The topic of empathy is repeated throughout all of ” Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” as a way to differentiate humans from androids. It is believed that androids do not have emotion, and therefor cannot connect to organic life. Humans have made animals a symbol of morality, encouraging each other to care for them in an public, congratulatory way. This way of expressing empathy leads to the Voight-Kampff test, used to determine who is human and who is not. The focus on emotion isolates in-organics.
Rick Deckard, a hunter of androids, is obsessed with having a live, organic animal. Society has put so much emphasis on feeling for others that Deckard believes he does not feel empathy the way he should. He buys an electric sheep to replace his deceased one, but is not satisfied. Deckard does not think he can connect to electric animals or androids because they do not express emotion like humans. He uses his lack of a ‘real’ animal as an excuse for his dispassion with those around him.
This idea is challenged later when Deckard has sex with Rachel Rosen, an android. She tries to prove to him that androids are not just machines, but do in fact have emotion. When humans display behavior that would suggest they lack empathy, Deckard begins to question his idea of what it means to be human. At the end of the novel Deckard gains an electric toad, and is unphazed by the fact that it is not organic.
Deckard’s conversation with Mercer
Why?” Rick said. “Why should I do it? I’ll quit my job and emigrate.”The old man said, “You will be required to do wrong no matter where you go. It is the basic condition of life, to be required to violate your own identity. At some time, every creature which lives must do so. It is the ultimate shadow, the defeat of creation; this is the curse at work, the curse that feeds on all life. Everywhere in the universe.”
I found this conversation interesting yet puzzling. How does the basic condition of life require violating one’s own identity? Mercer is saying that all life must at some point do this. (It doesn’t make sense to acknowledge this statement in relation to animals since they lack the ability to develop a complex identity in which they can violate. Maybe he is pertaining to only humans.) Nevertheless, it is still an abstract statement. This quote seems to be more of a person’s opinion rather than a statement from a higher truth which Mercer is suppose to represent. I believe that Mercer is in fact the author’s gateway into the book. In other words, his personal perspective of the storyline and also the real world.
I believe his statement to be true to a certain extent. In modern day earth most people, including myself, have to violate our own identity at some point. Out of my experience, I had to violate my identity because of a job which is exactly the same reason why Deckard did so also. Violating one’s identity is a “curse” as stated by Mercer, but this does not necessarily have to always be true. This “curse” only exists in capitalistic environments where people go out of their way to make money, which corresponds to violating ones identity due to an occupation. It seems that this is increasing becoming the case as the thirst for money increases. But who’s to say that all humans have to act in accordance to this and more importantly how does the entire universe revolve around this statement. What if a human is forced to live in a primitive state, such as surviving in an island, where an occupation isn’t required. Wouldn’t this Mercer’s statement be false?