Thoughts from the front lines

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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,





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.

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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.