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Three Prominent Psychological Principles In Oryx And Crake By Margaret Atwood

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The book Oryx and Crake by Margarette Atwood provides many perfect examples of prominent social psychological principles. The first principle comes from Murder, Sex and the Meaning of Life written by Douglas T Kenrick. Subselves are prevalent in both texts, especially with the transformation of Jimmy into Snowman. The second psychological principle is the power of scarcity, a term from Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini. Crake uses the power of scarcity to manipulate Jimmy to be the caregiver of the Crakes. The third principle, self-justification, is present in multiple characters within the book Oryx and Crake. Self-justification is a topic that Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson covered in Mistakes Were Made (but not by me). These three principals have multiple examples which are further discussed below.

The first prominent social psychological principle in Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood relates to Douglas T. Kenrick's book Sex, Murder and the Meaning of Life. The theme that connects the two texts is subselves. In the chapter titled 'Subselves', Kenrick describes the 6 following subselves: the team player, the go-getter, the night watchman, the compulsive, the swinging single, the good spouse, and the parent. The two subselves that were more prevalent than the rest were the night watchman and the team player. Throughout Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood perfectly illustrated the internal dissonance Snowman is experiencing between himself and Jimmy. Although Jimmy is just a younger version of himself, Snowman sees him as a different person from himself. Young Jimmy represents the team player subself. Jimmy tries to keep the peace when it comes to his parents. They don't always see eye to eye, and this is something Jimmy can sense even at a young age. He fails to do so which he may blame himself for. Afterward, all his relationships with women are not successful. Crake even believes Jimmy to be a sex addict because he is going from woman to woman. The nightwatchman subself comes into play when Jimmy switches over to Snowman. Although he is officially referred to as Snowman at work starting in 'MaddAddam', he doesn't fully become him until after the death of Oryx and Crake. Post-apocalyptic Snowman has a priority of surviving. He sleeps in a tree to avoid enemies on the ground. He goes out of his way to obtain a spray gun in order to keep himself safe from the creatures of the post-apocalypse. He is also forced to leave his home in order to find more food, along with alcohol, which is less of a necessity than solid food.

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The second prominent social psychological principle in Oryx and Crake is the power of scarcity. This principle is coined by Robert Cialdini in his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. Scarcity is the phenomenon of an opportunity becoming more valuable due to a decrease in availability. Crake was able to use the power of scarcity over Jimmy. The scarcity in Jimmy's life comes in the form of loneliness. From a young age, he didn't have a functional family. He had to say extravagant things in order to get attention from his parents. He even went as far as burning his hair at one point. In the chapter 'Hammer' Jimmy's mom ends up leaving and taking his only friend which is a rakunk named Killer. Afterward, his father does not seem that interested in him. He finds a new woman and once Jimmy moves out, he never really communicates with his father. Besides Killer, Jimmy had no friends until he met Crake. Once they became friends, Jimmy never attempted to make other friends. They started spending all their time together. Crake becomes Jimmy's misfit form of the family since he doesn't fully have one at home. It remains this way until Jimmy and Crake go their separate ways for college. Jimmy finds himself alone outside of the company of women. Jimmy was unsure of his mother's whereabouts before he was forced to watch her execution. Up until then, he would sometimes get postcards from an 'Aunt' and once even saw her in a video. He seemed to have a secret hope that she was out there and trying to find her way back to him. In the chapter 'Gripless', Jimmy watches his mother's execution video. This causes his life to go down a dark path. He recalls all of his bad childhood memories and feels more alone than ever. He even started drinking alone to fill the void. This is the moment Crake appears again in Jimmy's life. Before the reappearance of Crake at Jimmy's door, the two hadn't really talked outside of chess and occasional emails. Crake is there to unhealthy comfort Jimmy with alcohol. He then uses Jimmy's drunken stupor to proposition him with a career change. Jimmy blindly agrees, who wouldn't when in that mindset? He then moves closer to Crake where they are able to build up their friendship again. For Jimmy, relationships with others were very limited in his life. Crake's relationship is very valuable to him because he doesn't have anyone else. Crake ups the ante by adding Oryx to the equation. Crake uses the power of scarcity to transform Jimmy into Snowman. The power of scarcity leads Snowman to be the sole caretaker of the Crakers, which was Crake's plan all along.

