Thoughts from the front lines


Can Love Cause Physical Harm?

What fascinated me the most about the final book of the MaddAddam trilogy was Toby’s reaction to Zeb’s death at the very end of the novel. When Zeb left, and never returned, he was presumed dead by the rest of the survivors. This caused Toby to fall into a deep depression, affecting her physical appearance, and eventually, leading to her own unknown death.

Throughout both the second and third novel, I viewed Toby as a warrior. She seemed very strong, and unaffected by what was happening around her. She knew how to fend for herself, and didn’t seem interested in men at all. But when she got together with Zeb, this all changed. She became jealous, insecure, and most of all, dependent. My opinion of Toby shifted drastically, almost to the point of no recognition. She became a stereotype, and in a way, she reminded me a lot of Lucerne, which was amusing, since she always seemed to judge her for being so ‘feminine’. But much like Lucerne, Toby too became vulnerable, and though she tried to hide it, extremely jealous. This was totally out of character for her, which made me wonder, can love really change who you are?

Yes, in fact, according to Health, love changes your body chemistry. It releases dopamine, which increases your level of happiness, as well as makes you feel more energetic. It also raises your level of oxytocin, testosterone, and norepinephrine: all chemicals that have a direct link to how good we feel when we fall in love. Losing your significant other can feel like withdrawing from a drug, and can lead to major depression, and sometimes even suicide, the drop of emotions can be extremely overwhelming.

Zebulon definitely changed Toby, but not necessarily for the better. Love is a beautiful thing, but when it turns you into someone you aren’t, it becomes unhealthy, and for Toby, the loss of Zeb lead to her death. She fell into a pit of sadness, and started losing a ton of weight. In her words, she had a wasting sickness that was increasing, and soon she would not be able to walk (Page 389). Toby was definitely madly in love, and sometimes love can effect you physically. Zeb was definitely the love of her life, and in a way, he took her life.


Works Cited,,20568672,00.html

MaddAddam; McClelland & Stewart, 2013; Bloomsbury, 2013; Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 2013.



The Scarcity of Human DNA

         Atwood’s finale to the MaddAddam Trilogy focuses on how the remaining group of humans survive the everyday struggles of a post-Flood world. This lack of survivors arises as a major issue for the survival of the human race, as their small number in size does not reach the minimum needed to viably repopulate the Earth.

         Back in 2002, anthropologist John Moore asked himself the following question: How many humans would it take to survive a 2000-year long trip to another solar system? In an attempt to solve this question, Moore postulated that a minimum of 160 humans would be sufficient to generate a stable and healthy population. More recently, anthropologist Cameron Smith tackled the same question and estimated that such a starship would have to carry at least 10,000 people.

         With this in mind, do the MaddAddamites and Gardeners stand any chance of keeping the human race afloat? Surely not. It’s pessimistic to say, but it is the harsh truth. For years, biologists have observed isolated animal populations whose numbers were initially incredibly low, like in the case of the platypuses (yes that’s plural for platypus) of King Island, found in the Bass Strait between Australia and Tasmania. A team of biologists sampled 18 individuals and found very little genetic diversity among them:

“Currently, genetic diversity in King Island O. anatinus is severely depauperate and the population is likely to be suffering from reduced fitness, reduced evolutionary potential, and an increased risk of extinction.” (Furlan et al., 2012)


Simulated declining of genetic diversity among Kangaroo Island platypus populations. The black diamond represents the populations as of 2012. (Furlan et al., 2012)

The article offers solutions to this increased risk of extinction:

“To maintain adaptive potential and minimise the risk of extinction (Reed and Frankham 2003), levels of genetic diversity need to be maintained (in the case of Kangaroo Island) or ideally, increased. (…) Increasing the total population size through population range expansion can slow the loss of genetic diversity.” (Furlan et al., 2012)

Note: Kangaroo Island had the same problem as King Island. The study observed populations from both islands. 

         And so, the increasingly small group of MaddAddam survivors probably won’t be passing on the torch anytime soon. Unlike the platypuses of King and Kangaroo Island, humans can’t intervene and simply add more genetic diversity, and the survivors aren’t doing themselves any favors either. Not only did they off two Painballers with perfectly good DNA, essentially removing their genes from the gene pool, but Zeb also got himself killed on a trip out in the wild and indirectly caused Toby to die as well.

         4 humans down at the end of the novel, and the survivors are congratulating Swift Fox for having Craker babies instead of Painballer babies. It seems like Crake’s master plan worked after all. With human-Craker babies now in the mix, will the presence of human DNA in Craker populations drive the Crakers to suffer the same fate?

