Summary of Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake

Chapter One Summary
Snowman wakes before dawn unhappily in a tree. Snowman can not remember a certain phrase and it really seems to bother him. He can not remember it due to a lack of its usefulness. Snowman seems alone and isolated. Vicious yellow ants are mentioned in this chapter. Snowman also thinks about the uselessness of his watch due to the fact that there is no official time; the watch is merely a talisman.
Snowman sees a group of children swimming; they are unlike him. Snowman knows the dangers of the world whereas the children do not. Snowman is respected amongst the children and he can speak to their creator, Crake, through his watch. There has been a great change in the world within the last generation. There are no snowmen, no snow, the children do not understand technology in even the simplest of forms. Snowman has a beard and the children ask if they can grow “feathers”. He tells them that they can not.
Snowman longs for a human companion, a fully human companion. Snowman thinks of the animals wolvogs and pigoons. Snowman remembers a time when he used to work out and take care of his body, but, now he can see his ribs and he is wasting away. He longs for a woman named Oryx and needs to believe that she can hear him. The sky has a hole burnt into it by the sun. Crake is apparently someone who not only created the children but, somehow is to blame for all of Snowman’s problems.

Chapter Two Summary
Snowman was once Jimmy. His earliest memory is of a huge bonfire. The bonfire was an enormous pile of cows and sheep and pigs all of which had been infected by some disease. Jimmy feels sorry for the animals because they must be in pain. The disease is discussed by Jimmy’s father who believes the animals were infected by people, perhaps a cult; this is a scary thought because, they thought they were safe inside their compound. Jimmy’s mother and father fight constantly and they often put Jimmy in the middle. Jimmy spends a lot of his time trying to get his mother’s attention.
OrganInc Farms
Jimmy’s father worked for OrganInc Farms as a genographer and also lived in the OrganInc Compound where the top people lived. He is highly intelligent and has worked on many very important projects. His father works on the pigoon project. A pigoon was designed to grow an assortment of human-tissue organs in a pig host; when the organs were removed the pigoon could grow new organs. People are disgusted by the thought of eating pigoons at first, but, after meat becomes scarce and time goes on, people begin making jokes that the ham in the cafeteria is in fact pigoon meat. Compound people did not go into the cities or pleeblands unless they had to because there were too many risks.
Jimmy’s mother worked for OrganInc Farms at one time. Jimmy, as a child, could not figure out why she left OrganInc Farms. His mother is depressed and spends most of her day sitting in a bathrobe smoking. Jimmy wants to make her laugh, but, it is a very hard task. The days when she does pay attention to him, he is worried because, it seems so weird. On days when Jimmy can not obtain approval from his mother, he pushes her until he can get negative attention. Sometimes he makes her cry or he makes her angry and even this feels better than her isolation from him.

Chapter Three Summary
Noon is the worst time of day for Snowman because the Sun’s rays are at their most dangerous. Snowman is very resourceful and due to the environment he is forced to make many adjustments to his environment. He thinks back to his childhood and remembers his father feeling that he was incapable of even screwing in a light bulb. Everything in Snowman’s world suggests otherwise. Snowman is depressed in this new world; there is no point to anything for him anymore. Knowledge is useless to him now; he tries to think of the meaning to the word Mesozoic and it doesn’t come but, it doesn’t really matter. He spends his time thinking of things that would be enjoyable to do and there are none.
The rain in this time is so heavy that its impact turns the air to mist. Snowman sees a construction sign and thinks about how pointless it was to work all day all year when now everywhere and everything is crumbling. For some reason, Snowman blames himself for his situation.

