Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Essay Questions

  1. 1

    How are the mind control systems of Mercerism and Buster Friendly's show similar? How are they different?

    Both Mercerism and Buster Friendly's mass media show are forms of mind control in that they seek to create alternate realities for people to exist in. John Isidore, through his devotion to both, is an example of the tensions that these realities create. Mercerism, however, seeks ultimately to fuse the collective of humanity together in a sense of empathy. Buster Friendly's show seeks to damage the structures of Mercerism that keep humans together.

  2. 2

    Rick Deckard points out that Mercer suffers, but he doesn't have to compromise his own identity. What does this statement reflect about Rick's identity?

    Rick Deckard begins the novel as a "crude cop" with the selfish intentions of owning a real animal. By the end of the novel, Rick is ready to give up his bounty hunter job and seems satisfied with a mechanical animal. His experience with Mercer forced him to give up his former identity and fuse with a real sense of empathy, which in turn changed his own identity.

  3. 3

    John Isidore points out that in order to live at all, one must live with other people. Relate this statement to John's life and the lives of all remaining on earth.

    This statement deals with the necessity of empathy amongst all humans in order to ensure survival. Rick makes this same connection early in the novel when he ponders the idea that only herbivores and omnivores are capable of empathy because they do not need to kill to survive. Empathy ensures shared survival. John's life is an example of this as he feels that he cannot truly thrive on earth as a "chickenhead" until he has another life to care for.

  4. 4

    What does John Isidore's spider represent in the novel?

    John Isidore's spider is a reflection of his own life. His first spider is tortured by the androids and killed. John's life, in a sense, was also used in a tortuous way by the androids. They were willing to sacrifice him both in order to ensure their own survival and because they believed that his life had no real value. John's second spider that Mercer gives to him symbolizes John's own rebirth from the void of being used by the androids and the destruction of Mercerism by Buster Friendly.

  5. 5

    Discuss the symbolism of Rick Deckard's toad at the end of the novel.

    Rick Deckard's toad represents the conflicting nature of his character at the end of the book. On the one hand, Rick dreams of the riches and fame that he will receive once the toad is revealed to the world. Once he finds out that it is mechanical, however, he realizes that his experiences have allowed him to feel empathy even towards a mechanical animal. Humans remained flawed, but have the ability to be reborn with new empathic impulses.

  6. 6

    Discuss Dick's use of the character of Iran Deckard in the novel.

    Iran Deckard is the most convincingly and constant empathetic character in the book. At the beginning of the novel she is the only character that calls out Rick for what he is: a killer. By the end of the novel she has been able to reconcile herself to her husband's past indiscretions and finds a way to care for him and for his mechanical toad.

  7. 7

    Why does Philip K. Dick take the time to comment on science fiction literature in the novel?

    Dick uses the character of Pris Stratton to comment on the genre of science fiction literature. On Mars, science fiction has become very popular because it depicts future worlds in which people are happy and thriving, a condition that is not the case on Mars. The literature acts, therefore, as escapism. Yet, it is also contraband because the government realizes that many of the themes of science fiction, such as Dick's own thoughts on reality vs. unreality and life vs. un-life, are subversive to the dominant culture of the day.

  8. 8

    What does the radioactive dust symbolize?

    The radioactive dust is a symbol for the void of empathy that has contaminated humanity. It is a reminder of World War Terminus, an event that displayed the lack of empathy between human beings in which mutual destruction was the result. The dust is a constant reminder that human beings are perhaps not as empathetic as they are believed to be by the authorities of this world.

  9. 9

    Why is the character of Phil Resch so disrupting to Rick's sense of identity?

    Phil Resch plays the part of a crucial character in the novel because he undermines Rick's assumptions about the empathetic capacity of humans. Rick realizes the he himself is like Phil, an unrepentant killer with little motivation for empathy beyond his own selfishness. Phil's cold blooded murder of androids makes realize that humans might not have as much empathy as he thought and that androids have more empathy than anyone thought.

  10. 10

    The novel uses androids and the company which manufactures them as main antagonists. What economic lessons is Dick promoting with this fact?

    Dick's novel is largely a critique of capitalist systems of economy that create atmosphere's a selfishness and economic survival. On a micro scale, Rick Deckard is chiefly concerned with his own economic social status and will take the lives of androids in order to achieve economic gains. On a macro level, the Rosen Association also desires its own economic gain through the manufacturing of androids and seeks to accomplish this even if it means their androids injure or kill bounty hunters.