An electric identity

I reread Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep last weekend but for this post, i’ll be covering some ideas from the first 5 chapters. I think the thing that sticks out to me the most early on in the book is how bleak the future is in this book. This is a universe where most of the population has migrated to space and a persons emotional state can be set using a mood organ [1]. The dregs of society, or specials are stuck on Earth. A war (World War Terminus) occurred sometime in the past that devastated the planet, to the point that owning certain animals can be a status symbol in and of itself. The need for owning an animal is so strong that humans will even keep lifelike robotic animals in place of a live one. Rick Deckard is somewhat ashamed of owning his electric sheep, as shown by his conversation with his neighbor in chapter 1. The chapter concludes with him actually showing a bit of vindictiveness towards his neighbor [2] causing Barbour to act nervous. This tone helps to show how desperate Rick is to replace the fake sheep.

Rick is a bounty hunter who doesn’t hunt humans, but androids or “andy’s”. These robots flee to earth occasionally from the outer worlds. Rick uses the teachings of Mercerism to justify hunting and “retiring” these andy’s [3]. To Rick, the andy’s are no better than animals, and in recalling this fact his mind is drawn back to owning an animal. It is so important to him that he goes after five of the latest models, androids that were able to get the better of his superior Holden.

To retire an android, a test must be given that a trained professional, Rick, can then use to determine if the person being tested is human or an android. The Voigt-Kampff Altered Scale is the most recent process and has not been proven to be 100% accurate in detecting an android. Rick has to go to the manufacture of the Nexus-6’s to determine if it will work on an android. Here is another instance to emphasis how much Rick wants a real animal. He is willing to go out in the field with an unproven test. His boss forces him to do this check first, which had it not been an order, Rick would have probably skipped and the story would probably have ended with his death or in the best case, in a hospital bed like his superior Holden.

By following the teachings of Mercer, ones identity is shown by your right and ability to own an animal. Rick comes across as a man who is close to the breaking point. He does not really seem like a man who really believes in Mercerism, but he does follow some of the principles. Whenever he has free time, he pulls out his copy of Sidney’s Animal & Fowl catalog [4] to check prices. When he visits the Rosen Corporation and sees the advanced copy of the book, he confiscates it [5]. His jealousy/envy of the animals he saw on display led to this act, and it causes a moment of awkwardness among those in the room. After administering the test, he is offered a bribe consisting of an owl, and you can almost see the inner turmoil that must be going on in his head.

It seems that RIcks identity is incomplete without an animal. Its almost as if owning an animal is the only thing that will make him human. Perhaps by destroying the androids, not only is he earning his way towards a real animal, but they are acting like a surrogate for the removal of his electric sheep.

[1] Page 3.

[2] Page 14 2nd to last paragraph.

[3] Page 31 last paragraph.

[4] Pages 32-33

[5] Page 45-46

Just thought i’d share this, saw it linked a little while ago… Electric Sheep!


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