Read More:

Popular Mechanics – “How Many People Does It Take to Colonize Another Star System?

PubMed, NCBI – “How is extinction risk related to population-size variability over time? A family of models for species with repeated extinction and immigration.



The Practicalities of Painball and Our Real Life Killers


Atwood’s novel MaddAddam again explores the recurring idea of Painball, a group of criminals who are offered the chance to be put into an arena to fight and kill other murderous criminals. The reward for victory is life; everyone else dies. The effects of being in the arena seem to be a systematic deconstruction of the human identity, resulting in, basically human monsters, once the victors are liberated from Painball. Most perpetrators, after surviving a session of Painball, return to the arena for the thrill of it. Outside of the arena, these men tend to be glassy-eyed, unstable individuals who require careful surveillance in order to ensure the peace. Given the fact that armies, institutionalized training programs revolving around teaching someone how to kill another person, it might be worth learning what exactly that kind of environment does to you mentally.

institutional killing
Against common conception, Mental health counselor Jim Dooley, in an interview, notes that it is not the loss of a friend that leads to the greatest mental trauma, but it is actually the act of taking a life. Dooley says, “I think it is a loss of yourself[…]. And I think that once they understand that, they can’t go back again They can’t say that it didn’t happen, or maybe somebody else did it” (Dooley To take a life in an act of ownership of your actions that are beyond denial. There is understanding and there is a death of self.
The army’s response to that is to relegate the problem to PTSD and observe it very vaguely and impersonally, via questionnaires, asking the participant if they have PTSD. Military stigma against PTSD has declined in recent years, but it still exists and few people want to admit to having it. Despite that fact, PTSD seems to be what Painballers are suffering from. Sebastian Junger, a soldier who was deployed in Afghanistan, describes the experience of PTSD:

From an evolutionary perspective, it’s exactly the response you want to have when your life is in danger: you want to be vigilant, you want to react to strange noises, you want to sleep lightly and wake easily, you want to have flashbacks that remind you of the danger, and you want to be, by turns, anxious and depressed. Anxiety keeps you ready to fight, and depression keeps you from being too active and putting yourself at greater risk. This is a universal human adaptation to danger that is common to other mammals as well. It may be unpleasant, but it’s preferable to getting eaten (Junger

These circumstances are exactly what the Painballers are experiencing. Their fear, a result of living in a kill-or-be-killed world is completely rational in the realm of survival. Considering the fact that some Painballers are multi-seasonal, it makes sense for them to have adopted this fear into their daily lives. Atwood describes them:

Fueled by their greyworld celebrity position, the Painball vets were pumped full of I-won hormones and thought they could tackle anyone, and they welcomed the chance to take a poke at large, solid-looking bouncer such as Zeb the Smokey Bear. He was warned by Jeb never to turn his back on a Painballer: they’d whack you in the kidneys, blam you on the skull with anything handy, squeeze your neck till your eyes popped out of your ears.
How to recognize them? The facial scars. The blank expressions: some of their human mirror neurons had gone missing, along with big chunks of the empathy module: show a normal person a child in pain and they’d wince, whereas these guys would smirk (Atwood 297).

These Painballers display a complete lack of empathy and the ability to inflict physical violence ruthlessly and without concern. Whether this is the result of PSTD eroding their empathy, or a choice that they have made after deciding that killing is the life that they enjoy, it is hard to tell. But the idea that killing makes your crazy is solidly found in our society, and the idea that the army propagates teaching how to kill is a problem. Without proper treatment, is it possible for groups of soldiers to become like the Painballers, intent on destruction and pain? Institutionalized death is an idea that is frowned upon in Atwood’s works, but at the same time, our real world institutionalizes death as a form of political defense, even though, in recent years, our armies have been deployed into foreign countries pro-actively instead of being used as a defensive measure.

The lack of empathy found in the Painballers exists as a real problem Toby and company. MaddAddam is coming to a point where a conflict between our protagonists and the Painballers is inevitable, and considering their lack of empathy, and the effects of living with PTSD, as well as the vile nature of the Painballers, established throughout the series, it is possible that the MaddAddam group will lose many people, as well as the group of Pigoons. Could empathy solve this problem? Is it even possible for the Painballers to feel empathy again? Or will Toby again be praying to the Liobam for strength, believing that it will grant her what she needs to remove these killing machines as a threat to her friends and family?




Atwood, Margaret. Maddaddam. Vintage Canada. 2013.

Dooley, Jim. “The Impact of Killing and How to Prepare the Soldier”.