Chapter 4 Summary
Snowman begins to remember his tenth birthday and the gift he received from his dad. He talks about how the only person who every really remembered his birthday was Dolores the live-in Philippina who would always have a cake for him the day of his birthday. It becomes apparent that Snowman feels pent up hostility toward his parents from their carelessness on his birthday—both needing to be reminded of the day with his mother getting him a very thoughtless present late in the day and his father bringing him a present always the day after. He goes on to speak of his parents’ fake attempts in parenting. At one point, Jimmy sets up a way to spy on his parents with microphones hidden in the kitchen. It is here that the reader is able to see further the dispute between his mother’s depression and guilt and his father’s want and need for money. In the end of the chapter Jimmy goes to be laughing after hearing his parents’ fights, signaling something very odd is growing in Jimmy possibly.
Jimmy mother leaves him and his father. He finds a note from her saying that she cannot live the way she has been, that she will contact him, and that she loves him very much. She also buys him new clothes saying that she believes he will be able to grow into them, however, when Jimmy tries them on they are too small and to ass insult to injury takes Jimmy’s rakunk with her. Also, before leaving, she smashes her computer and his father’s computer with a hammer from the toolbox. With the security so tight in the compound, she makes an elaborate scheme to leave saying she had to go see a dentist for a root canal. It is one of the Corp guys that she conspires with in order to escape. His father seems devastated at the time and comes back later. Soon Jimmy’s father start to return to normal and Ramona moves in a while later. Jimmy speaks of their sexual escapades and the deep mortification he feels about them rubbing it in his face.
A few months before Jimmy’s mom left, he met Crake. At the time he was called Glenn with two n’s and Jimmy questions him about it with no real answer. Jimmy’s mom likes Crake, which is surprising because she doesn’t like most of Jimmy’s friends. She says that Crake was intellectually honorable because you could have a real conversation with him. Jimmy ends up showing Crake around at the request of his teacher who he refers to as Melons because of her enormous breasts that she puts on display. He shows Crake around and explains about the bugging of the school and how not to get caught. They end up hanging out at the mall where they see Melons. Meanwhile Crake imitates a teacher and while Jimmy enjoys this display of humor he is also a little threatened that he will overshadow him, however he doesn’t.
Wakulla Price moves away, leaving Crake to fill her seat in the Biochem lab with Jimmy. Jimmy is of course upset about her moving away, but moves on. During this time Jimmy and Crake, who are stated to not be gay, start to spend more time together during lunch at school and they also hang out after school a few times a week. The boys usually hang out at Crake’s house where they use his computers to go on websites about torture, killing, and assisted suicide as well as pornographic ones they log on to using Crake’s stepfather’s password who Crake call Uncle Pete. The boys also steal dope from Pete and smoke it while they are watching the porn. Many times Jimmy goes home high while his father and Ramona do not seem to notice.
Jimmy and Crake continue to get high and look at the pornographic websites using Uncle Pete’s password, making sure that no one finds out. On one occasion they are watching porn on the website hott totts—this is where they see Oryx for the first time. Crake copies the clip of Oryx looking back and gives a copy to Jimmy as well. Snowman remembers Jimmy and Oryx having a conversation about the picture of her he saved and showed her. This does not upset Oryx at all, even after Jimmy grills her about it.

Chapter Five Summary
Snowman sees a glowing rabbit and has the desire to eat it. He is starving but, he can not kill the rabbit because of the laws he set in place early on. He wishes on a star and older children hear him. They ask why he is talking to himself and he tells them he is talking to Crake. They ask him a few more questions and then he tells them that if they do not quit asking questions they will be toast. They do not understand this phrase; there is no toast. They ask what toast is and he lies saying it is horrible and deadly because, there is no possible way he could ever explain to them what toast is.
Snowman thinks about how ingenious homo sapiens were and he remembers Crake’s distaste in humans. Crake felt that humans had monkey brains. Snowman does not find the Craker Women attractive because they are too perfect, he realizes this as they carry his weekly fish to him. He wishes he’d have made it a law to bring him many fish, rather than just one a week. They watch as he eats this fish amazed at his monstrousness and depravity. The people then ask for a story from Snowman about Crake. He tells a story about chaos and the Crakers begin praising Crake for making the great emptiness for them. Snowman is outraged at their love for Crake; he feels they should glorify him instead. While Crake created the Crakers, Snowman has watched over them, taught them and helped them for a long time.
Snowman wants something to numb him. He craves Alcohol; he remembers having done cough syrup and many other things just to feel better. He finds a bottle of Scotch and drinks it angry at Crake and the world. Snowman yells and makes a scene for no one to see, but, wolvogs gather underneath his tree. He throws the bottle at them and they run off, but Snowman wonders how long it will be before they realize he is unarmed and begin hunting him.

