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Knowledge As A Double Edged Sword In The Novels Oryx And Crake As Well As A Canticle For Leibowitz

4041 words - 16 pages

Is knowledge, which is the base of human ingenuity and intelligence, also the factor which will bring upon humanity’s impending destruction? Knowledge today plays a key role in almost every facet of human existence, from food, to water, to providing the foundation for every piece technological equipment ever constructed. Knowledge though has also provided us with ever more imaginative and efficient means of killing and destroying each other and the planet, these means include nuclear weapons, and of course biological warfare. Therefore knowledge plays the role of the doubled-edged sword, bringing humanity luxuries and power beyond conception, as well as arming us with the tools to completely eradicate all life. In the novel of Oryx and Crake, a slightly more advanced civilization than ours, where biotechnology has brought numerous wonders to the world is brought into perspective. This civilization, wrought by corruption, has eliminated disease, and now is making synthetic viruses in order to cash in on the destruction, the perfect scheme. One of the protagonists, Crake, discovers this scheme, and with this knowledge, seeks to destroy the corrupted civilization, by performing the same atrocity. With Crake’s synthetic virus, he eliminates the entirety of human race, with the tools knowledge supplied him with. In the novel A Canticle for Leibowitz the human race is just an insignificant remnant of its former glory, after it obliterated itself with the use of nuclear weapons. This novel shows humanity’s rise out of the ashes, with focus being placed on the Order of St. Leibowitz, the sole caretakers’ of the hated knowledge from the age past. With the knowledge contained with the Order, humanity experiences a renaissance, in which ulteriorly, mankind re-develops to become an even more advanced society which again has nuclear weapons. Mankind, again with the lethal knowledge, mirrors past actions, and obliterates the planet. Both novels are typical of the science fiction genre, in that they similarly deal with plausible alternate realties, each which extrapolate from current technology to explore future circumstances with exaggerations of extremely controversial issues and elaborate on the possible dangers. A Canticle for Leibowitz was written in the 1950’s, an era in which nuclear weapons and the Cold War were very controversial issues. Oryx and Crake was written in 2002, a time period in which issues on continuing research in biotechnology raised concern among the populace of its possible future applications. In the novels Oryx and Crake penned by Margaret Atwood and A Canticle for Leibowitz written by Walter M. Miller Jr. it is shown that while knowledge is the base for human advancement, it is also the determining factor in our eventual doom, which is shown by the ambitious characters of Thon Taddeo Pfardentrott and Crake, the theme that power corrupts absolutely, and the use of foreshadowing to convey the results that knowledge has wrought on...

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