Almost everyday we listen to music. Whether it’s on the radio, on our iPods, or in a grocery store. Music is everywhere and most people can memorize a song after only listening to it a couple times. As our culture is evolving and adapting, we have more access to music and other forms of entertainment than ever before, but we always turn to music. We have turned away from reading novels and even if we do read them, we forget them, sometimes even hours after reading them. We remember songs for years and even if we have not heard the song for a long time, we can still sing along. Since we can easily remember songs, we should take songs we already know and relate them to novels so we can easily remember them. While reading The Year of the Flood, by Margaret Atwood, I instantly connected the novel to the song Pompeii, by Bastille. As I read through the novel, the evolutionary themes were so similar and the novel and the song together brought out so many underlying messages. Both of these pieces of work bring out the idea of natural and artificial selection, as well as adaptation.
The Year of the Flood takes place after a waterless flood that was wiped out almost the entire human race. It focuses on two of the survivors, Ren and Toby, who used their evolutionary skills to adapt to the situations they were in and survive. They were both stuck in less than perfect situations, but were able to make the best out of them. The waterless flood represents artificial selection. Crake created the BlyssPlus pills that would wipe out humans and create animal hybrids and super humans to rule the world. Toward the end of the novel when Ren finds out the BlyssPlus pill was a supersex pill that causes death she says, “I felt lucky all over again that I’d been in the Sticky Zone because I might’ve gulped down the BlyssPlus pill secretly even though Mordis said no drugs for Scalies. It sounded so great, like a whole other reality” (Atwood 395). The fact that Ren admits she would have taken the pill shows how easy it was to get the Pleeblands to take it. This allowed Crake complete control over the artificial selection.
Ren and Toby were stuck during the time of the waterless flood and were able to avoid the BlyssPlus pill. Toby was stranded at the AnooYoo Spa and has to figure out ways to snatch food and stay alive. As stated in the previous quote, Ren was locked at the sex club Scales and Tales in the Sticky Zone. She was waiting to be decontaminated after a customer rips her protective skin. She has food, but has to figure out a way to ration to stay alive the longest. Ren and Toby have no idea who has survived and what the world looks like outside of where they are. It could be completely ruined and in shambles. This is the part that made me think of Pompeii. The first line, “I was left to my own devices, many days fell away with nothing to show”, mirrors what is going on in The Year of the Flood. Ren and Toby are both on their own and do not have anyone to turn to. Bastille’s song is describing a world that has been broken and they have to try to remain an optimist even in a time of great distress.
When first listening to Pompeii, I just thought about the rhythm, not much about what the lyrics meant. After looking at and further analyzing the lyrics, I realized it could be about a post-apocalyptic world, like The Year of the Flood. The song states, “And the walls kept tumbling down in the city that we love. Great clouds roll over the hills bringing darkness from above.” These lines describe the world they were living in had been destroyed, just like the world after the waterless flood. The lyrics show how the people in the song have to learn to adapt to a world that has been destroyed. The evolutionary themes in this song are so strong and can be related to natural selection as well as adaptation. The lines, “Oh where do we begin? The rubble of our sins”, describes the struggle of deciding where to restart their lives. Ren and Toby have to face this struggle too. They have to decided how they are going to survive the waterless flood or if they are going to give up. This shows the adaptation both Bastille, Ren, and Toby have to go through; they must adapt to their new worlds.
The other evolutionary theme found in the song and the novel is natural selection. After the waterless flood, only the “strongest” were able to survive. Some people survived just because they were lucky, but they had to be able to continue to live and find food. Toby and Ren are not a direct product of natural selection, but the traits they portray will be passed down to their offspring and will eventually develop into a new, evolved human that possesses some of the best traits. This theme is also present in Pompeii. The people that survive the destroyed world portrayed in the lyrics will have adaptive features that will be passed onto their offspring.
The evolutionary theme of artificial selection is more prominent in The Year of the Flood, but can also be related to Pompeii. In the world after the waterless flood, many genetic splices are created artificially to take over the new world. The scientists pick the best traits from animals and mesh them together with others. This creates “super-animals” that will run the world. An example found in the novel is, “Here’s something different. Closer to the building, a clump of sheep is grazing. Five of them: three Mo’Hairs-a green one, a pink one, and a bright purple one- and two other sheep that appear to be conventional” (Atwood 238). These spliced sheep have long flowing hair, just like a human. They were one of the genetic splices created to take over for humans after the waterless flood. Pompeii relates to artificial selection with the line, “If you close your eyes, does it almost feel like nothing changed at all.” This could be about artificial selection if the song was written after a manmade disaster. They are thinking about how the world was before the disaster and all of the new creations.
The connections found between The Year of the Flood and Pompeii are so striking, it is hard not to see the resemblance through evolutionary themes. They are both about a world that has been destroyed and what has to be done to survive. They must adapt to their new worlds and figure out a way to outcompete the new creatures created by natural selection. When I hear Pompeii now, I automatically think of The Year of the Flood and struggles Ren and Toby had to endure to survive. Linking this song to the novel will allow me to always remember what happened during The Year of the Flood.
Atwood, Margaret. The Year of the Flood. New York: Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 2009. Print.
Bastille. “Pompeii” Virgin Records, 2013. MP3.
“”Pompeii” Lyrics.” BASTILLE LYRICS. MusixMatch, n.d. Web. 10 July 2014.