Chapter 6 Summary
This whole chapter goes into great depth about Oryx’s life. In this section, Oryx begins talking to Jimmy about the man who would come to town to pick out the new children he would take with him and away from their families. Oryx and her brother are two of the children from her town to be sold. While talking about her past, Jimmy begins to get very upset that another man forced her to do this, but she does not see it that way.
After Oryx got taken from her family, she leaves her village to start her journey with the rest of the children. Not knowing where they are headed or who they are with, the man who bought them tells them to call him Uncle En. They drove in a car for hours and when it was time for them to sleep, the children cried most of the night.
When they arrived to the city, Uncle En showed them where they would be staying. It was a tiny room on the third floor and every night the children would roll out a thin mattress, that were stained and smelled like urine, to lie on, and then they would roll them back up every morning. Uncle En told the children that he kept his eye on them at all times. They were not allowed to run away or keep money from the tourists, if so then they might get beaten or burned. At first, Uncle En had Oryx selling flowers and gave her a new name to go by, SuSu. One day, while Oryx was selling flowers, a man asked her to come up to his hotel room. She obliged and the man told her to take off her dress, while he took of his clothes. Before the man did anything, Uncle En ran into the room to stop them and wound up getting money from the man.
Pixieland Jazz
One day a different man showed up and said that he was going to be the boss now and not Uncle En. Later on, Oryx was told by another girl that Uncle En had been found floating in a canal with his throat cut. After this, Oryx stopped selling flowers and began acting in pornographic movies. While hearing all of this, Jimmy gets more and more frustrated, but Oryx is not bothered by it. She does not feel resentment towards any of the men who made her do this. While shooting these movies, Oryx learned English from a man named Jack, who in exchange had sexual relations with.

Chapter 7 Summary
The beginning of this chapter finds our character Snowman up in the tree that he lives in. He is still very drunk from the night before and decides that he needs to get himself some food. Snowman keeps his food in a secret hiding spot inside a rock so that his food stays safe. After he looks through the little bit of food that he has left, he decides on Sveltana no-meat cocktail sausages, however he is not very fond of them. He says that they are ugly to look at but, “they are always better if you don’t look.” By this chapter in the story, he is becoming increasingly restless and knows he needs to find more food in order to keep on living. He only receives one fish a week from the Crakers and it is not enough to sustain his appetite. While eating the Sveltana cocktail sausages, Snowman thinks about killing a pigoon for food but then realizes that he would have no chance. His only choice now is to travel to the RejoovenEsense Compound to find food and supplies, such as a gun to defend himself from the animals.
After Snowman decides to head into the RejoovenEsense Compound, he realizes that he must tell the Crakers where he is going so that they do not think he died or disappeared. He heads into their living area and witness them going about their daily activities, all of which were designed by Crake to serve a function in their lives. When he walks up he sees the men of the community urinating over certain parts of the land, which is a daily activity. They do this because Crake built special scents into their urine in order to keep the pigoons and other large animals away from where they are living. When he comes into the town he sees that a boy was hurt by a large animal in the woods and that the women are all standing around him purring, like cats. This was also designed by Crake to allow the Crakers to heal themselves. Already, the boy’s wound is closing up. After this happens, Snowman decides he is going to tell them he is going. Many of the Crakers wish to come with him, because they feel that they will be able to see Crake. Snowman forbids this because he is afraid that if any of them come they could see him exhibiting signs of weakness and that would diminish his credibility.
After leaving the Crakers, Snowman cautiously heads out in search of RejoovenEsense Compound being careful to not step on anything that may cut his feet or harm him since he no longer has shoes. He is also wearing a piece of cloth wrapped around him for clothing. He also keeps his eyes constantly moving around so that he does not become prey for one of the bobkittens who lives in the woods. They can sneak up on people and attack them, and he does not want this to happen. As he continues to travel, we learn more about the functions that the Crakers have that were designed by Crake. One of the main things that Crake feels he eliminated in his society are the elements of love, lust and jealousy. He only designed the Crakers to mate every three years because he felt that was enough to sustain the population. There is no love involved, or any kind of wanting for another person since everything they do is purely to carry on their new race. Snowman thinks about this as he walks further and further into the forest, getting closer to the RejoovenEsense Compound with each step.

