Childhood

Jimmy was raised in a troubled home with parents that did not supervise him and were constantly arguing. From the beginning of the novel, this is relevant. Jimmy recalls a time when he accidentally burnt his hair-- an action that would upset most parents; however for Jimmy’s parents, this simple event transformed into a lengthy argument. Atwood writes,

“Once the fight got going Jimmy felt relieved, because he’d known then that he wouldn’t be punished. All he had to do was say nothing and pretty soon they’d forget why they’d started arguing in the first place” (Atwood 16).

This quote demonstrates that fighting was a commonplace in Jimmy’s household. The fights were so frequent that the actual reasoning for the disagreement was forgotten. This is a terribly unhealthy environment for a child to be raised in. This is one of several examples of the borderline abusive tendencies that Jimmy’s parents displayed.

On top of the constant arguing in Jimmy’s home, he also struggled with his father not having enough time for him. Jimmy, like all children, wanted the attention of his parents, but they rarely acknowledged him or displayed their love. Psychological studies have shown that “[c]hildren develop best when they have love and limits”, but Jimmy was not receiving either (Joseph). Love is a strong feeling that every child demands, and the child can have developmental issues if he/she is not loved properly. When Jimmy was still young, his mother told him to leave his father alone because

“He doesn’t have time for you”(Atwood 20).

This quote explicitly states that Jimmy’s father was neglectful and not caring. His mom verbalizes the father’s priorities and states that spending time with Jimmy is not a priority. This caused Jimmy to grow up feeling like an afterthought and less important which is detrimental for an individual's self esteem. This also can cause an issue as Jimmy ages; Jimmy wants to feel loved, but since his parents are not loving him, then he will search for love in other dangerous places, activities or people.

During Jimmy’s early years, both of his parents were working full time jobs. However, once he got older, his mom began staying home with him. When Jimmy asks her why she stopped working, she tells him that she simply wanted to spend more time with him. However, Jimmy doubts this, because his Mother is often irritated by him or utterly uninterested. (Atwood 30). The fact that Jimmy doubts that his mother wants to spend time with him demonstrates that Jimmy perceives that his mother dislikes him. His mother is constantly irritated at the world, and she forgets to love her own son. In a psychological study by Brigid Schulte, it is discussed that parents may display these tendencies when they are depressed or deal with substance abuse-- Jimmy’s mother does both of these.

Before Jimmy’s mother began staying home with him, Jimmy had a nanny named Dolores whom he greatly admired. She loved him like he was her son; however, she was sent away when Jimmy’s mother began staying home. (Atwood 30). This section of the story shows that at one point in his life, Jimmy had a supporting and loving influence in his life. Sadly, however this loving lady was removed after a brief period of time and JImmy was devastated. Jimmy saw what he was lacking in his own family, and what a mother could be like.

The days when Jimmy’s mother would stay home with her atypical. Most days Jimmy would be required to make lunch for himself, and whenever he tried talking with his mom, she would be upset and snap at him. Every so often, Jimmy’s mother makes an unusual effort to be a “real” mother to him. She would put on fashionable clothes, make-up, and make a fantastic lunch for him (Atwood 32). Oddly enough, this always saddens and worries Jimmy, because his mom seems artificial or “porcelain” in these moments, but he always pretends to enjoy the lunch completely. Jimmy describes his mother as “porcelain” when she attempts to be a good mother and love Jimmy; this implies that she is very fragile and fake. It does not feel real to Jimmy or her, yet he pretends to enjoy it because of his unrequited affection for his mother.

While Jimmy is still a child, he begins displaying the expected psychological effects of the neglectful parenting: hostility and temper tantrums (Joseph). He is unhappy with his parent’s treatment and he begins to lash out at them. As he grows older, he also becomes more devious,

“when he couldn’t grab some approval, he could at least get a reaction. Anything was better than the flat voice, the blank eyes, the tired staring out of the window" (Atwood 32).

