Chapter 1 Introduction
1.1 An Introduction to Margaret Atwood and Oryx and Crake
Margaret Atwood is a distinguished novelist, poet and literary critic in the world. She is famous in the field of literature. She has been shortlisted for the Nobel Prize for literature several times because of her numerous masterpieces. As an outstanding female writer, she pays more attention to the female living conditions and the opposition between males and females. At the same time, she shows an interest in Canadian status in the world. She is devoted to promoting the cultural independence of Canadian and protecting them from British colonial rule. Atwood also focuses on ecological problems, especially the current ecological disasters on earth.
As a prolific writer, Margaret Atwood has created many long and medium-length novels, short stories and poetry since 1961. Her first poetry is Double Persephone. Then, The Circle Games (1966), which helps Atwood win the Governor General's Literary Awards. Atwood‟s first novel is The Edible Woman (1969), which helps her acquire a good reputation in Canada. Afterwards, Atwood goes on writing and creates many excellent works. In the 1970s, she published the novels Surfacing (1972), Lady Oracle (1976) and Dancing Girls (1977), which makes Atwood win the Canadian Short Story Award. The Bluebeard Egg (1983), The Handmaid’s Tale (1985) and Cat’s Eye (1988) were published in the1980s, which makes Atwood get the Booker Prize nomination. In the 1990s, she published the works The Robber Bride (1993) and Alias Grace (1996), which helps her get the nomination for Booker Prize again. In the 2000s, Margaret Atwood successfully won the Booker Prize because of The Blind Assassin (2000). Then, she published the works Oryx and Crake (2003), Good Bones (2010) and The Testaments (2019). The Testaments (2019) makes her win the Booker Prize again.
1.2 Literature Review
As one of the masterpieces of Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake has attracted great attention from the critics at home and abroad. Scholars interpret this novel from diverse perspectives such as feminism and narrative strategies. Researchers abroad mainly focus on the following aspects.
Most scholars focus on the feminism of Oryx and Crake. In “The Last Laugh: A Critique of the Object Economy in Margaret Atwood‟s Oryx and Crake”, Susan L. Hall (2009) argues that Oryx‟s laughter plays an important role in Oryx‟s self-definition as a subject who is acting upon others rather than an object who is acted upon. Hall indicates that Oryx‟s laughter suggests that the males receive no punishment for their crimes in a male-dominated society. In “Dystopia, Feminism and Phallogocentrism in Margaret Atwood‟s Oryx and Crake”, Javier Martin (2019) analyses the significant role that phallogocentrism plays the destruction of humanity and in the creation of a new world order populated by more artificial creatures.
The ethical topic is a hot critical perspective among critics. In “ „It‟s Game over Forever‟: Atwood‟s Satiric Vision of a Bioengineered Posthuman Future in Oryx and Crake”, J. Brooks Bouson (2004) explores the relationship between humans and technology and shows the major influence on humans of misuse of technology, and then points out that humans remain unaware of the perils that surround them. In “Pigoons, Rakunks and Crakers: Margaret Atwood‟s Oryx and Crake and Genetically Engineered Animals in a (Latourian) Hybrid World”, Jay Sanderson (2013) argues that the hybrid creatures in literature are often used for evoking images that raise suspicion and apprehension and the hybrid creatures are easy to get out of control from humans. Moreover, it is essential to pass the laws related to genetically engineered animals. In “Crake‟s Aesthetic: Genetically Modified Humans as a Form of Art in Margaret Atwood‟s Oryx and Crake”, Slawomir Kozio (2018) argues that the artificial “Crakers” should not be seen as a result of techno-scientific brilliance but also a product of artistic creativity and Crake‟s creative act shows a similar theme as the classic works of literature.
Chapter 2 Theoretical Foundation
2.1 The Definition and Evolution of Alienation
This part gives a brief introduction of alienation about its definition and evolution in different times. The meaning of alienation is a complex because of it has changed a lot to in the etymological root.
2.1.1 The Definition of Alienation
Alienate is an ancient word, which originated from the Latin word “alienatio”. As a word of Latin derivation, it originally signifies the connection with legal poverty by sale to another. It may relat to the slavery. The definition of alienation has changed a lot in different times and fields. Especially, it is easy to find that the meaning of alienation is close links with economy, politics and philosophy.
2.1.2 The Evolution of Alienation
In Britain's early classical political economy, the word “alienation” means that the property or asset is transferred from one to another one. In An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith was accustomed to using the word “alienate” in the economic field. According to Adam Smith, “By the feudal law, the vassal could not alienate without the consent of his superior, who generally extorted a fine or composition for granting it” (1977) 1153-1154. Therefore, the “alienation” has close links with international trade in the 18th century.
