Thoughts from the front lines

Disease: A Destructive Cure


Disease is a central theme in Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake. The author uses this idea to portray several other important themes such as segregation, mass destruction, as well as the solving of human problems.

In terms of segregation, Atwood uses disease to display a clear difference in social class between the pleeblands and compounds. Those who have nice government jobs are segregated from the pleeblands, where there are many diseases, and where those without comfortable jobs survive in much lower standards of living. This can easily relate to real life. While people in developed countries live very secure lives free of most illnesses, billions of people in other parts of the world must live with countless diseases. For instance, in Canada, merely 0.212% of the population carry the HIV/AIDS virus. In comparison, Sub-Saharan Africa has a 4.7% prevalence rate and accounts for 71% of all people with HIV/AIDS worldwide. If we, as Canadians, choose to visit Africa, we must take several precautions such as vaccines to ensure that we don’t catch any diseases. This is very similar to Oryx and Crake since those who travel to the pleeblands have to take special medicines before. This shows that Atwood is giving a very good depiction of real life in a completely different setting.

Map of sub-Saharan Africa and regional HIV statistics

Not only does Atwood use disease to display segregation, but she also shows the reader how it causes mass destruction. Crake creates a disease with the intention to wipe out all human beings. This exhibits how powerful diseases can be, since they are one of very few things that can destroy humanity so quickly and effortlessly. Crake was attempting to make the world a better place run by superior versions of humans. This is oddly similar to how Europeans practically wiped out the Native Americans when they first settled in America, because they believed that they were a superior race and that the Natives were savages rather than people. Like Crake, they mainly used disease as a weapon since this appears to be a significant human weakness.

Image result for europeans colonize america

While disease is usually thought of as something negative, it is interesting that the author is able to shine some positive light on it. The general consensus is that the flood was a horrible tragedy for mankind, however, those who agree with Crake might argue that the disease was actually a sort of cure. Crake believes that the only way to remove all imperfections from humans is to kill everyone and restart the world with the Crakers. I, along with the majority of people, believe that this is over the top. Despite this, there are several people who understand Crake’s methods and would see the epidemic as positive.



Atwood, M. (2003). Oryx and Crake. Toronto: Vintage Canada. Print.

“HIV and AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa Regional Overview.” AVERT, 1 May 2015, Accessed 12 Mar. 2017.

“The Epidemiology of HIV in Canada.” CATIE – Canada’s Source for HIV and Hepatitis C Information, Accessed 12 Mar. 2017.




8 thoughts on “Disease: A Destructive Cure

  1. Yeah, I agree with you especially with the part of the superior version of humans. It involves the idea of racism which is a cruel topic that we still work on to solve it. From the perspective of Crake, it is obviously that his creature—Crakers are better than humans, so he wants to kill everyone and to restart the world. The disease for him was a kind of solution to solve all kinds of human imperfections. But would you kill someone or extinct some species just because of you think they are imperfect? Crake’s idea is terrifying.


  2. Good job on this blog! I enjoyed this, because most of the points that you make I have pondered about while reading the book, and during class discussions. The whole Crake’s dad committing suicide situation seemed more and more like a fluke throughout the chapters. Clearly, the disease wasn’t being used for what he thought it would be.

    All in all, a solution is a means to solve a problem yet Atwood uses the optimistic value of what a solution holds and turns into as the black death– it still intrigues me how horrifying it is.


  3. I agree with the ideas in this blog completely. In a way, the disease was a way to cure the imperfections of humans, and basically a new way to restart the population of the world. On the other hand, it is a bit scary to think about considering if you are not perfect there will be consequences.
    In all great blog !


  4. The blog has very good insights about the book and to reality. It is similar to the old saying “fight fire with fire”, but you will only get a larger fire. For Crake, humans were the disease and to eliminate it you would need a stronger disease to eradicate them. However, it didn’t really work because in The Year Of The Flood some people did survive such as the Paintballers. I agree that the disparity between the rich and the poor is evident in the book and does contribute to health. It all goes back to the distribution of wealth. The rich remains rich whereas the poor remains poor unless there is a change. In the book, Crake uses disease as a weapon which is frightening. In reality, people do use disease as a weapon. For example, the 2001 Anthrax Attack that occurred in the United States.


  5. The argument that you brought up is really interesting, as you mentioned disease is a central piece in Atwood’s novel. I think it is also relevant to bring up the fact that the few surviving characters in The Year of The Flood are from the pleeblands. They did not have access, as you mentioned, to all this new high-tech medicine that everyone from the compound had. Also, it is interesting to me that those few persons were part of the Gardeners, a group that did not believed that pumping chemicals in your vein was a healthy way of living. These few people probably won’t agree with you, that this waterless flood was needed, but maybe it is Atwood’s way of telling us that we need to radically change our ways of living.


  6. The fascinating thing about the book (or any dystopia in reality) is the fact that the events that happen to the main character are always happening to Third-World countries. In other words, I find that it is named “dystopia” if they happen to first-world countries. That is why the book is grounded in realism, I find. In a way, it does make me pessimistic, but in another, I appreciate the way that the author tried to be as specific to her setting as possible. We don’t truly know where the book takes place for example, but it feels like close to home and that is why the books are so good and fascinating. Overall, great, insightful post!


  7. It seems very negative and dark but from one perspective, I partly believe in Crake’s philosophy that humankind is the root of destructions: for others and for ourselves. What rights do we have to harvest natural resources until depletion or extinction? I watched a video of an environmental campaign: if one day people disappeared, our creations (satellites, buildings, factories, etc.) would not do any good to nature (ex.: nuclear power plants would explode and there would be “Fukushima disaster” all around the world, putting Earth into another ice age; but all would go back to the circle of our planet. I wonder, “would there be humans then?”


  8. this is really an amazing blog! super interesting and very true. I agree with everything that’s been said especially the reference between the native Americans and the Europeans. I also think that disease is a very big weakness of ours because we are scared of getting it and especially with new diseases that get discovered almost everyday. it`s normal to be scared of diseases especially unknown diseases. I kind of do agree with crake about the virus but also think he is a maniac for even thinking and going through with such an dangerous plan. I feel that he tried to solve human problems the easiest and fastest way which is killing them all but also how could you murder an entire species!


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