The Fight for Science and Language Equality

Cautionary tales are written by authors to warn their audiences about the dangers of developing social issues in modern day society. As seen in Margaret Atwood’s ‘Oryx and Crake,’ the division between science and language separates mankind to the point of extinction. Atwood writes this novel as a way to warn her readers about the dangers of scientific progression. I believe that it is important to find a balance between both language and science so that both can coexist without one being more important than the other. Science may advance our lives and make it easier, but language defines what we live for.  

In Margaret Atwood’s novel, ‘Oryx and Crake’, there is a noticeable divide in society between what the main character, Jimmy, calls ‘words-people’ and ‘numbers-people.’ Atwood portrays this in her novel by showing a segregation between various social groups. The arts and language social group is treated poorly throughout the story in comparison to the superiority of the science social group. Throughout this novel, Atwood is warning her readers about the importance of language, and its role in keeping humanity alive.

Although this book is fiction, many aspects of what Atwood has discussed in the novel may be applied to our world today. As my years in high school went by, I noticed how the arts and language seemed to die out in importance throughout the school’s curriculum. One of my friends taking visual arts noticed that there was only one visual arts class in our entire program with only 10 students were enrolled in it. In comparison, classes such as chemistry and biology had an enormous number of students per class even though they were split into two, sometimes three, classes. While applying for university, I felt overwhelmed being surrounded by so many students interested in the Natural Sciences and felt like an outlier when telling people I wanted to study something completely different.

Being a first-year student, I have noticed that people put more ‘hype’ and emphasis on the difficulties of the Natural Sciences. In contrast, other programs such as Music, FIMS or Arts and Humanities are looked down upon and dubbed as ‘too easy.’ This is not to say that one field of study is more superior than the other, but that both science and art are needed to create a balance in society. Doctors are needed to help cure the sick and aid the injured. Engineers are needed to invent and build for the accommodation of our rapidly growing society. But what about language? Without those studying music, how would we achieve the enjoyment of our favourite artists? If we didn’t have film students, what would we do be entertained? Science may be more empirical and difficult to understand for some, but building and creating content for people to enjoy is a massive thought process that incorporates individual creativity. Leading back to Atwood’s ‘Oryx and Crake,’ we are being warned that by focusing more on one field of study, we are losing sight of another. There is a reason why we are different and why we each have our own strengths and weaknesses. Society simply cannot function only on art or purely on science.        

Readers of Atwood’s novel are being warned about how progress is a double-edged sword and may bring both positive and negative effects to society.  By losing sight of humanity and communication, Atwood says that only trouble can be found in the end. Through the lessons taught in this novel, we as a non-fiction society can learn that both language and science are needed to prosper. I believe that we are slowly getting to a point where art and language are disappearing while science is taking over. Are we heading towards an ‘Oryx and Crake’ society already or have we been on that path for years now?

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