As Jimmy grows older he takes to acting out to get his mother’s attention. He likes to make her yell, slam doors, and sometimes cry. The effects of the neglectful tendencies are already being displayed.

Teenager/Young Adult

As the novel transitions into Jimmy’s life while he attends college as a young adult, we see how his parent’s neglectful parenting style has affected him so far. When children that are products of similar families grow up, they tend to become more rebellious. We see this in Jimmy’s behavior when he would

“roll a few joints and smoke them while watching the executions and the porn…If you switched back and forth quickly, it all came to look like the same event. Sometimes they’d have both things on at once, each on a different screen” (Atwood 196).

Once Jimmy reaches adolescence, we begin to see typical signs of rebellious behavior. Even from a young age he becomes addicted to illicit content on the internet and illegal drugs. Jimmy’s addictions become so bad where they blend into one, consuming his life.

The reader sees Jimmy’s rebellious behavior even with his personal relationships. He never had a steady girlfriend in college and the ones he had were treated badly.This is known to be a sign of a neglectful upbringing if the “child has difficulty maintaining meaningful and steady relationships”(CDC). This directly relates to Jimmy’s life as he

“no longer thought of these women as girlfriends: now they were lovers. They were all married or the equivalent, looking for a chance to sneak around on their husbands… to prove they were still young or else to get even. Or else they were wounded and wanted consolation” (Atwood 250).

This quote in particular shows how Jimmy becomes a sex addict as he grows older. He never commits to relationships, and is with many other women at once. He emotionally manipulates girls and seduces them and leaves them. His inability to commit to a relationship could very well be due to the toxicity of his parents relationship.

Adult/Craker Era

Jimmy’s transition to Snowman and into adulthood is one of the most dynamic points in Oryx and Crake. We see how his parent’s volatile relationship made him into a rebellious teenager but now we see how he is starting to grow up and act almost as a parent to the Crakers. This is see when he tells the Crakers that

“Crake is watching over [them]” and that “Oryx loves [them]” (Atwood 353).

Instead of telling the Crakers the truth or hurtful lies, he comforts them by saying the above quote. This sheds light on how Snowman is becoming a parental figure by providing care, love, and protection to the Crakers. In addition, when he first met the Crakers, he could’ve slated the truth in his favor, but instead he said that he was essentially sent to protect them and lead them away from chaos.

One idea we see throughout the novel is how Snowman has become a suto parental figure to the Crakers. In the beginning, he answers all the Crakers’ questions about the flotsam they found washed up on the beach. Towards the end of the novel he begins to make it his responsibility to supervise and teach them. He tells them stories and teaches them what is good and bad in the world. One specific example found in the novel is how he explains what chaos is and how it should be avoided. While Snowman’s upbringing may have made him more rebellious in his adolescence and young adulthood, we can see how his experience with neglect could be causing him to want to help others from being in a similar position. This is why he takes on the responsibility of being a parental figure to the Crakers once he has grown up- because he never had that luxury.

Rationale

You’re probably wondering why we chose to touch on the subject of parenting and how it can affect the child indefinitely. The reason for that is because everybody experiences some form of parenting at one point in their lives; whether it be neglectful, loving, or just with their absence, parenting is a universal concept. Every person is a product of their upbringing as it molds them into the person they are currently. We decided that analyzing Jimmy’s neglectful parents is a great way to rationalize his behaviors throughout the novel. In addition, we found a study conducted by the Center for Disease Control that one in four children suffer from parental abuse causing “at least one psychiatric disorder [by] age 21” , and ultimately having a “negative effect on the ability of both men and women to establish and maintain healthy intimate relations in adulthood” (CDC). After coming across this study, we wanted to test the validity of their conclusions by applying them to Jimmy’s life in Oryx and Crake. We chose a website as our digital resource because, much like the topic, it is a universal medium. A website can be easily accessible on various devices that many people own, such as laptops, mobile devices, or desktops. Moreover, we used the design of the website to correlate with our vision of a timeline that displays Jimmy’s life in chronological order which functions as a support mechanism for our research question by including several social interactions that Jimmy is involved in with his parents throughout his childhood and how they later affected him throughout his life. In this case, it was clear that Jimmy’s experience with the neglectful style of parenting tremendously affected his life starting from his childhood, through his young adulthood, and continuing into his adulthood. We hope that our resource will act as a guide to show how Jimmy’s upbringing affected his adult life and how this same situation could happen to children everywhere. One thing that really stood out to us is the fact that the effects of Jimmy’s childhood can be seen all throughout the novel. For instance, earlier on in the novel, Jimmy creates a little comedic sketch about his father and mother’s daily lives. In this sketch, he mocks his parents by giving them unique personalities, such as when Jimmy defines the characters by stating that

