Margaret Atwood, Post-Apocalyptic Fiction and Ecological Dystopias
A Blog Post by Pablo Markin.
In his paper, Javier Martín has focussed on Oryx and Crake, the post-apocalyptic novel of Margaret Atwood, a celebrated Canadian writer who has spanned in her output the genres of poetry, fiction, non-fiction, essays and literary criticism, originally published in 2003. This work of dystopian fiction presents a “scenario in which the planet Earth is on the edge of destruction, and human beings have been almost completely eradicated and substituted for a new, genetically-engineered, race” (174). This novel makes part of the “MaddAddam trilogy, which includes the above-mentioned Oryx and Crake (2003), together with The Year of the Flood (2009) and MaddAddam (2013)” (174). The destruction of humanity, as the main narrative thread of this science or speculative fiction novel, connects to the broader concern of Atwood with the “a not-too-distant future, in which homo sapiens’s technological and scientific hubris condemns our […] own species to extinction” (174).
However, in his article, Martín highlights that “Atwood disagrees with the majority of critics who consider her speculative works to be dystopian, insisting that they are rather examples of “ustopia,” which she defines as “the imagined perfect society and its opposite—because, each contains a latent version of the other” (“The Road to Ustopia”). Atwood’s definition of “ustopia” is fully coherent with Lyman Tower Sargent’s concept of “critical dystopia”” (176). As this author has indicated, “from an ecocritical perspective Oryx & Crake is closer to utopia than it is to dystopia” (176).
Therefore, according to this researcher, through this novel, Atwood participates in “the moral debate regarding the extent to which annihilating homo sapiens is legitimate (or merited as a result of their actions throughout History) or not” (180). Additionally, Atwood can be argued to have brought to bear a feminist perspective on this topic, since as “Yael Shapira [posits, she has tended to deploy the subject of] […] female bodies to build “a longstanding narrative formula that joins the “grotesque” female body to a story of women’s misconduct to produce a cautionary tale about the dangers of female transgression” (52)” (180).
By Pablo Markin
Featured Image Credits: Margaret Atwood, April 13, 2014 | © Courtesy of Michael Sauers/Flickr.