Once Upon A Wolvog

Stories from the front lines


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What’s in a Name?

It’s a long- held idea that names carry with them meaning, along with a sort of determination or prediction of the character of the person it’s associated with. The thing that made me curious is that usually our names are given to us as children long before we have developed any sort of personality; yet in Maddaddam and the other books, many people are referred to by names that were picked for or by them at a much later age. This made me wonder to what extent the Maddaddam names relate to their respective characters.

Jimmy/Thickney

The Thicknee, or Bush-stone Curlew, is a bird found in Australia. Apart from it’s ‘remarkable courtship dance’ (we are all well aware of Jimmy’s ability to attract girlfriends), I found little in the ways of behavioural traits that linked to Jimmy except for Atwood’s description in Oryx and Crake: “a… double jointed bird that used to hang around in cemeteries, -and Jimmy suspected- because Crake liked the sound of it as it applied to Jimmy”. It’s interesting to note that Crake gave Jimmy his Maddaddam name: you could interpret it as the beginning of Crake’s deception. Also, the idea that his extinct animal is found in cemeteries among the dead is a kind of foreshadowing, which could even hint at Jimmy’s future of survival during and after the pandemic, in a global graveyard!

Glenn/Crake

None of the Maddaddam trilogy books really offer an explanation as to why Glenn chose to be Crake; the only thing mentioned is that the Red-Necked Crake is a relatively rare bird species. This could indicate that Crake had a type of superiority complex, though. However, I found indications that a Crake’s behaviour tends to be rather secretive. This is definitely related to Glenn’s behaviour, since throughout the trilogy he comes off to everyone as a rather mysterious person, and never really reveals his plans to anyone. Even the reader is left hanging and we never get a true glimpse into his thought process that led to him wiping out almost all of humanity.

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Toby/Inaccessible Rail

The Inaccessible Rail is yet another bird, except this one is flightless. Toby didn’t put too much thought into her choice, yet when I picked apart the details I was able to find some connections (although some might accuse me of grasping at straws!). One slightly entertaining aspect of Rails is that they’re pretty territorial, and while Toby comes across in general as the wise mother figure to the group, she gets very jealous and protective over Zeb once they start being in a relationship. Similarly, Rails form permanent pair bonds, which again is connected to Zeb who was even convinced to settle down with her. Considering that Zeb introduced Toby to Maddaddam and that they eventually fall in love, Atwood seems to have picked an appropriate creature for her.

Zeb/Spirit Bear

Spirit Bears are a special type of black bear that have a rare gene that makes them white.  As the name suggests, they have a spiritual significance to Native Americans. They are revered and protected, and as such killing them is taboo. This sort of legendary status surrounding them definitely relates to how the Crakers love, respect, and to some extent worship Zeb, in my opinion. I think that it’s also significant that Adam gave Zeb this nickname. It appears to me that it reflects Adam’s perception of Zeb, which would be one of a big brother wanting to protect his little brother; but it could simply be Adam finding a clever way of mocking Zeb’s Bearlift adventures. Regardless, Zeb seems undeniable connected to bears, as he himself admits that his meditation animal was the bear he ate when stranded in the wilderness.

Overall, it seems to me that Atwood was able to cleverly use animals that reflected their characters at least a little. What do you think? Is there truth to this, or is it mere conspiracy? Are there any links to the behaviour and character of Swift Fox, Oryx, Lotis Blue, Ivory Bill, and the rest of the Maddaddamites?


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Crake’s Eugenics: An informative story or a frightening truth?

When I first read Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake I did not quite grasp every concept and detail Atwood so carefully included. It was only once we started analyzing it in class that everything sort of fell into place. I finally understood how the Crakers were made and became aware of all the reasons as to why they were created in such a manner. It made me think of a concept I had learned in high school, but I could not remember the word for it. I couldn’t recall the concept and it took a few days before it finally came back to me: eugenics. Atwood’s post-apocalyptic novel reflects the basic goal of eugenics as well as its modern-day implications.

