Failed Mother Child Relationships In Margaret Atwood’s Oryx And Crake

3139 words - 13 pages

Oryx and Crake offers plentiful examples of failed mother-child relationships.Jimmy’s complicated relationship with his mother is developed most thoroughly. Herdistance, depression, and distraction stem from the work she does. Like Offred’s motherin The Handmaid’s Tale, she stays busy working. Unlike Offred’s mother (whose careeris never specified), Jimmy’s mother works for a large bio-technology corporation. Herprofessional status as a microbiologist, unthinkable in the patriarchal culture of Gilead,should make a progressive, positive statement about women’s achievement of equality.Her work ultimately threatens her sanity, though. As a result, she abandons her onlychild.
Readers learn through Jimmy about the differences between his world and theearly 21st century world. Many of the changes are technological. Scientists create foodsubstitutes, hybrid animals, and life forms used only to generate transplant tissue.There are several examples of scientific advancements applied to human reproductionas well; wealthy couples can create children with made-to-order specifications. Evenmore than in Gilead, children are described as the result of breeding. Those childrenborn into the time of the novel are largely left alone to parent themselves; no positivemothers or mother figures help the main characters. These examples illustrate thefailings of this future society.
From the beginning, Jimmy remembers his relationship with his mother asstrained. When he was a child, she expected him to be bright and understand her work.As alittle boy, he wanted unconditional love that she could not always provide. It seems clearthat Jimmy’s mother experienced some of the “undeniable anger” Adrienne Rich findsthat connects all mothers (24). His mother’sjob at the lab put a considerable strain on her, but she seemed happier when she wasworking full-time than after she quit the job and stayed home with her son. Jimmy neverfinds out the reasons behind that decision. Unlike many women, she quits workingwhen her son goes to school. She continues to do her own research at home on hercomputer, though the specific kind of work remains unstated. Jimmy observes changesin her when she works: “she seemed to be enjoying herself. She was friendly then, too.She was like a real mother and he was like a real child” (30). Her mercurial moodsperplex her son; he describes her as often depressed and sullen. He recounts hisefforts to please her, which often met with annoyance. On good days, Jimmy found hera bit frightening, a bit too much like an image of a perfect mother. She seems like anexample of Chodorow and Contratto’s modern woman, attempting to be the idealmother while working and taking care of her husband (79). Jimmy quickly realizes thathe must bend to his mother’s moods and learns to find ways of getting her attention.More than anything, he seeks to get any reaction out of her, even if it is negative.Jimmy’s common adolescent attention-getting behavior underscores his...

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