Junger, Sebastian. “How PTSD Became A Problem Far Beyond the Battlefield.” June 2015.

Keevil, Rosemary. Addiction and Veterans. 2016. Wordle.

“Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).” Canadian Mental Health Association.

“Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – causes, symptoms, treatment & pathology.” Youtube, uploaded by Osmosis, 5 September 2016,

Sengupta, Kim. The British Army. 2015. Photograph.

Shrivastava, Pratyush. US Army Camoflague. 2015. Photograph.

“Understanding PTSD’s Effects on Brain, Body, and Emotions | Janet Seahorn | TEDxCSU” Youtube, uploaded by Tedx Talks, 14 March, 2016,

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A New Beginning

The idea of a new beginning along with the theme of starting over are what drive the plot of Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam. Throughout the story, the humans as well as the Crakers attempt to create a new life for themselves in a world destroyed by the waterless flood and now inhabited by dangerous painballers. Restarting society is a theme that is also very prominent in the real world, namely in countries that suffer massive disasters, whether they be natural or man made.

In terms of natural disasters, the 2010 Haiti earthquake was devastating, and forced an already poor Haitian society to restart from scratch. The earthquake had a catastrophic magnitude of 7.0 Mw and affected an estimated 3 million people. At least 52 aftershocks of 4.5 Mw or higher were recorded prior to the initial earthquake and the death toll ranged between 100,000 and 160,000 people. Additionally, 250,000 residential buildings and 30,000 commercial buildings collapsed or were severely damaged. Immediately, many countries and organizations came to Haiti’s rescue by pledging funds and sending medical and rescue teams as well as engineers.

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Unlike the group in MaddAddam, Haiti received a lot of help from many different sources, and although the country is still recovering from the natural disaster, they have and still are rebuilding much faster thanks to the external help.

In terms of manmade disasters, the nuclear bombs dropped on the Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6th and 9th of 1945 were perhaps the most destructive and tragic disasters in human history. This was the first time ever that weapons of this magnitude were used, and they were deployed by the United States military under President Truman in the final stage of World War II. Although the initial explosion was devastating, the worst part came later as radiation exposure continued to affect people many years after.

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This aspect can be compared to MaddAddam. Both the bombs and the disease created by Crake were manmade. Additionally, they both continued to have large impacts after they were initially used. Much like how the effects of radiation exposure were passed on from generation to generation, the disease created by Crake was passed from person to person and its effects are still very notable in the third book of the trilogy.

It therefore appears as though manmade disasters tend to be more catastrophic than those that are natural due to the fact that their effects seem to last much longer. While the earthquake in Haiti is definitely still having negative impacts on the country, its effects will certainly not last as long as those created by the nuclear bombs used against Japan in 1945.

Thankfully, over time, Japan was able to rebuild their societies in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Haiti is also in the process of rebuilding their society, much like the group in MaddAddam is having success in rebuilding theirs. It therefore seems as though societies will always rebuild no matter how badly they are destroyed.

Is there anything capable of completely ending societies, giving them no chance of resurgence?



“Earthquake in Haiti.” International Rescue Committee (IRC), 12 Jan. 2015, Staff. “Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”, A&E Television Networks, 2009,





Childhood is a very important period of our lives. Those years are the stage of innocence. We do not know much, but we get to learn about many things. We get to understand things faster while we’re younger, which explains why we do most of our “first steps” earlier on in life. A few of those first steps are walking, talking, writing, etc. However, there are some parents who try to avoid talking to their children about topics such as sexuality, death or adults problems, in order to protect them from the “ugly side” of the world. Yet, is it really protecting them or does it simply prevent them from growing up?


In the novel, MaddAddam, we clearly see the theme of innocence through the Crakers. They are just like children: they ask too many questions and are awfully curious. They learn and understand things through songs, stories and questions. They cannot differentiate right from wrong because they seem to think that everybody is kind and that everyone has good intentions. We see it in the first pages of the novel. Finally safe from the two painballers, Toby and Ren tied them. At a certain point, the Crakers arrive and since they feel like the painballers are in danger so they naively untied them. They did not understand why they were tied and thought that the “rope is hurting these ones” and that they “must take it away” (13).

Since Jimmy is unable to tell them stories, Toby answers most of their questions through metaphors so that they could easily understand them. She answers vaguely in order to protect them from suffering. Even when she explains the story of the birth of Zeb, she avoids certain details that are unpleasant.

The Crakers have been made innocent in the idea to be free from negative emotions/feelings. They have not been created to be violent so they cannot fight. In the last novel, we understand that the Crakers are a burden for everyone since they are just like children.