Chapter 8 Summary
On his way to the Compound, Jimmy thinks back again to him and Crake and when they graduated from high school. They both went to HelthWyzer High and Crake was top of the class. After graduating, colleges bid on what students they want to come to their school and, of course, Crake got accepted to one of the best colleges, Watson-Crick Institute, while Jimmy was accepted to the low-budget Martha Graham Academy. Jimmy also remembered when Crake told him about watching his mother dissolve from a virus.
HelthWyzer genetically creates coffee beans that can be harvested with machines, which starts protests among the people. While watching the protests on T.V. Jimmy sees his mother for the first time since she left him and his dad. Crake tells Jimmy that his dad had an “accident” and fell off of a pleebland overpass.
Applied Rhetoric
Martha Graham Academy is starting to fall apart and it is surrounded by poor people, huts, and sheds. Jimmy looks back on all the girls he dated and realized how different Oryx was from the rest of them. She did not fall for his tricks, such as pretending to be sad, so he could get the girls closer to him. She just told him to get over it.
Asperger’s U.
Jimmy and Crake talk occasionally through e-mails. Thanksgiving break approaches and Crake invites Jimmy to stay with him at Watson-Crick Institute. When Jimmy arrives to Watson-Crick, the CorpSeCorps men start to interrogate him and ask him about his mother.
Crake takes Jimmy on a tour of the campus and Jimmy realizes how much of a dump Martha Graham Academy is. Crake shows him some of the products they are creating that will be the new “wave of the future”. One of the new products is called ChickieNobs, which are chickens with additional body parts, minus the beak, eyes, and brain. After being on this campus for a while, Jimmy starts to feel out of place.
While they are sitting around talking, Jimmy finds out the real truth about Crake’s father’s death. Crake tells Jimmy that scientists are not only creating cures for diseases, but they are creating new diseases in order to keep their jobs. Crake’s father finds this information out and was killed, so his death was not an accident.
Crake is a grandmaster in Extinctathon now and the gateway to his “playroom” is Oryx’ eye in the picture, which Jimmy is haunted by. The game brings up news articles all having to do with odd genetic happenings. “MaddAddam needs fresh initiatives”. The game is what is inspiring people to create these genetic changes. Crake screams in his sleep due to the nightmares he has, now Snowman lives in Crake’s nightmare.

Chapter 9 Summary
Snowman continues on walking through the pleeblands, but thinks back to when Crake asked him what would happen if civilization was destroyed. He reaches the Compounds and enters a house to find food.
He finds the husband in the bathtub and takes some aspirin, toothpaste, and a bar of soap with him. In the bedroom, is the wife and he sprays himself with some perfume. He doesn't find the child in its bedroom. From the linen closet, he takes a new sheet to wrap around him. He takes some cashew packets, along with a flashlight, candle ends, matches, two knives, and puts them in a garbage bag. When he goes into the office, he sees a picture of the father and their son and he wonders why he feels like he just broke into his own house and that he is the missing child.
Leaving the house, there is a group of pigoons outside that he wards off. Shortly after, a tornado hits and he finds shelter in a secretary's office, while the lights go out and he sits in the dark imagining Oryx coming to him.

