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.
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.
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, http://www.avert.org/professionals/hiv-around-world/sub-saharan-africa/overview. Accessed 12 Mar. 2017.
“The Epidemiology of HIV in Canada.” CATIE – Canada’s Source for HIV and Hepatitis C Information, http://www.catie.ca/en/fact-sheets/epidemiology/epidemiology-hiv-canada. Accessed 12 Mar. 2017.