Alex the parrot comes to him in a dream. It flies in through the window, lands close to him on the pillow, bright green this time with purple wings and a yellow break, glowing like a beacon, and Snowman is suffused with happiness and love. It cocks its head, looks at him first with one eye, then the other. “The blue triangle,” it says. Then it begins to flush, to turn red, beginning with the eye. This change is frightening, as if it’s a parrot-shaped light bulb filling up with blood. “I’m going away now,” it says.
“No wait,” Snowman calls, or wants to call. His mouth won’t move. “Don’t go yet! Tell me…”
Then there’s a rush of wind, whuff, and Alex is gone, and Snowman is sitting up in his former bed, in the dark, drenched in sweat.
– Atwood 336
These planned departures made him uneasy: they reminded him of Alex the parrot saying I’m going away now. There was too fine a line between Alex the parrot and the assisted suicides and his mother and the note she’d left for him. all three gave notice of their intentions; then all vanished.
– Atwood 84
At the end of this section, Alex the Parrot made an appearance in Snowman’s dream. It was very similar to the other weird visions/dreams that Jimmy/Snowman has. I also remembered that Alex the Parrot was constantly remembered and remarked on by Jimmy/ Snowman throughout his whole life/the whole book. I decided to look back and see what meaning Alex could hold.
First, I was trying to find some fan art done of Alex the parrot to use as my featured image. I didn’t find any, but what I did find was that Alex the parrot was real. He was a parrot that was the center of a study on researching the theory that other animals are capable of having similar cognitive abilities as humans. It is argued by many scientists that a large primate brain is needed to think complexly and solve complex problems. The studies and results with Alex the parrot can be argued to refute that theory. The studies showed that Alex the parrot was as intelligent as a 5 year old toddler. This study and the theories this study discussed are very relevant to Oryx and Crake. Look at the pigoons and wolvogs, for example. We’ve learned that the wolvogs know how to “capture” prey/people. They charm you with their typical dog looks and then attack. This could just be natural instinct, the same way the parrot mimics, or it could be something with deeper thoughts- like the parrot understanding and responding. In the previous section we read, the pigoons attacked with the “cunning” looks. It gave them more mental props. It made them less animal and more human. Which is what I believe the study was all about. Are “homo sapiens” the only ones with these skills and mental cognition?
Second, like i’ve mentioned before, Alex the parrot was brought up throughout the whole novel. His memory took part in a lot of Jimmy’s experiences and he used Alex as a way to explain certain happenings in his life. This second point is less about the study and more about what is it that makes Jimmy/Snowman connect/obsess over Jimmy the parrot. I don’t fully understand the depths of this relationship, but there are a few things I have gathered. In the book itself, Jimmy/Snowman mentions something about planned departures (the quote featured above). He mentions the departure of his mother and the note, the assisted suicides, and Alex saying “I’m going now”. The dream about Alex on page 336 came after he remembered the end of Crake and Oryx’s lives. He mentioned that there were a lot of indications of what Crake was planning. Crake also entered the dome and basically told Jimmy what he was going to do right before killing Oryx. It was a notice of his intentions. Then Crake and Oryx “vanished”. I also found similarities between Alex and Jimmy/Snowman. They both were praised for their words, they both were “bored” of their surroundings (Alex would leave and not answer when prompted and Jimmy did not like to stay in one place all the time and thought everyone was below him). They both made up words, i.e cork-nut and the words that Jimmy made up for the products he advertised. Jimmy felt a strong connection with Alex. There was also a part in the book where Alex was not given “cork-nuts” (almonds) even after he did what he was told and even though that was one of the only things he wanted. This brought Jimmy to tears. This seems similar to Jimmy’s life. He wanted to have things that he could never have, a smarter self, interest in science, Oryx. I’m sure there is much more to Alex and Jimmy but I was only able to think this up.
How vast do you think some animals’ mental capacity is compared to humans. How well do you think that study relates to the book.
What did you find in the relationship between Alex and Jimmy. Do you have any other theories?
In the first quote above, it is the first time Alex answers the question, “Blue triangle.” He always leave or ignore the question before, but this time in Jimmy’s dream, he answered the question. What significance do you think this has?
What do you make of the whole dream interaction with Alex?