“Evil Dad blustered and theorized and dished out pompous bullshit, [and] Righteous Mom complained and accused” (Atwood 60).

This quote provides insight on Jimmy’s thoughts of his household as he is dealing with neglection due to a forgetful father and a depressed mother. This is drawn by his use of negative terms such as “evil”, “blustered”, and “complained”. It is also apparent that he is substituting this emptiness, or otherwise known professionally as being diagnosed with an “attention-deficit disorder” as stated in the ProQuest article, by layering their absence with a mask to appeal to others in hope to gain fulfillment in that area (Mustillio). Another instance of this occurring later in the novel is when Jimmy is a young adult. When talking about his mother, Jimmy explains that

“[a]s he grew older and more devious, he found that on the days when he couldn’t grab some approval, he could at least get a reaction. Anything was better than the flat voice, the blank eyes, the tired staring out of the window" (Atwood 32).

Jimmy’s actions show how his mother’s behavior impacts the decisions he makes as he is accustomed to his mother’s neglectful tendencies when he describes specific features that she exhibits when he’s around her. Therefore, his desire of any reaction from her, either positive or negative, shows that he wanted nothing else but approval from his mother. Our research question is further supported with scientific evidence. Brigid Schulte from The Washington Post explains a study done by the National Academy of Science on how “[t]he effects of child abuse and neglect… can profoundly influence victims’ physical and mental health, their ability to control emotions and impulses, their achievement in school, and the relationships they form as children and as adults” (Schulte). This is directly related to Jimmy’s life as we can see how his parents’ behavior altered his relationships from childhood through adulthood. Another resource that provides a plethora of evidence supporting our research question describes the impact of parenting styles on child development. Mary Venus Joseph and Jilly John state that “[p]arenting style is one of the most important factors in child development”(Joseph). They also provided a table that explains the four different parenting types- authoritarian, authoritative, permissive, and uninvolved. They described uninvolved parents as “uninvolved figures that are neither responsive nor demanding. They often fail to monitor or supervise the child’s behavior” (Joseph). This parenting style correlates directly with the style Jimmy’s parents adopted. Later in the research article, it is stated that “the worst developmental outcomes were associated with a neglectful, uninvolved style of parenting.” Uninvolved parenting is the parenting style that has the most negative effects on children. Therefore, we knew that Jimmy would be a great case study on the subject of uninvolved/neglectful parenting and its long-lasting effects.



Sources

Atwood, Margaret. Oryx and Crake. Melbourne: National Information Library Service, Materials. Production Group, 2004. Print.

Mustillo, Sarah A., Shannon Dorsey, Barbara J. Burns, and Kate Conover. “Parental Depression and Child Outcomes: The mediating Effects of Abuse and Neglect. “ProQuest. Journal of Marriage and Family, Feb. 2013. Web. 4 Apr. 2017.

Joseph M. V., John J. (2008). Impact of parenting styles on child development. Global Academic Society Journal: Social Science Insight, Vol. 1, No. 5, pp. 16-25. ISSN 2029-0365.

Schulte, Brigid. “Child Abuse Changes Brain Structure, Can Last a Lifetime.” The Washington Post. WP Company, 12 Sept. 2013. Web. 03 Apr. 2017.

"Violence Prevention." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control And Prevention, 05 Apr. 2016. Web. 08 Apr. 2017.

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