I Teach AP Language, AP Literature, and Other English Courses at San Diego High School, CA. I'm completing a PH.D. with GWU in English. my research and writing is on Literary Animal Animal Studies of the late twentieth- and early twenty-first-century. 

Climax

I brought my family up to Bellingham, Washington for our summer vacation. We stopped by my undergraduate alma mater, Western Washington University, and walked around the beautiful campus. We have also been enjoying the outdoor activities while here, including some hiking and kayaking. My son, only nine years of age, completed a ten-mile hike that gained nearly 1,500 feet of elevation to climax with a gorgeous view overlooking the ocean and surrounding islands. The climax of our kayak trip, on the other hand, was when a bald eagle swooped in front of us with a fresh salmon, landed on a nearby coastal cedar tree, and engorged itself.

The climax is that moment, event, or idea that is most intense, exciting, or important. It is the apex of the journey, the adventure, or the story. At this point or very soon, you should reach the climax of Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, which means completing up through the end of chapter twelve. 

Over the most recent chapters and sections we have watched as Snowman made his way through the dystopian landscape in search of food and supplies to take back with him to the tree he calls home near the Craker village. Fleeing a tornado and being pursued by some highly intelligent and very hungry porcine, Snowman manages to gather some supplies as his analepses (flashbacks) continue.

Jimmy finishes college and manages to eventually get a decent job writing advertising material for a pharmaceutical/wellness corporation. His personal relationships continue to fail and we watch him plummet into depression after learning of his mother’s execution. Seemingly serendipitous at the time, Jimmy is given a new job by Crake. Possibly, you can feel the climax approaching as the pace of the novel really picks up here. 

Jimmy learns of Crake’s two projects, discovers Oryx is working for Crake (but is it really Oryx?), and begins to have an affair with her. Suddenly, the novel’s climax is upon us as everything unravels for Jimmy literally overnight. Inside the prophylactic pill peddled by Crake was a deadly hemorrhagic that nearly exterminates the human population. As the disease breaks out all over the world, Jimmy quarantines himself and the Crakers. Oryx and Crake are missing for a time, but upon their return Crake slits Oryx’s throat and Jimmy shoots Crake. We can rightly infer that alongside the end of humanity, of Oryx, and of Crake, so too is the end of Jimmy for he is Snowman thereafter.

The novel’s climax is narrated in a very odd juxtaposition of detail (the words Jimmy recalls like a safety blanket) and terseness (no gory detail about the death of Oryx or Crake). Furthermore, the novel is titled Oryx and Crake, and the death of these two characters is clearly the climactic moment of the novel. What exactly is Atwood doing here?

Using at least one piece of textual evidence from any section of the novel we have read thus far, select any one of the questions below to answer in a comment.

  1. What is the narrative significance of having Oryx and Crake die as the climax of the novel?
  2. Looking back, can you find foreshadowing of the novel’s climax?
  3. Why do you think the novel’s climax occurs in an analepsis (flashback) as opposed to the “present” featuring Snowman’s search for food and supplies?

Don't Take That Tone With Me!