A typical adage about psychopaths is that “there is more than meets the eye”. On the outside, these people may seem incredibly charming and intelligent. Despite this, they lack a fundamental piece of being human – having empathy for others. There are no definitive answers as to what makes someone a psychopath, but psychologists have emphasized that it must be a unique mix of nature (heredity) and nurture (the environment) (Hirstein).
Crake is a classic example of a psychopath. He lacks empathy for fellow human beings, has little emotional range, displays genius-level intelligence, and is unbothered by guts and gore. While this isn’t evident from the beginning of the book, by the end of Oryx and Crake, enough clues can be added up to result in this conclusion.
Everything from Crake’s hypothetical world-ending scenarios to his indifference towards sex and food – essential to the human experience – indicate his psychopathic tendencies.
I first became cognizant of this mid-way through the book when Crake’s mom dies. Typically, when someone’s mother passes away, no matter what the circumstances of said passing are, the person is understandably upset. Grief has many forms, but sadness and anger are two emotions best identified with grief. Crake shows no sign of anger or sadness when his mom passes away, which is textbook psychopathic behavior. Further, he doesn’t show any signs of surprise or horror when watching the way his mother died. She frothed at the mouth and soon dissolved into a puddle on the floor, and Crake’s only comment was: “It was impressive” (Atwood, 177).
Another example of Crake’s disinterest to members of his family arises when he mentions his father’s execution. He unemotionally hypothesizes about his father’s secret plans in HelthWyzer, making up potential scenarios without a genuine concern for his father or what happened to him. Crake’s stoicism when discussing the people who raised him since infancy further indicates his psychopathy.
It becomes readily apparent that everything is a game to Crake. This can be seen when he plays chess with Jimmy, constantly “30 moves ahead”, and when he participates in Extinctathon online (193). Every move Crake makes is in hopes of achieving game over, which is foreshadowing for his eventual plan with the BlyssPuss pills. It’s clear that Crake is fixated on the idea of the extinction of a species, considering that he continued playing Extinctathon long after Jimmy had given up. This is further indicated by the various hypothetical scenarios he brings up in conversation with Jimmy. When discussing what his father had discovered about HelthWyzer creating new illnesses, Crake emphasizes that their plan is “brilliant” (211). Crake puts elaborate thought into how one would go about erasing a species; this was a warning sign of his psychopathic tendencies coming to light.
Crake’s disinterest in sex and dating is another tell-tale sign of psychopathy. He can’t relate to the pleasurable aspects of life that humans participate in. Jimmy notes that when mentioning such pleasures, Crake was “sounding like a guidebook”, indicating his monotonous voice and his lack of emotional attachment to the subject (207). This is further illustrated when the two boys are watching porn and execution channels. Crake “didn’t seem to be affected by anything he saw”, highlighting his separation from these highly charged emotional images (86).
Finally, nothing showcases Crake’s psychopathy like his long-standing plan to eradicate the human species. All throughout the book, Crake is thoroughly disenchanted by human creation and ingenuity. He doesn’t seem to think they deserve a place in their world of survival of the fittest, despite being human himself. It wasn’t surprising to find out that he had such a plan, but the method of delivery was startling. It’s clear that Crake put extravagant thought and planning into every aspect of his newly-developed plague: he tells Jimmy that he “anticipated this event and took precautions”, ensuring that Jimmy would be the only person vaccinated against the new virus (328). Earlier in the book, in describing a hypothetical situation, Crake states that “all it takes is the elimination of one generation” (223). This, along with his Jimmy’s observation that Crake would “perfect his attack until he was sure he could win”, showcases that Crake’s plan was a long-time in the making (77). He’d deliberated, and spent years perfecting the pill that would lead to the eradication of most of the human species. This level of planning and forward-thinking is typical of psychopaths.
Do you agree with my interpretation of Crake’s behavior? Is it possible that he not be a psychopath? If he isn’t, what passages from the book could show this?
I’d like to end with a statement from Crake that summarizes his predicament perfectly: “I’m a sadist. I like to watch you suffer” (174).
Atwood, Margaret. Oryx and Crake. Toronto: Vintage Canada, 2003.
Hirstein, William. “What Is a Psychopath?” Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers, 30 Jan. 2013. Web. 19 Feb. 2017.