The third prominent social psychological principle in Oryx and Crake is self-justification. Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson cover this topic in their book Mistakes Were Made (but not by me). Throughout Oryx and Crake, different characters display self-justification. The earliest occurrence of it in the book is with Jimmy's parents. They argue a lot, which sometimes results in Jimmy getting away with something bad he did. In the chapter 'Bonfire', Jimmy decides to cut off some of his hair and burn it. He ends up getting away with it because his parents end up arguing. His Dad justifies Jimmy's action by telling Jimmy's mother if she didn't smoke there wouldn't be a lighter for him to burn things with. His mother justifies Jimmy's action differently by saying that children are 'arsonists at heart' (Oryx and Crake, 2003, 'Bonfire'). Later on, in chapter 'Rakunk' Jimmy's parents have an argument over his father's job at NooSkins. His mother believes the job to be immoral because brains are being grown in pigoons and implanted the cells of humans. His father just this with how the treatment could help stroke victims and similar patients with brain issues, and although the job may seem immoral it pays for their housing and food. He also tells her that if she really believes in morality, she wouldn't smoke so much which supports the tobacco industry. His mother justifies smoking with the fact that she is depressed and nothing, including Jimmy and father, seems to make it any better. This self-justification causes an unhealthy relationship between the parents. This leads to Tavris and Aronson's marriage theory. They believe that for every negative interaction in a marriage, couples need 5 healthy ones in order to have a successful relationship. Jimmy's parents use self-justification to pass the blame onto one another. This makes them feel upset with the other person rather than feeling guilty for their own actions. Jimmy displays self-justification when coming to terms with shooting people. In chapter 'Scribble', Snowman recalls his last few days as 'Jimmy'. He contemplates why Crake started the apocalypse and for how long he was planning it. Along with that, he wonders if crake 'intended to have Jimmy shoot him' (Oryx and Crake, 2003, 'Scribble'). In the chapter 'Remnant', Snowman is forced to take the Crakers to a location with more food. On the journey to this place, Snowman shoots anyone that approaches him or the Crackers. He experiences cognitive dissonance due to the fact that killing is morally wrong. He ends up justifying his actions by telling himself he was doing them a favor. Both Jimmy and Snowman use self-justification to feel less guilt about committing murder. Oryx is a master of self-justification. Although she has never confirmed or denies anything about her past, she tells stories about questions Jimmy asks her. The biggest example comes from the chapter titled 'Oryx'. Jimmy and Oryx talk about her childhood and how she ended up being sold away to the 'gold-wristwatch man'. When Jimmy becomes angered by this, Oryx justifies it to the fact that it is a part of the custom. In the chapter 'Crake in Love,' Jimmy asks Oryx about Oryx living in a garage under bad conditions. Oryx makes every excuse as to why this was okay. She says everything from the garage was styled as an apartment to the reason for her being the garage is the there being no room in the house for her. Oryx seems to use self-justification to keep going despite her past.

Throughout this paper, three prominent psychological principles were discussed. The first, subselves, is evident when Jimmy officially started identifying as Snowman. Once he switched over, he couldn't recognize Jimmy as himself. The second principle discussed is the power of scarcity. Crake successfully uses it on Jimmy which leads to him having to take care of the Crakers. The third principle is self-justification, one seen on multiple characters in the book. Self-justification was used in a harmful way in all four people discussed above. Oryx and Crake is an intricate book that at first may seem like a simple post-apocalyptic story. It not only relates to psychological principles but the raw emotion of loneliness and survival.

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Three Prominent Psychological Principles In Oryx And Crake By Margaret Atwood. (2021, August 04). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 3, 2024, from
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