Chapter 10 Summary
Jimmy graduated from Martha Graham after four years with a degree in Problematics. He got a summer job working at the Martha Graham Library. He begins living with a conceptual artist named Amanda Payne and her two male roommates, who were also artists. The male roommates didn’t like Jimmy too much. He finally landed a job with AnooYoo that was close to the Pleeblands. He and Amanda break off their relationship.
Jimmy moves into the AnooYou Compound. He begins to avoid all social interaction with his fellow employees. He ignores the messages from his dad and Ramona. He eventually gets a promotion.
Jimmy thinks about how his life is slowly going failing. He thinks about how Crake had graduated and was working at one of the most important compounds. He mentions that they still stay in come sort of contact and Crake tells Jimmy that his Uncle Pete just died of a sudden virus. He sees a news story about a girl who had been kept in a garage by a Pharmacist in San Francisco. They show a picture of her and Jimmy recognizes her as Oryx.
The CorpSeCorps come to question Jimmy again about the whereabouts of his mother. They begin showing him pictures and videos to see if Jimmy sees his mother and in one scene he recognizes his mother. She is being executed by a firing squad. The next few days Jimmy is restless and depressed. Nothing brings him out of his depression.

Chapter 11 Summary
Jimmy has a dream about being a young child sitting in the kitchen in the house in which he grew up. In the dream he is eating a peanut butter sandwich and something is digging in through the plaster in the wall. He wakes up in the gatehouse, remembering a tornado has occurred. He leaves the gatehouse to continue on his journey and sees seven pigoons. They start to chase after him. He runs back into the gatehouse and hides in the building, but the electronic locks do not work. The pigoons enter the building and Jimmy believes they will eventually find him.
Jimmy escapes up a flight of stairs that the pigoons cannot climb. The stairs lead to him a watchtower with a lot of technology that doesn’t work anymore. He goes through all the supplies and the guards’ stuff. He gets much needed water from the reservoir in the toilet and also a “bonanza” of food in the cupboard and the fridge. He finds a radio and another human voice comes across the line. He tries to communicate but does not make any progress.
Jimmy attempts to tend to the cut on his foot. He decides to stay the night in the watchtower and has trouble falling asleep. When he finally falls asleep he has another dream about the absence of his mother. When he makes up in the morning he gathers all the supplies he can afford to carry and starts to plan his exit. He has to crawl through the emergency air vent in order to escape the pigoons. As he is crawling along the rampart, he sees a cloud of smoke off in the distance towards the Crakers. He questions why the Crakers would do that.