The term “eugenics” is of Greek origin, meaning “well-born”, and was established by Francis Galton, Charles Darwin’s half-cousin. Created in the late nineteenth century, eugenics had the goal of improving the human race by making it smarter, healthier and more resilient. This improvement was hoped to be accomplished through positive eugenics, which promoted procreation amongst fit people, and negative eugenics, which prevented those who had either physical or mental restrictions from reproducing (Norrgard).

eugenics

Yes, basic eugenics were first developed two centuries ago, but scientists are still actively working on this concept. Technology has allowed this field of science to evolve and has even led to the idea of “designer babies”, which can be described as the eugenics of today. In 2001, Wired Magazine stated that “researchers ha[d] genetically-altered humans for the first time” and that “experts question[ed] the moral implications of tinkering with the unborn” (Taylor). The short video below quickly explains the process of modifying genes and mentions the controversy in its regards.

As I further analyzed Atwood’s novel and I read through its pages a second time, I realized the Crakers stem from the concept of eugenics. Crake wanted to get rid of all the disadvantages of human genetics and alter the genes so that only the efficient, necessary, and useful characteristics remain. He tells Jimmy he “had to alter ordinary human embryos” and that once the research goes public and becomes a market, “they’d be able to create totally chosen babies that would incorporate any feature, physical or mental or spiritual, that the buyer might wish to select” (303-4). This definitely resembles the concept of designer babies.

And even more interesting is the fact that Atwood’s novel was published only two years after the first modification of human genes was reported. Perhaps Atwood recognized and acknowledged how alarming modern-day eugenics are and chose to include it in her writing to illustrate its serious implications? Could it be that Crake’s innovative idea of eliminating genetic traits was a simple and clever medium to demonstrate the impressive yet disturbing things we are becoming capable of doing in our world? Is the issue coming from the evolution of technology or from the way we use this technology?  After reading the first novel of her MaddAddam Trilogy, I am finding myself wondering whether Atwood’s goal is to inform of to frighten…

2014 Harvard Arts Medal Ceremony

CAMBRIDGE, MA – MAY 01: Canadian Author Margaret Atwood receives the 2014 Harvard Arts Medal at Harvard University on May 1, 2014 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (Photo by Paul Marotta/Getty Images)


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Immortality: if it’s real.

I’ve always wondered, what if we were all immortal? What if our life has no end? What if we live forever? Well, being immortal have several consequences, some of which are obvious. Each day we change into different persons. A 10-year-old is not the same as a 20-year-old. If all the human beings were immortal, where would we all fit? Yes, earth is big, but thinking about immortality it is not as big as we think it is. Moreover, a person will hardly remember what he did at an age of 5. If a person has trouble remembering what he did at an age of five how will he remember what happened a thousand years or even a million years back? Also, being immortal doesn’t mean that you’re safe from any diseases. If you have a chronic disease you will most likely live with it for probably a million years and more! Imagine the hospitals, they would be crowded by people. Everything would change for the worse. Everything would be crowded and tight. It would be a total nightmare.

If you are interested, this is a ted talk about immortality:

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To me, a better option than immortality is an increase in lifespan. If I have the opportunity to increase my lifetime to 200 years I would take it, because then I would have more time to contribute more to the world. But we never know what science can do. They will maybe invent a pill or a vaccine that will increase our lifespan. “Deleting genes could boost lifespan by 60 per cent, say scientists.” The plan restricts calories to between one-third and a half of normal intake. When humans tested out this theory of restricting calories, within three months they had reduced the causes linked to aging, diabetes, cancer and heart disease as well as cutting overall body fat. Essentially it tricks the body into aging more slowly.

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What are your thoughts on this topic?  How will immortality or an increase in lifespan affect our daily lives? Which might be a better option: immortality, an increase in lifespan or maybe neither?

Dana Rammal