|Submitted by Michael Lee |
(Jan 03, 2006)
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is perhaps one of the most compelling arguments for empathy and caprice over logic and all its accompanying dictates. This is a book that is not concerned with androids per se, but with a man who is slowly being turned into a compassionless machine that has its emotions dialed in on a daily basis. Viewed from this standpoint Dick paints an entropic world that is slowly being enveloped by radioactive dust, which only serves as a larger metaphor for what is afflicting the main protagonist of the novel, Rick Deckard.
Deckard is a character who will make you think a lot about what it means to be a human being. Brutally logical and irritatingly legalistic, he single-mindedly seeks to collect enough money to replace his mechanical sheep with a real one. This forms the basic plot of the novel. However, the real question being grappled with by Deckard is what he will do once he realizes he feels pity for the androids he has been assigned to exterminate. Will he ignore his feelings of empathy? Will he continue to act as his mirror image, Phil Resch?
Interestingly, Do Androids Dream also has a character who seems to be Deckard’s missing half. John R. Isidore is the answer to Deckard’s cold legalistic reasoning; in fact, it is no mistake that Dick juxtaposes the two characters’ chapters. He is constantly showing the reader that reason and superior intellect are nothing without the ability to empathize.
Pris and Rachael Stratton serve as another example of Dick’s metaphor of the double-faced Janus which lurks inside all of us. Both synthetic women act as the love interests for both Isidore and Deckard respectively. Pris is sadistic and unfeeling, while Rachael is a soul who yearns to be loved.
Battling ideologies also abound in this masterful work of late twentieth century prose. Mercerism, which extols compassion and hope, is constantly undermined by the cynical non-stop television show, “Buster Friendly”: one seeks to destroy while the other aims to create. Creation and destruction also extend to the mysterious Rosen association that puts out generation after generation of more and more human like androids. Bounty hunters like Deckard constantly strive to cleanse Terra of their creations.
In the end, Do Androids Dream is more a story about what it means to deny that which truly makes us human. In book after book, Dick communicates that it is our ability to put our selves in another human’s shoes that truly separates the men from the cold-hearted machines. This is also an interesting commentary on what it means to be a sociopath.