“Footprint”: The Apocalyptic Imprint of End as Immanent in Atwood’s Oryx and Crake

Denise B. Dillon


In her speculative fiction novel, Oryx and Crake, Atwood explores and challenges readers with visions of loss: the extinction of life forms, of culture, and loss of human control over various systems including those of language, economy and ecology. All such systems are prone to human manipulative influence and sensitive to minor alterations that result in major disruptions and ultimately to extinction, disappearance (both forms of loss) or, at best, altered forms of survival. I consider here McKibben’s suggestion that we live in a “postnatural world” because human activity has altered things as fundamental as the weather, and explore Atwood’s depiction of some of the consequences of a human-altered future in which a great city transforms into a harsh, tropical wilderness. I also apply Buell’s notion that apocalyptic rhetoric serves to alert people to global environmental threats by arousing their imagination to a “sense of crisis,” through this “master metaphor”. If only perceptions to threats are sufficiently aroused such that people are spurred to action, real apocalypse might thereby be delayed.  Buell expresses the view that the environmental imagination has a sure role in how people might be able to adapt to transformations in the environment by gaining understanding of what the human relation to nature can be and what it should be. The notion of apocalypse is a strong and enduring theme in literature and is of particular relevance to speculative fiction pertaining to human desire to exercise ultimate control, as is Oryx and Crake.


apocalyptic rhetoric; ecocriticism; environmental imagination; tropical cities in literature

Full Text:



Atwood, M. (2003). Oryx and Crake. London: Virago.

Atwood, M. (2005). “Aliens have taken the place of angels” The Guardian, June 2005. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/film/2005/jun/17/sciencefictionfantasyandhorror.margaretatwood

Buell, L. (1995). The Environmental Imagination: Thoreau, Nature Writing, and the Formation of American Culture. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Hawking, S. (2014). “Does God Play Dice?” Retrieved from http://www.hawking.org.uk/does-god-play-dice.html

Hayek, F. A. (1945). The use of knowledge in society. The American Economic Review, 34(4), 519-530.

Kermode, F. (1966/2000). The Sense of an Ending: Studies in the Theory of Fiction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

McKibben, B. (1989/2006). The End of Nature. New York, NY: Random House.

Melián, G. (4 April, 2011). The future of free cities. Retrieved from https://newmedia.ufm.edu/coleccion/the-future-of-free-cities/different-ways-to-design-a-free-market-city/

Shelley, M. W. (1831/1969). Frankenstein: Or the Modern Prometheus. London: Oxford U.P.

Stevens, W. (1954/2008). The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens. New York: Knopf.

Wallace, M. (2000). “A Bizarre Ecology.” The nature of denatured nature. Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment 7(2), 137-153.

Whitwell, G. (2014). Feature - What Is Economic Rationalism? N. p., n.d. Accessed 24 Mar. 2014.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.25120/etropic.17.2.2018.3657


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2018 eTropic: electronic journal of studies in the tropics