Teacher's Guide to Oryx & Crake
1. Oryx and Crake is a novel of human catastrophe and potential. At the center of the story is Snowman/Jimmy, who finds himself wearing nothing more than a bed sheet, sleeping in a tree, and facing starvation. The question is why? What events have caused Jimmy to become the Snowman and to find himself in such devastating circumstances? In a narrative that shifts in time, Atwood unravels Jimmy’s life before and after the moment we meet him, and in doing so creates a world that is an uncanny vision of what could be weirdly feasible and perhaps all too possible.
The Building Blocks/Structure:
1. Oryx and Crake is set sometime in the near future. Geographically, the story takes place somewhere along the shoreline of the northeast coast of the United States. The ordinary (people) live in the Pleeblands while the chosen or the extraordinary inhabit extravagant Compounds designed to meet every conceivable human need. In Oryx and Crake is geography of any real significance? What indication is there that it matters where the story occurs? Does it matter where the Compounds actually are?
2. What does Atwood do to demonstrate that time is very consequential to the events? How far into the future do you think this story is taking place?
1. Oryx and Crake is structured on two parallel narratives which inevitably collide at one climactic point. One narrative begins with Jimmy’s early life and his first encounter with Crake, and the second begins with Jimmy’s metamorphosis into the Snowman. Trace the two story lines (Jimmy forward and Snowman backward) and highlight the intersection or climax of the two story lines.
2. Does Atwood’s framework of two intersecting narratives work, or does the reader find the short sections and constant change confusing and/or distracting? Explain why or why not you like the construction of the novel?
3. As the story