Divide Between the Rich and the Poor in Oryx and Crake

In Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, a large portion of the novel discusses the growing division between the rich and the poor. Atwood predominantly illustrates this theme by placing her characters in what would be associated today as “gated communities.” In the novel, the characters living inside the gated communities, or “Compounds,” as referred to by Atwood, receive better educations and enjoy better living conditions than those on the outside. The “outsiders” are those who live in the cities, which are referred to by Atwood as the “pleeblands,” or “pleebs” for short. In the novel, Atwood states, “Compound people didn’t go to the cities unless they had to, and then never alone...public security in the pleeblands was leaky…the addicts, the muggers, the paupers, the crazies” (Atwood 27).

According to the American Heritage Dictionary, a gated community is “a subdivision or neighborhood, often surrounded by a barrier, to which entry is restricted to residents and their guests” (“Gated community”). Gated communities are springing up all over the United States and the world, but, contrary to popular belief, they are not only restricted to the upper class. According to journalist Haya El Nasser of USA Today, gated communities offer feelings of safety and cleanliness not otherwise felt in open neighborhoods. Although these developments are not necessarily drawing a solid line between the “rich” upper class and “poor” lower class, they are still creating a division of sorts. El Nasser notes that gated communities are growing especially popular with the middle class as well. However, he makes the concession that besides “walling-in,” these gated communities also “wall out.” This separation is rarely considered progressive to the improvement of society (El Nasser).

It seems quite obvious that Margaret Atwood’s opinion of gated communities is that they are detrimental to the development of society. The growing division between the rich and the poor seems to be one of the considerable qualities that causes global destruction in the novel. Yes, Crake’s BlyssPluss Pill certainly speeds up the time of actual annihilation, but Atwood’s perception of society’s intolerance of diversity proves to be the “jumping off point” in which Crake’s idea of starting over both begins and flourishes. Atwood seems to believe that gated communities only isolate certain groups and are not condusive to societal integration. While the rich become richer, the smart become smarter, the poor become poorer, and the uneducated become more uneducated, her depiction of society in the novel actually regresses. Society without progress is really no society at all, and therefore it is destroyed. Atwood’s message is projected loudly and with power throughout her novel and directly reflects the slowly-developing direction of the world today.


Copyright 2006 Dr. Michael O'Conner
All rights reserved.