What does it mean to be human? Throughout the novel, and in our discussions in class, we have circled around this question. There isn’t an answer, and I don’t intend to answer it, but I do wish to look at the human body. There’s this fascination that both Jimmy and Crake have (VERY different fascinations, but still) with the human body. In Jimmy’s younger years, he was introduced to the pigoon, producing parts for repairing the human body. In Jimmy and Crake’s adolescent years, they witness the entertainment of the day, the destruction and ‘elegance’ of the human body through execution and pornography. I absolutely love the quote that Jimmy gives us on page 85:
“But the body had its own cultural forms. It had its own art. Executions were its tragedies, pornography was its romance.”
Jimmy is the one who says these lines, but I feel that Crake resonates with this idea to some degree. This is the time they were living in, and being human literally boiled down to one thing for Crake – the human body. Pigoons are bred to create more parts for the human body, and we questioned as to whether pigoons could be considered human because they had human parts. The society that has been created by Atwood focuses heavily in both science and entertainment on the pleasure, “art”, and destruction of the human body. I mean, for God’s sake, there was even an immortality project mentioned at one point.
For Crake, as evidenced by his plan “The Pill and The Project”, it really did become an issue of the body. Today in class I really tried to think about where Crake could have been coming from. We read this line from Crake on page 293 today:
“If at first you don’t succeed, read the instructions. The proper study of Mankind is Man. You’ve got to work with what’s on the table.”
He focuses in on the human body, in both the Pill and the Project. It’s the key to launching his virus into society – the Pill is a result of Crake’s understanding as to what makes human beings tick. The Project is based on his creating a post-human, the perfect being, the answer. We discussed how he got it wrong, and that the Crakers, while based on humans, have the potential / did become human, although they physically are only humanoid.
Is Crake’s interpretation of the society he and Jimmy grew up in misguided? Absolutely, the idea that violence through repressed sexual energy is a bit of a stretch. Do I still understand where he’s coming from as far as the BlyssPluss pill is concerned? Yes, I do. People in that society were raised on the “art” of the body, in both their working lives and entertainment. He believed it to be part of the problem, that humans weren’t quite right. Hence the Project. I know Crake is a hard character to really delve into because we only have limited understanding of what’s going on in his head, so I rely on the society he was raised in as well as his similarities to Jimmy. Crake can be lumped into the genocidal maniac category, but I believe there’s something more. His plan was influenced by the society’s revolving around the human body, which, incidentally enough, is heavily involved with the question that runs rampant throughout the book.
Okay, I’m done, I know that was long, and I’m still forming my opinion on Crake, but that’s where I’ve anchored his outlook on society, and how the human body was the key to his plan, due to its heavy influence in both the world he lives in and his upbringing. Whew.
- Gabe K