It’s challenging to not encompass the rest of the novel in my post. After reading the whole thing I feel the need to talk about all of it, especially my thoughts about the story’s conclusion. Regardless of that, there is no shortage of things to talk about in the span of ten chapters. If I do however mention some things that go past chapter fifteen, then I do apologize in advance.
Unlike the previous chapters, these following ones seem to pick up the pace. The setting has already been described; less focus is dedicated to giving the reader a visualization of the world. Deckard the main protagonist has a clear objective, and the route to that objective is clearly defined. The objective being the elimination of the remaining six androids. In retrospect its easy to remember the course of events as each chapter is either Deckard working towards that final objective, or an aside third perspective on Isidore’s interactions with androids. More on Isidore below. As his pertinence to the story, among other characters, is something I questioned my entire read.
Such a simple and clear cut plot on the surface can ,and is , literally summed up on the back of the book; Joe-Shmo hunts rouge androids in a futuristic society. The real treat here is the interactions Deckard and Isidore makes with the androids. How through the course of the narrative, they are ultimately changed in some significant way, at it’s conclusion.
Deckard at the end of chapter Fifteen had to buy a goat to alleviate the stress incurred from his latest android ‘retired’, and his wounded ego from his experience with Phil Resch (p.170). I find two things interesting with this development. First is that he had ‘acquired’ an animal in exchange for the money he made killing a sentient being. Especially after killing Luba Luft, I’m sure Deckard had some internal conflict about buying that goat. Secondly, the repeated use of the term ‘retire’ in reference to ‘killing’ an android, seems a bit forced as to dehumanize androids. I think it would be kind of funny had the author used ‘end’ instead of ‘retire’, especially by today’s connotations of the phrase ‘end you’. We can clearly see where Deckard’s ’empathy’ for androids of the fairer sex is leading him(p183). I’m sure Resch had a hand in this respect (p143), however Deckard already admitted to having an attraction to female androids before his encounter with Resch(p95).
Isidore’s journey through the novel is some what of an enigma to me. I’m unsure of his importance, if any, in this story. My main understanding of Isidore is that he is the author’s tool to convey certain ideas. What those ideas are, can be up to debate. From my perspective, Isidore embodies the prospect of accepting androids as equals. This can be evidenced in that Isidore considers androids, humans, and animals equally alive and deserving of some measure of respect (p72,77). His character’s social standing in the story, mirrors societies perspective on androids. I find it intriguing that the author chose to embody such a concept, in a mentally deficient mutant.
However a lofty of a position in the narrative that may be, the execution of his tale is a lot less poignant. Most of his scenes with the exception for his introductory chapter, is him interacting or reflecting on artificial life.
I’d like to think that I was pretty spot on in my assumption that empathy, or at least the concept of it, is the central topic trying to be conveyed in this novel. When I say empathy I’m condensing the questions I’ve asked or implied in my previous post: What is it? What is it to Humans vs. Androids? What are the advantages and disadvantages of having it?
These are the questions I’ve gleaned from the story; as trying to either answer or bring it to peoples attention. In terms of what it is? I think the widely accepted definition of “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another” explains it adequately enough. However, in this story you are constantly asking: “can a machine do this”?
If empathy as Deckard explains it in chapter three, boils down to a mechanism for beings of higher intelligence to better cooperate with one another. How does that explain the situation of the three remaining Androids? Actually, the original eight from Mars, since they had to band together to carryout their plan of escape. I constantly asked whether they felt camaraderie and ’empathy’ towards one another, in the latter chapters. Their bond could be described as something derived from a need to survive or better their situation in life. However, that line of thinking conflicts with the actions of Garland, Luba Luft, and Pokolov who chose to integrate themselves into Human society. Especially in the case of Luba Luft, who appreciated human art and music. She also showed a deep understanding of human vs. android psychology, stating “there is something very strange and touching about humans” (133).
In closing I’d like to leave everyone with some extra food for thought:
In regards to empathy, could we reference pack mentality viewed in animals? When I mention pack mentality, naturally many people would think of wolves or other predatory animals. However in many cases, especially with herbivores and omnivores, animals tend to gravitate to creating groups. Why? I’d suspect for an increased survivability, but is there something more at work? I’d like to pose that perhaps the P.K. Dick specifically killed off animal populations in this narrative to symbolize the death of the ‘natural’ empathy animals display towards one another.
Lastly, I’ve been thinking that interaction between humans over the internet, and there interactions between androids and humans in the story bear some resemblance. Over the internet it can be observed that people communicating through text show a large gap in terms of accountability. What I mean is that people act differently when interacting over a great distance rather than face to face. Often times that leads to a lack of ’empathy’ towards others over the internet. Text language is very neutral, almost devoid of emotion. This makes it hard to decipher the intentions of the other party. Can this lack of accountability be seen in the androids of the story? Perhaps the androids are considered to have no accountability for the emotions of others, android or human.