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Comparing The Handmaid's Tale and Oryx and Crake Essay

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Margaret Atwood’s novel Oryx and Crake describes a world very different from the one we live in today, but not too far from a possible future. The story, told from the viewpoint of Snowman, possibly the only human survivor, recounts the end of days in human history. His description, given to us as flashbacks, tells of a world where technology is power, and those who lack power are doomed to a sub-par existence. This world gone mad is reminiscent of another Atwood novel written in 1986, The Handmaid’s Tale. In this story, the world of today is gone, democracy has been eradicated, and it is the elite few who control the fate of the masses. By comparing these two novels by Atwood, one can see corresponding themes dealing with governmental control, the dangers of technology, the uses of religion, and the treatment of sexuality.

Government control is a serious issue in both novels. In the compounds, where the elite live in Oryx and Crake, every aspect of day to day life is closely monitored by compound security known as CorpSeCorps. The idea behind such tight security might seem as though it is to protect the citizens of the compounds from outside terrorism, but in many ways it is to protect the compounds from the citizens living within. After Jimmy’s mom leaves home when he is a young boy, he becomes a target for investigation for the rest of his life. Even into his college years he is still questioned by security about her. “So they were still tracking his snail mail. All of the postcards must be stored on their computers; plus his present whereabouts, which was why they hadn’t asked where he’d come from,” (Atwood Oryx 197). Her escape from the compound, and the potential damage she could do with her knowledge of what goes on ther...


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... what he’s doing. Copulating too would be inaccurate, because it would imply two people and only one is involved. Nor does rape cover it: nothing is going on here that I haven’t signed up for,” (Atwood Handmaid’s 94). Although she remembers a time when sex meant more, for Offred that time is almost nothing more than a memory.

The world has changed since The Handmaid’s Tale was written in 1986. Oryx and Crake is a continuation of and a development of many of the ideas first brought up in The Handmaid’s Tale. Although the details are different, the terrifying possibility of either future is enough to make anyone question the morals of the world today and stay vigilant against these warnings offered by the author.

Works Cited

Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale. New York: Anchor Books, 1986.

Atwood, Margaret. Oryx and Crake. New York: Anchor Books, 2003.


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