Paradice Lost, Paradise Regained: Homo Faber and the Makings of a New Beginning in Oryx and Crake

By DiMarco, Danette | Papers on Language & Literature, Spring 2005 | Go to article overview

Paradice Lost, Paradise Regained: Homo Faber and the Makings of a New Beginning in Oryx and Crake


DiMarco, Danette, Papers on Language & Literature


Margaret Atwood's novel Oryx and Crake (2003)critiques modernity's commitment to homo faber--he who labors to use every instrument as a means to achieve a particular end in building a world, even when the fabrication of that world necessarily demands a repeated violation of its materiality, including its people. Atwood propels her novel through the memories of the main character, Snowman, a survivor of a deadly viral pathogen created and unleashed by his best friend, Crake. Too much a product of a profit-driven world who mirrors its economy of self-interest, Crake emerges as the quintessential homo faber, making it unlikely that any kind of positive social change will happen directly through him.

Instead, Atwood's character Snowman serves as a potential site for change. He faces the challenge of either taking deliberative and participatory action in the creation of a yet-to-be imagined inviolate world, or imitating homo faber. Atwood marks this tension from the outset of the novel, symbolizing it in Jimmy's name change to Snowman, which evokes The Abominable Snowman--"existing and not existing, flickering at the edges of blizzards [...] known only through rumours and through its backward-pointing footprints" (8). These mythic and multi-directional footprints (they point backward as they move forward) represent Snowman's liminal position and potential power--to repeat a past cycle of aggression against nature in the name of personal profit, or to re-imagine a way for future living grounded in a genuine concern for others. Snowman's narrative about his past is concomitant of his ability to cross boundaries on several levels and to challenge existing structures all while working within them. At novel's end, when the possibility for again belonging to a community is revealed to him, he must choose: to retreat from, attack, or engage humanely the strangers with whom he is confronted. If he chooses the third option, it is possible that he will help to build a world unlike that which homo faber has produced. (1)

Under girding the development of homo faber is a basic, instrumental philosophy that has contributed to an elision of violence against material goods, including human instruments. This instrumentalism has naturalized the division of labor under capitalism and led to an increased decentralization in governing communities and alienation among individuals. Homo faber's instrumental worldview--grounded in separation and enclosure--acts as the cohesive agent that assures Jimmy a leading role in Crake's "Paradice" project. Of course, it is this same instrumental perspective that separates the two men as well. On one hand, Crake's scientific intelligence, evident through his work in Paradice where he creates the BlyssPluss pill and the genetically-spliced Crakers, positions him as a member of an elite class that values instrumental production only as it is linked with personal gain. On the other hand, Jimmy's humanistic tendencies socially marginalize him. Even as he is part of the privileged, scientific community because of his family background, he moves forever closer to membership in the "uncivilized" Pleebland culture that literally sits beyond the walls of his world.

Belonging and not belonging to his community is a marker that Snowman/Jimmy is Atwood's vehicle for showing that potential social change may be enacted. The supposed "good" life that homo faber has fabricated, and that has been reified in modernity, finds itself in question in this novel. Though it is plausible that readers, through Snowman, might concede the possibility for re-making a world in imitation of its predecessor, they might also be able to imagine a potential watershed moment in his decision--where future-life will be motivated less by personal gain and grounded more in a genuine care and respect for others. Since the novel concludes before that decision is made, however, choice and accountability are left in the minds of the readers, although Atwood does guide readers to contemplate seriously the ethical implications of particular choices. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Paradice Lost, Paradise Regained: Homo Faber and the Makings of a New Beginning in Oryx and Crake
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.