2.2 Erich Fromm’s Alienation Theory
Erich Fromm (1900-1980), is a philosopher, sociologist, psychoanalyst and philosopher. Erich Fromm is widely regarded as one of the representatives of the Frankfurt School of his generation. The Frankfurt School has made a great contribution to rehabilitating the alienation theory of Marx‟s thought. Fromm pays more attention to the maladies of the western world. He published many classic works such as The Sane World, The Art of Loving and Escape from Freedom. The Sane World is one of the significant works that lays the solid foundation for his research on establishing a sane society. As a humanist, he assimilated the thought of Hegel, Sigmund Freud and Marx and advanced his alienation thought. Different from the previous thinker‟s thought of alienation, he innovatively put forward the alienation theory based on Marx‟s labour alienation theory and Freud‟s psychoanalysis. He is the first philosopher who combined the psychology theory with alienation thought.
Marx‟s “labour alienation theory” has a strong influence on Fromm‟s alienation theory. With the rapid development of capitalism, the phenomenon of alienation was mounting perceptibly. The materialist conception of history is the core of Marxist philosophy. The man-centred hypothesis is the maximal principle of value in line with materialism. People create history and labour is the basic activity of people. “Marx was capable of connecting a spiritual heritage of the enlightenment humanism and German idealism with the reality of economic and social facts, and thus to lay the foundations for a new science of man and society” (Fromm, 2009)7. Marx devoted himself to achieving the liberation and freedom of human beings.
Chapter 3 Self-alienation in Oryx and Crake ............................... 15
3.1 The Alienation Reflected in Spiritual Development ........................... 15
3.1.1 The Restriction of Self-development .......................... 15
3.1.2 The Absence of Secondary Sense of Self .......................... 17
Chapter 4 Relationship Alienation in Oryx and Crake ....................... 23
4.1 The Alienation Reflected in Jimmy‟s Love ................................. 23
4.1.1 Alienation in Family Members ..................................... 23
4.1.2 Alienation in Lovers ................................. 26
Chapter 5 Social Alienation in Oryx and Crake ...................... 31
5.1 The Alienation Reflected in Moral Dilemma ............................ 31
5.1.1 Technology Alienation ............................... 31
5.1.2 Consumption Alienation .................................... 33
Chapter 5 Social Alienation in Oryx and Crake
5.1 The Alienation Reflected in Moral Dilemma
There is no point that human beings are closely linked with the society. Many people are incapable of escaping the control of society. According to Fromm, “Man has created a world of man-made things as it never existed before. Yet, this whole creation of his stands over and above him” (2001)121. Living in this world, people lose their rationalism and conform to social rules. In Oryx and Crake, technology alienation and consumption alienation are two obvious phenomena of alienation in society and lead to humans lose their reason and ethics.
5.1.1 Technology Alienation
With the rapid development of technology, from the substitution of the machine and electric power for labour and human energy, people believe that the development of production and consumption is unlimited in the world. Technology is of being of omnipotence and human beings are of omniscience, which makes humans become a “God”. People are the supreme beings who can create a new world. In modern society, human labour is in place of the machine in many industries. It is no doubt that science is a two-edged sword. People disregard the negative effect of science and technology. The advance in technology is related to the development of weapons. There are many deadly weapons such as atom bombs and guns. The excessively rely on machines changed people‟s thoughts towards themselves, nature and society. Humans gradually lose their capacity for rational analysis, which causes the alienation between man and technology. Humans and technology are closely linked. Formerly, humans try to keep a balance between the disadvantages and advantages of technology, but gradually this balance was broken up. Fromm argues that the development of technology is characterized by the increasing replacement of human intelligence by machine intelligence” (1985)101 In Oryx and Crake, people are crazy about the technology worship, which causes technology alienation.
Chapter 6 Conclusion
As a distinguished and prominent writer in Canada, Margaret Atwood her masterpiece Oryx and Crake has attracted many scholars to explore its great literary merit from more perspectives since its publication in 2003. This novel has drawn lavish praise from literary critics. Scholars seldom analyse this novel from a different perspective especially the perspective of alienation. The characters in Oryx and Crake are the victims of alienation relations in that they lose their dignity, subjectivity and good judgment. Using Erich Fromm‟s alienation theory, this thesis explores the three aspects of alienation relations in the novel and the ways to eliminate alienation.
Firstly, alienation manifests in the relationship between man and self. This relation in this novel manifests in Jimmy‟s father and Oryx. As a scientist, Jimmy‟s father loses his high ideals and lacks of ambition as the allure of great profit. He aims to earn more money to satisfy all his great desires even though exploits the poor. In the process of making the ill-gotten gains, he loses his humanistic spirit and his spiritual development. He is the epitome that lacks of spiritual values in the modern world. As a female sexual victim, Oryx loses her secondary sense of self because she sees herself as a valuable commodity. Oryx is vague and evasive about her traumatic past. She views herself not as a loving and thinking individual, but as a tool to make more money. There are two effective ways to eliminate self-alienation. The first way is to take part in the creative activities. Through taking part in the creative activities, Jimmy‟s father can promote his spiritual development and he will free himself from the dull work and care for his family members. In order to find the secondary sense of self, humans need to love themselves. Through pursuing self-love, Oryx can easily realize that only human beings are capable of reason and she may have subjectivity and reason again.