childhood. He loved his mother, yet he had no warm feelings for his father.
In Chapter Two Snowman’s mother is first introduced as a neurotic
smoker who suffers from depression (Atwood 30). Snowman’s Oedipus
Complex is also first hinted at here. On page twenty-one Atwood explains:
The other half of this complex, where the child will hate the father out of competition for the mother, was seen in Snowman’s relationship with his father. His father was a busy man who never had time to spend with his family. After his mother had left with Killer, the boy was left alone with his father and Ramona. He worried constantly about where his mother was and if she were safe, after all, all he ever wanted was for her to be happy. Times were much harder for Snowman after she had left. He was often left at home with Ramona when his father was at work, which according to Snowman was all the time. Even on his birthday his father would send him an e-card from work, which would say, “Happy Birthday, May all your dreams come true” (Atwood, 50). This required no thought, and Snowman knew that, but did not care because he was never close to his father anyway.
Snowman had a need for companionship of some kind. After his pet, Killer, was set free by his mother, that left him with only Crake to spend time with. It was then that the two started to become best friends, and they often spent all of their time on Crake’s computer; which was where they first saw Oryx. Snowman had a strong desire to be close with someone, because the only person that he had truly loved had abandoned him because his mother could not face her life in the compound anymore. When the two saw Oryx for the first time on the pedophile web site, Snowman recalls that her face was frozen into his brain (Atwood 91). It was also here that Crake’s anal fetishes are discovered based upon the websites that he chooses to look at. Freud explains the sexual/anal fetishes as a part of a child’s natural development in the earliest of stages. Children he said will often fixate on an object and take pleasure in it. Crake perhaps never got past that stage as it is shown on page ninety-one of the novel when he is surfing the internet for certain websites referring to the male genitalia. He also displays this fetish when he and Snowman are talking about the future of art, and Crake says:
Ossified Shit? People can amuse themselves anyway they like. If they want to play with themselves in public, whack off over doodling, scribbling, and fiddling, its fine with me. Anyway, it serves a biological purpose. (167-169)
Snowman also felt inferior to those around him as he grew up and watched the others advancing intellectually and professionally, especially Crake. Snowman said early on in life that he knew he was definitely not a numbers person like Crake, his father, and Ramona all were. This feeling of inferiority stemmed from his childhood because his father and especially his mother would try to explain things to him, but some things he could just not comprehend. Crake was introduced right before his mother left, and his mother had told Snowman that she felt at ease talking to Crake because his mind was more like that of an adult than a child. Snowman said that comment was always followed by a look, that made him feel ashamed that he could not impress his mother as his friend Crake had (Atwood 69). This caused Snowman to create a pattern for himself whereupon he would always compare himself to the intelligences of others. When he visited Crake in college at Watson- Crick, Crake introduced him to the others as the neuro-typical (Atwood 203). This made Snowman feel even more insignificant, being surrounded by what he considered to be biogenetic geniuses.
Crake also suffered from social problems of his own based on his psychological
profile. Although he did not feel inferior to others, he had no social
skills beyond his conversations with Snowman. He even went so far at
Watson-Crick as to order someone to take care of his sexual needs, instead
of pursuing typical social relationships. This of course was Oryx, whom
he had found on the child pornography websites as a teenager. It was
at the time of this visit of Snowman’s that he learned more details
about Crake’s childhood that would give some insight into the way
that he acts. Crake explained the way that his father had died. It was
not suicide, someone pushed him off the bridge because he was about to
leak a major secret, and he could not help but wonder if perhaps his
mother knew and that was why she had to suffer such a horrible death
Interestingly, despite the fact that he hated the idea of a God, the Crakers with the help of Snowman, made Crake himself into a God. The Crakers prayed to him, and constantly thanked him for all he had done, believing that he was up above listening to what they were saying (Atwood 103). Snowman takes on a religious figure as well. He is like the “Moses” for these people. Only Snowman can "talk" to the god Crake, and it is Snowman who has led them to the new land by the sea where they are safe enough away from the wild animals that they may live. They also grow very attached to Snowman, because when has been gone for days, finding food and other supplies, they make an idol of him on a stick and sing, dance and chant around it, praying for his safe return (Atwood 361).
No matter what happened to Snowman and Crake, one thing is for certain, they both had severe social problems, that Freud would perhaps say came from their unconscious desires. Snowman as a child had the Oedipus Complex, and even as he grew into an adult, he never outgrew the idea of wanting to please his mother. Every time the guards would come pay him a visit, he never gave away any information, because after all, all he had wanted was for her to be safe. Also, due to the turmoil that he was constantly faced with as a child, he was lacking in social skills. He had a serious inferiority complex that he only managed to outgrow when it became just himself and the Crakers. Finally, for Snowman, he was no longer the idiot, he was the person with all the answers, the only one left that had any knowledge of the world that was left behind.
As for Crake, his childhood caused him to continually have an anal/oral fetish his entire adult life. His father died because he was about to reveal a huge secret that would cause his company a great deal of scrutiny. This perhaps led Crake to his downhill trip to madness, and to his need for constant perfection and control. He too, through his invention of the Crakers, was finally able to achieve perfection for himself. Even though they were like infants, they were the humans that he had always dreamt of. They felt no sense of pride, nor jealousy, or as he had put it, carried none of the “seven deadly sins” of the race he had just wiped out.
Atwood, Margaret. Oryx and Crake. Random House, Inc. New York, 2003.
"Sigmund Freud." Wikipedia: Online Encyclopedia. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sigmund_Freud> (December 3, 2006).
Copyright 2006 Dr. Michael O'Conner
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