Failed Mother-Child Relationships in Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake

2805 Words 12 Pages
Oryx and Crake offers plentiful examples of failed mother-child relationships.Jimmy’s complicated relationship with his mother is developed most thoroughly. Herdistance, depression, and distraction stem from the work she does. Like Offred’s motherin The Handmaid’s Tale, she stays busy working. Unlike Offred’s mother (whose careeris never specified), Jimmy’s mother works for a large bio-technology corporation. Herprofessional status as a microbiologist, unthinkable in the patriarchal culture of Gilead,should make a progressive, positive statement about women’s achievement of equality.Her work ultimately threatens her sanity, though. As a result, she abandons her onlychild.
Readers learn through Jimmy about the differences between his world
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Jimmy neverfinds out the reasons behind that decision. Unlike many women, she quits workingwhen her son goes to school. She continues to do her own research at home on hercomputer, though the specific kind of work remains unstated. Jimmy observes changesin her when she works: “she seemed to be enjoying herself. She was friendly then, too.She was like a real mother and he was like a real child” (30). Her mercurial moodsperplex her son; he describes her as often depressed and sullen. He recounts hisefforts to please her, which often met with annoyance. On good days, Jimmy found hera bit frightening, a bit too much like an image of a perfect mother. She seems like anexample of Chodorow and Contratto’s modern woman, attempting to be the idealmother while working and taking care of her husband (79). Jimmy quickly realizes thathe must bend to his mother’s moods and learns to find ways of getting her attention.More than anything, he seeks to get any reaction out of her, even if it is negative.Jimmy’s common adolescent attention-getting behavior underscores his mother’sneglectful parenting style, eliciting readers’ sympathy for Jimmy.
Jimmy mourns his mother throughout the rest of the novel. At first, his feelingsconfuse him because his mother was not typically nurturing or supportive. He alsomisses his pet, so both absences get mixed up and result in some interesting parallels. Jimmy has internalized ideas about patriarchy