I feel like children lose this innocence at even younger age than past generations. They get to know the dark side of the world at a really young age. They get to know about sexuality, war, and social media elaborately.

Do you think that we should preserve childhood innocence or do they have the right to know the whole truth about what is coming?

Atwood, M. (2003). MaddAddam. Toronto: Vintage Canada. Print.


How smart are pigoons?


In Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam Trilogy, we have seen that she describes the pigoons as one of the smartest animals in the books. They know the rifle; they know to use the tactics and almost catch Jimmy one time; they know to distract humans’ attention so that they can get into the garden; they even hold a funeral for their dead companions, and so on. In one word, they’re sly. Furthermore, in the book Maddaddam, Margaret mentions the pigoons communicate with each other and they even want to communicate with the survivors of the waterless flood. One morning, they come to the humans’ place and wish to have a talk with them. Margaret says, “there are fifty or so in all. Fifty adults, that is: several of the sows have litters of piglets, trotting along beside their mothers. … a low level of grunting is going on, from pig to pig. If they were people, Toby thinks, you’d say it was the murmuring of a crowd. It must be information exchange’ but God knows what sort of information” (Atwood 267-268). This passage shows that the pigoons can exchange ideas with each other. It’s very strange. As we know, the pigoons have the brain tissues which are similar to humans’, therefore they are smarter than the ordinary pigs. But how smart are they? We don’t have the answer, but we can test out how smart the ordinary pigs are.

According to “The 10 smartest animals”, Science on NBC NEWS, the author says that the pigs are perhaps “the smartest, cleanest domestic animals known, even more so than cats and dogs”. The experiments of testing pigs’ intelligence even started in the 1990s. Furthermore, according to the neuroscientist Lori Marino of Emory University, “we have shown that pigs share a number of cognition capacities with other highly intelligent species such as dogs, chimpanzees, elephants, dolphins and even humans”.

Well, some of the intelligent animals are considered to have the same IQ level as a preschooler and even a little child (until about 9). It’s hard to think about the pigoons may have the same level of intelligence as our human children. I mean, maybe like your 9 years old little brother or sister. It’s incredible. On the other hand, I think it could be true because some of their abilities are beyond the scope of ordinary animals should have. So what do you think? Did you find any other clues in the book and in our real world to support or against this idea?



Atwood, Margaret. The Year of the Flood. Toronto: Vintage Canada, 2010. Print.

“The 10 smartest animals”, Science on NBCNEWS,               science/t/smartest-animals/#.WPwE8zsrJhG

Viegas, Jen. “IQ tests suggest pigs are smart as dogs, chimps”, Seeker,         1769934406.html


Personification: Not just a literary device.

Pigs with human brain tissue and multiple human organs to be grown and eventually harvested. These are what the pigoons are meant to be. The concept of it may seem far-fetched to some, but here we are in 2017, an era where we take a few more steps into the MadAddam universe. Organs and tissue donors are hard to find and there is a long list of people who need them. Scientists have found oddly familiar answers.


Chimeras are no longer mere fantasy and are being studied closely in order to help humanity. In fact, the Maryland University of Medicine are studying and experimenting with ways to make pig organs usable for humans. They have already managed to filter human blood through pig lungs. Now, they are injecting pig embryos with human cells and put the embryos into grown female pigs to carry for a few weeks before being removed and studied some more.


From animals to plants, no living being is spared from human testing. Now, spinach is found to be able to build or be used as human heart tissue. This is done by growing human cells on the leaves. The leaf’s veins can replicate human veins. Studies are ongoing and the scientists feel that other types of leaves can be turned into tissue for other parts of the human body. The test they conducted transformed the spinach leaf into a miniature human heart. They plan on improving their techniques.


Human leaves and pigoons may not be so for off into the future. Of course, there is much controversy in what is being done in these experiments, but the tests have already been done. Our science is becoming eerily similar to that of Atwood’s MadAddam universe. Well, what do you think? Is science going in the right direction? Or are we tampering with things beyond our understanding? If we continue down this path, where exactly will we stop?


Works Cited:

Atwood, Margaret. The Year of the Flood. Toronto: Vintage Canada, 2010. Print.

Blakemore, Erin. “Human-Pig Hybrid Created In The Lab—Here Are The Facts”. N.p., 2017. Web. 17 Apr. 2017.

Chambers, Delaney. “Spinach Leaf Transformed Into Beating Human Heart Tissue”. N.p., 2017. Web. 17 Apr. 2017.