Human Survival

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi provides a terrifying depiction of a futuristic society. One of the central messages that Bacigalupi wanted to express through this novel was the idea of human survival. He examines how far humans are willing to go to survive–what they will sacrifice and what they will do in order to get what they want even if that means going against morality. Moreover, he demonstrates the strength of humanity and how even when a society falls, we bond to one another and do whatever needs doing to continue life.

This novel is considered a sci-fi novel because it directly relates to climate change. It takes place in Thailand, in which there is a great deal of turmoil and corruption as a result of the shortage of food, loss of energy resources and outbreaks of the plague. The only resource that the city has left is seeds because all of the other resources that produce energy, such as fossil fuels, are depleted. This is relevant to today because we are also running low on energy resources. Another issue that deals with climate change is the increasing water levels.

In the article, Megalopolis by Aarthi Vadde, she considers the setting of Thailand in this novel, to be a megalopolis, or a western society that is predicted to fall due to its increasing growth of population. Vadde discusses how this megalopolis is literally sinking due to the rise of water levels. She describes this novel as an Anthropocene, which is a vision of the future defined by the impact of humans on Earth systems. She continues to write that the end of the world presented in this novel was not a sudden event; rather it was a gradual progression of cities emerging in water (Vadde). As I was reading, I also noticed this imagery of water and the sinking of cities. Emiko, one of the main characters, was drawn to water throughout the book. Water was largely discussed in relation to the world coming to an end; however, water was also used as a symbol of the rebirth of humanity.

One of the main reasons why the society of Thailand fell was because the government lost all control over its people. All of the characters in this novel had their own economic or political agendas and went around the government to get what they wanted. For example, Anderson Lake, the owner of the Spring Life factory, kept it a secret that he was in search of the Thai seed bank. In addition, his employee Hock Seng, embezzled from the company in order to plan for an escape. He also wanted to steal the blueprints from Anderson. This shows how the characters lied and stole from one another because they were looking out for themselves during this time of panic. Through these characters’ actions, Bacigalupi demonstrates how humans will do things that go against morality in order to survive.

In addition to these economic and political disasters, Bacigalupi reveals the social corruptions within Thailand by describing the sex trade. Anderson fell in love with the windup girl, Emiko, who worked as a sex slave for Raleigh. Emiko told Anderson about the seed bank and Anderson told her about the village that had new people. Emiko fantasized about escaping to this village through out the novel. Therefore, Emiko’s main mission in the book was to escape from slavery and go to this village. Again, this shows how when society falls the main mission of the individual is to survive, and in Emiko’s case it was to escape from this society completely. Although Emiko never made it to this village, after Anderson died from the plague and she was the only one left in the society, a scientist named Gibbons approached her and promised her that he would use her genes to create a new race of humans. The ending of this novel shows how humans have a moral responsibility to continue life.

Vadde analyzes the ending of this novel. Vadde interprets Gibbon’s idea of Emiko’s genetics being superior by stating, “Emiko’s genetic makeup does not exclude her from “us humans,” nor does the “natural world” exclude a sinking megalopolis” (Vadde). Vadde is making this parallel that Emiko is still considered human even if she does have strong genes and a dying society, as great as Thailand, still influences the natural world. This idea presented by Vadde can be applied to the issue of climate change. The individual as well as the whole society influences the natural world. Therefore, in order to better the earth, changes need to be made on a large and small scale.

The Wind Up Girl is a sci-fi novel that questions what it means to be a human and what humans do in hard times in order to survive. Through the characters actions, the reader is able to see that humans will go against morality in order to protect themselves. From the beginning to the end of the novel, the central theme remains that humanity will always perceiver even when societies fall. Humans will fight to the end because the strongest desire that we hold is to live.


Vadde, A.(n.d.). Megalopolis Now. Retrieved March 30, 2015, from

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