MaddAddam as a Biblical Allegory
The MaddAddam series by Margaret Atwood can best be described as a commentary on every aspect of society. One of the most prevalent themes in Atwood’s series is religion, which is apparent in the names she assigns to different aspects of her society(God’s Gardeners), and in the many biblical references and symbols such as the snakes used at Scales and Tails, tempting their morally corrupt customers. Throughout each one of the individual novels, many blatantly religious aspects are integrated, but upon reflecting on the series as a whole, the obvious biblical plot becomes clear. Atwood uses symbolism, character development, and tone to develop the MaddAddam series as a biblical allegory.
Beginning in Oryx and Crake, the plot and symbolism serve to set up the proceeding events. The novel starts with the idea that everyone in the futuristic society is trying to play God, through gene experimentation and excessive scientific “progress”. Already, we begin to see how this society mimics that of the Old Testament, in the fact that people have begun to think themselves invincible; acting selfishly and without morality. Then the flood is introduced. The idea of the flood is derived from the flood in which God allowed Noah to survive along with the animals destined to repopulate the earth. In Atwood’s flood, Jimmy is designated to survive by Crake and is meant to take care of the Crakers, who are to repopulate the world.
In the novels, Crake obviously fulfills the role of God, taking matters of life and death of the human race into his own hands. He creates a new race of humanoid Crakers, and seems almost all-knowing when he allows Jimmy to kill him and rear this new race of creatures. He is also worshipped as a God in the post-flood world. “Yes. Good, kind, Crake. Please stop singing or I can’t go on with the story,” the Crakers are permitted to think lovingly of their creator while Jimmy knows the true nature of Crake; he allows them to see their creator as a merciful, kind one, rather than a vengeful god (Oryx and Crake 64). In this way he acts much like Jesus in the New Testament. It also becomes clear through Jimmy’s backstory that he is a flawed individual, who does not act as everyone else expects him to behave. Atwood paints him as a portrayal of Jesus Christ, who comes to save humanity, not as a god, but as a flawed hero. After the flood, Jimmy acts as a spiritual guide and teacher to the Crakers, teaching them about their history and encouraging them to ritualize and worship Crake and Oryx. But the culmination of Jimmy’s symbolism as Jesus Christ appears in MaddAddam, when he sacrifices his own life for the betterment of society through saving Toby, who goes on to teach the Crakers to write.
Atwood also develops the biblical mood of the series through her use of tone. The atmosphere and mindset of the God’s Gardeners create an extremely religious tone for the entirety of The Year of the Flood. “The task of saving the chosen species was given to Noah,” Atwood alludes to the Bible, “keeping God’s beloved species safe until the waters of the Flood had receded,” ( The Year of the Flood 90). Lines like these help to reinforce not only the Biblical references in Atwood’s novels, but the story of Jimmy acting as Jesus Christ. Atwood also perpetuates the tone in Oryx and Crake, before integrating the teachings of God’s Gardeners, with concepts such as Jimmy’s idolization of a woman who is not morally upright. His adoration of Oryx despite her morally skewed background creates a tone which correlates with the mindset that Christians are implored to uphold.
At first glance, many of Atwood’s biblical references seem like satirical quips, made in an attempt to poke fun at religious institutions and their followers. Upon reading the entire MaddAddam series, however, the reader understands that each religious allusion is in fact part of a series-wide portrayal of events written in the Bible. In this way, Atwood satirizes writing itself, and her own series, as well as the compelling need of humanity to depend on a set of beliefs, as we see through the upbringing of the Crakers. Margaret Atwood crafts this elaborate satire through her use of symbolism, character development, and tone, to prove that our human tendencies truly cannot be changed or wiped out. Even in a world that seems so far gone from what the reader knows, the same human desires are what drive the cyclical, inevitable downfall of mankind.
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The MaddAddam series by Margaret Atwood can best be described as a commentary on every aspect of society. One of the most prevalent themes in Atwood’s series is religion, which […]