As has become evident from the discussion, Divergent and Oryx and Crake vividly illustrate how conventional notions of ‘humanness’ are revised and the posthuman condition is effectuated by unethical and irresponsible us of biotechnology. The thesis shows how these two novels differ – both ideologically and aesthetically – in their treatment of biotechnology, yet are drawn towards similar ends. It is the hubris, the presumptuous belief in the power of biotechnology and in the apparent impossibility of creating the ‘perfect’ human, that Roth and Atwood highlight in their novels.
Undeniably, Roth criticizes using biotechnology as a tool for biopolitical control and warns the readers about the price one has to pay to preserve human essence in a posthuman world. As a megalomaniac, her antagonist Jeanine aims at distorting everything quintessential about human – freedom, ethics, morality, love, empathy, and the like – through the precision of a serum-driven life. Roth neither supports a technologically mediated form of existence nor exposes an optimistic view of distributing agency to ‘other-than-human’ creatures. The interlacing between biotechnology and biopower establishes the bleakest of posthuman future where the definition of human is under risk, therefore, Roth reasserts that human values such as freewill and ethics should not be subject to biopolitics.
In contrast, Atwood rejects a future in which humans will become ever more distinct from other living beings. Instead she insists that there might be a possibility of having a world where all animals, human or not, would live in harmony, protecting and supporting each other – free from bad faith, negativity, and without the aim of destroying ecological balance. Specifically, Oryx and Crake distorts the conventional distinction between human and nonhuman, and, as far as Wolfe would be concerned, Crake’s posthumanist philosophy of creating an improved version of Homo sapiens sapiens quells the fluid nature of identity and leads to a new human condition: post-identity. The emergence of the Crakers is the ultimate outcome of his efforts to alleviate the desolate and despondent status of the human race. However, Jimmy’s identification of language as the antidote to the plague created by Crake ends up in reinscribing the centrality of human values such as empathy and love for nonhuman animals. At the same time, the Crakers create an effigy of Jimmy to send him message which indicates that religious belief is restored in them. Taken together, it is indeed an optimistic picture of a post-apocalyptic world.
Broadly speaking, the result of letting the scientists experiment on human ‘nature”,’ in both novels, is that biotechnological inventions cease to be categorized as bioweapons that steer the society to the catastrophe. Repressive state system and unscrupulous capitalist pharmaseutical corporations successfully produce human-animal and human-machine hybrids because there was no one to monitor the scientific experiments run by Jeanine and Crake. That being said, I classify techno-body as the by-product of the consumerist culture, the embodiment of their dreams of having a better version of human race, the depiction of the philosophy they believe in. Contemporary consumerist capitalism executes biopower by fragmenting a human body into malleable tissues and cells which results in creation of mind-altering serums and the deadly hemorrhages BlyssPluss pills. On one hand, the scientists consider these hybrids as their best inventions and are utterly proud of the accomplishments while, the creation of techno-body is a constant reminder to Tris and Jimmy that they are the marginalized ‘complete’ human beings, therefore, blame the scientists on the other. Consequently, these human-machine and human-animal hybrids awaken the protagonists to acknowledge who they are and how their human essence, which is linked to the evolutionary tree of life, gives them the power to add meaning to the lives of everyone around them. Both Tris and Jimmy mourn for the irrevocable loss of human values and their unflagging attempts of upholding those values to restore human essence. Crucially, it is their human perspectives that remains dominant in their exploration of a posthuman world.
One of the main elements that I draw out is that these hybrids come into being at the hands of genius yet evil scientists. While Oryx and Crake articulates Crake’s undaunted desire to create the perfect replacement for human beings by creating genetically engineered human-animal hybrids, Jeanine, in Divergent, tries to create the perfect ‘self’ by modifying the way human mind works which in turn alters the human ‘nature.’ The Children of Crake and the sleepwalking Dauntless army are not born ‘naturally’ but made, therefore, I categorize them as techno-bodies. As a matter of fact, the techno-body is an embodiment of human enhancement – a self-regulating, productive human-animal hybrid capable of adapting themselves to any environment where the Dauntless army are labeled as tech-nobody – the obedient and docile human-machine hybrid that will follow the instructions given by the authority unquestioningly and serve the government seamlessly. Hence, both novels imply ironic gestures that question the propagation of a new and improved human condition. It might be insightful to mention that even though moved by different motivations, guided by different philosophies, and ended with different outcome, yet Tris and Jimmy’s journey seem somewhat similar.
Although both Atwood and Roth ask intriguing questions about how biotechnology can alter human ‘nature’ that would lead towards a posthuman condition, each novel uses a different tone in addressing questions regarding identity and bioethics. I believe that both Jeanine and Crake’s attraction to biotechnology is fundamentally based on their desire to transcend perceived limitations of physical bodies, but Crake does it for the betterment of entire human race while Jeanine does it for her lust of power. Jeanine wants to rule the factions but Crake believes that human beings do not deserve to be on the top of the hiererchy. Their attempt to create ‘perfect’ human beings leads to the state of post-identity – which both of them believe to be uniquely human experience – stands in sharp contrast to the comparatively constrained physical identity.