This thesis endeavors to examine Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake from a more scientific angle, proposing that Atwood actually criticizes the biological reductionism prevailing in the contemporary society by writing Oryx and Crake.
This thesis is divided into four chapters. In the first chapter, I will present a brief introduction to Margaret Atwood, her latest novel Oryx and Crake, and their relationship to science. I will also offer the concise reviews and summaries of the academic critiques of this novel, and the motivation and argument of my thesis. Moreover, a condensed account of what scientific reductionism is will be given, too.
In Chapter Two, I will trace the origin of the biological reductionism prevailing in the present days. I will illustrate how the discovery of genes and DNA structure in the beginning of 20th century influences the development of biology, including evolutionary theories, which formulate the mainstream of biological reductionism. Then, I will introduce two biological concepts that are often criticized for their biological reductionism: one is genetic reductionism, or gene myth in Ruth Hubbard and Ted Peters’ term, and the other is sociobiology founded by Edmund O. Wilson. Lastly, I will prove how Crake, the main scientist in Oryx and Crake, displays these two reductionist biological notions and hence becomes the representative of biological reductionism. In addition, I will also clarify why the Crakers created by Crake are the reification of Crake’s reductionist view of biology.
In Chapter Three, I will firstly explain how Jimmy, the best friend of Crake, symbolizes the humanist conception that stresses the difference between humans and other creatures as well as the uniqueness of human beings to resist and criticize Crake’s biological reductionist attitude. Then, I will demonstrate how Atwood reveals her criticism and objection to extreme biological reductionism through subverting the Crakers’ features predestinated by Crake. I will discuss the emergence of curiosity, speculating ability, and deductive reasoning of the Crakers as well as the appearance of religion, art, and leadership among them that are all unforeseen by Crake.
The last chapter will elucidate how the end of Oryx and Crake implies Atwood’s relatively optimistic attitude to human crisis of being reduced by reductionist view of biology. Through the open ending of the novel, Atwood provides more possibilities instead of the only absolute future determined by Crake, and hence enunciates her criticism against the extreme biological reductionism and scientific reductionism, which impels her readers to reflect seriously on this issue, too.