Chapter 12 Summary
Jimmy is still working his way towards Paradice, but slowly due to the injury of his foot and the extreme heat. It then flashes back to his time spent working at AnooYoo. He had been late to work a couple of times and figured he would be in trouble soon. The night before he had gotten into an argument with one of his “lovers,” so he decided to start drinking at 12 o’clock in the afternoon. Then Crake arrives at his door. Crake invites Jimmy to go to the Pleeblands and go to some bars with him. Crake gives Jimmy an “all purpose vaccine” before going into the Pleeblands. Crake takes him to the Street of Dreams to show him where most of the products Crake works on are sold. Crake gets Jimmy drunk and offers him a job at Rejoov and Jimmy accepts
On Monday after his weekend with Crake, Jimmy goes to work and is unexpectedly congratulated by his boss and the higher ups. Jimmy is sent on a bullet train to RejoovEsense. Crake shows him around the compound, which is incredibly decorated and obviously expensive. Crake shows him Jimmy to his unit, Paradice, and tells Jimmy about his BlyssPluss pill—the prophylactic pill that was created to eliminate STDs, improve sexual prowess, and prolong youth. Crake tells Jimmy he will be doing the ad campaign for the product.
At Paradice, Jimmy learns that most of the people working there are Grandmasters in the game Extinctathon ad most were members of MaddAddam.
After a short tour, they go to Crake’s office. Crake tells Jimmy he is going to show him his life’s work. This is the first time Jimmy sees the Crakers. Crake explains how he develops the Crakers and their special feature like dropping dead at the age of thirty. He explains all the possibilities that come with the Crakers. Jimmy is given his own suite inside Paradice
Crake in Love
Jimmy spots Oryx in the container with the Crakers, though he doesn’t recognize her until a few days later when he sees her face. Crake explains that she is the teacher of the Crakers. Crake explains that he met her through the Student Services at Watson Crick and alludes to the fact that he has an infatuation with her. Jimmy begins an affair with Oryx while she is still “dating” Crake.
Jimmy tries to convince Oryx to run away from the compound with him. At one point or another, both Crake and Oryx ask Jimmy to promise that if something happens to one of them, he will look after the Crakers.
The virus outbreaks begin. Oryx calls Jimmy and tells him that the virus was in the BlyssPluss pills. By midnight the virus was spreading everywhere. Jimmy was angry that Oryx and Crake were not at the compound. When they return, Jimmy refuses to let Crake and Oryx in the airlock, but Crake informs Jimmy that he is immune to the disease because of the serum he gave him before going to the Pleeblands. He finally lets the two in and then Crake slits Oryx’s throat and then Jimmy shoots him.

Chapter 13 Summary
In the first installment of chapter 13 Snowman/Jimmy is on the walking along the rampart in Paradice. His foot is in considerable pain and he plans on going to Crake’s emergency storeroom in an attempt to find some medicine/antibiotic to help heal his foot. He mentions that he, personally, ransacked this storeroom many years before when the trouble all began. At the eighth watchtower, he uses his sheet to lower himself down to the ground. He lands on his foot causing more pain. He eventually makes it to the storeroom and injects himself with one of Crake’s “cocktails.” He goes back to his old sleeping quarters and falls asleep.
The next morning his foot feels better. He wanders around his old room looking at his old clothes and whatnot. The scene then switches to after he had shot Crake and locked himself in the room. He watches the Crakers throughout the day, listening to them talk and wondering if he should introduce himself to them. He also surfs the Internet looking at current events and the status of the virus. He finds out that they are calling the virus JUVE. He pretty much watches the world’s demise via the Internet. He also ponders if Crake had used his own mother and/or his Uncle Pete as test subjects. Switching back to the present, he finds a note that he wrote discussing the world’s turn of events. He crumples up the note and drops it on the floor.
Jimmy/Snowman finally shows himself to the Crakers. He tells them his name is Snowman and that Oryx and Crake have left because they have things to do, but Snowman is here to take them to a new place. He takes the Crakers to the seashore. While leaving they are forced to step over Oryx’s and Crake’s dead bodies. Also while they are leaving the compound, people come running to Snowman and the Crakers for help. These people are infected and Snowman shoots them and explains that it is “the will of Crake.”

Chapter 14
Jimmy grabs a bunch of supplies from the storeroom. He shoots a pigoon as he makes his way back to the beach. The infection in his foot is getting worse. He finally gets back to the beach and heads back towards the Crakers village. When he comes upon them he sees and hears that they are singing, which he believes them to be saying “Amen.” However, once he gets closer he learns that they are singing “Snowman.” They explain that they were trying to lead him back. Jimmy gets confused trying to explain where he has been and what he has been doing. They see he has a hurt foot and begin to tend to it.
Jimmy learns that other people “like him” visited the Crakers while he was gone. There were two males and one female and they had a gun. The Crakers say that they ran away up the beach. Jimmy says that he will go see these people the next day.

Chapter 15
Jimmy/Snowman wakes up before dawn. He admits that he is terrified of going to talk to the three other surviving humans. He begins walking up the beach. As he gets closer he smells smoke and hears voices. He debates on whether to kill them or to try to communicate with them. He looks at his blank watch and its zero hour. “Time to go.”

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