One of the aspects that give Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake its quirks and charm is all the gore and brutality present in the novel.
To be specific, Jimmy and Crake have a fascination, borderline obsession with browsing through certain online sites. These sites include, but are not limited to dismemberments, animal cruelty, live executions, lethal injections, electrocutions and even assisted suicides.
This enticed me to dig deeper.
Why, as humans, are we so intrigued in observing certain things? Why are we so morbidly curious?
It’s almost as if “we’re paradoxically drawn to repulsive things” (Vsauce).
Leaving Jimmy and Crake’s world and entering our own, some unpleasant things can involve car accidents, natural disasters, possibility of a fight, disfigurations, etc.
Did it ever cross your mind why you might watch people eat a spoonful of cinnamon, gross tasting jellybeans or extremely hot peppers?
Before I explain the reasons why one might be so morbidly curious, it’s important to know what goes on in your brain to make us feel enticed by dreadful things.
When we are faced with danger, we get frightened. The stimulus produced creates a signal that travels to the amygdala near the base of the brain and proceeds to travel to the hypothalamus. Certain neurotransmitters are released like dopamine and epinephrine.
Dopamine is basically the brains reward system and is released when you come face to any pleasurable activity for that matter. If we look at dopamine and food, when we eat, there’s an air of satisfaction. The brain motivates us to seek, encounter and be curious for our own sake. Well, the same chemicals are released when we experience a threat, making us more attentive and finding it difficult to look away.
Now, getting back to the extensive reasons for being morbidly curious.
A pretty straightforward answer can be that at least if we look, we know because I’m convinced uncertainty is more unpleasant. Don’t sit there and tell me you haven’t been in a situation where you weren’t rubbernecking, the act of “slowly driving by a car accident and [turning your] head to see anything gory” (Urban Dictionary).
Another approach: sometimes the pressure to not do a certain thing makes us want to do it even more. When you try to suppress something, it can actually make it more present. If there’s a taboo against viewing a certain thing, it’ll increase your desire to be exposed to it.
Morbid curiosity can also be perceived in the sense that we want to experience someone else’s suffering without actually have it happening to us. Thinking could this ever happen to me, which allows us to share certain empathetic feelings.
It could also be like a little personal pride having witnessed a disturbing scene and being able to overcome it without chickening out, almost like a challenge accepted and conquered.
Lastly, some might get joy from overlooking others’ misfortunes. Hear me out here; sometimes viewing these scenes where other people are angered or violent without any of our involvement can actually help us reduce our own frustrations or aggressions as if they were actually satisfied.
We are not evil people, don’t worry. We do feel guilty for being interested in these types of things but still can’t look away, like Kanye West said, “why everything that supposed to be bad, make me feel so good?”
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Atwood, M. (2003). Oryx and Crake. Toronto: Vintage Canada.
Dickerson, K. (2013). Here’s What Happens In Our Brains When We Get Scared. Business Insider. Retrieved from
Olsen, P. (2015). Catharsis in Psychology: Theory, Examples & Definition. Study.com. Retrieved from
Vsauce (2014). Why Are We Morbidly Curious? Youtube. Retrieved from
West, K. “Addiction”. (2005). Late Registration. Roc-A-Fella Records & Def Jam Recordings.