Literary References in Oryx and Crake

Atwood references several literary works in Oryx & Crake. With the incorporation of the Blood and Roses game mentioned in the novel, with roses consisting of famous works that save society, Atwood literally lists several different literary works. These works, such as The Divine Comedy and Paradise Lost, and writers such as Shakespeare, Keats, and others become the redeeming qualities that win the game on the "Roses" side.

In a description of the Martha Graham Academy, Jimmy mentions a statue of Judith cutting of the head of Holofernes. In Jewish texts, Holofernes was a general sent to destroy the nations that had not backed the reign of Nebuchadnezzar. Judith saved the day by seducing Holofernes and decapitating him. Since the novel portrays “word people” as being feminine and demure, like Jimmy, it is clear that the statue shows the dominance of the “word people” or feminine over the masculine “numbers people.”

Adam and Eve from the old testament of the Holy Bible are referenced as they are mentioned in comparison to snats, bidding them to go forth and multiply, such as God commanded of Adam and Eve in Genesis. There are also clear references to Paradise [Paradice], as being associated with Eden.

Atwood briefly mentions Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein as a reference to a riot scene Jimmy notices on a video. Frankenstein is relevant as a metaphor for the society that Crake left behind. It is an example of the uninhibited advancements in technology spinning out of societies’ control.

Finally, the reference to "a human footprint, in the sand," seems to refer to Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, with all those requisite associations.


Copyright 2006 Dr. Michael O'Conner
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