106 pages 3 hours read

Margaret Atwood

Oryx and Crake

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2003

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Symbols & Motifs

Remnants of the past

Throughout the novel, Snowman often happens across run-of-the-mill objects that have taken on new meaning in light of his current plight. On a practical level, Snowman is always on the lookout for anything useful or edible. However, there is also a strong sense of nostalgia. A notable example is a “Men at Work” sign that Snowman sees beneath an overhang that was once part of a bridge. He finds it strange to think that the centuries of labor that this sign symbolizes have been replaced by endless crumbling. Shortly afterwards, he fills a beer bottle with water and wishes that the bottle contained beer. However, he immediately wishes that he had not brought this up, as it is both futile and a form of self-torture. Another example is the watch that he still wears “as his only talisman,” despite the fact that it no longer works.

These remnants do not only consist of objects but instead of words and phrases. Snowman often finds himself remembering, or willing himself to remember, old words. He often cannot immediately remember where he first heard these words, though he has a vague recollection. For instance, he observes that some phrases sound like generic self-help lingo, and this is borne out when we find out that Jimmy used to work in marketing and wrote a dissertation on 20th century self-help guides in college.