The conflict between man, machine, and emotions
Through the first five chapters of “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” I get a continual sense of despair and depression in this world. The humans that have survived this nuclear disaster that is called World War Terminus have conflicting values when it comes to emotions. It seems that the world they now live in has deprived them of all the feelings and emotions they used to have. The bleakness of their world is described as “morning air, spilling over with radioactive motes, gray and sun-beclouding, belched about him, haunting his nose; fie sniffed involuntarily the taint of death.” Rick Deckard, the bounty hunter who makes a living on killing androids, uses empathy as a way to tell the difference between machine and man. However, as we see in the first chapter, Rick and his wife Iran rely on technology to provide for them emotions and different ways to feel.
Another major conflict that arises is the battle between androids and humans. Apparently, one can hardly tell the difference between a Nexus-6 android and a human being. All the properties are the same, and almost all human emotions are replicated, except for empathy. Empathy, as we learn, is the reason why humans do not eat animals anymore. It’s the reason Rick Deckard desperately wants a real animal as opposed to his electric sheep. When Rick shows his neighbor Bill the control panel for his sheep, he replies, “Poor guy, has it always been this way?” This is why is frowned upon to question the validity of animals, it is described as much worse than inquiring about the validity of “a citizens teeth, hair, or internal organs.”
Animals are a reoccurring theme throughout the first five chapters of this novel. In the second chapter, a man by the name of John Isodore, who in a past life was a gifted child that had the ability to heal animals and bring them back from the dead. The police found out he was doing this and contaminated him with radiation to take this ability away. This has left him “chickenheaded,” and he uses an empathy box to escape his present reality and infuses his consciousness with that of Wilbur Mercer, an important figure who created Murcerism
Animals are also important to Rick when determining who is an android and who is a human. This test uses the Voigt-Kampff scale, which uses a series of questions related mostly to animals. The test has now come under question, and Rick believes the test does indeed work, but will do some further testing. After the death Dave Holden, a police officer, who was killed by an android, the Nexus-6 androids are becoming a danger to humans. When Rick starts to interrogate Rachel Rosen at the Rosen Associations (the place where they make the Nexus-6 Androids) he talks about various scenarios involving animals and she passes all questions. However, Rick determines that Rosen is indeed an android, but she doesn’t know it.