Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Summary and Analysis of Chapters 16-18


Chapter 16

In the hotel room of the St. Francis, Rick reads the poop sheet on Roy Baty. The assessment of him, written by Inspector Bryant, says that he posed as a pharmacist on Mars and that he was the one that engineered the killing of several humans and the escape from Mars. Baty has a “pretentious fiction as to the sacredness of so-called androids ‘life.’” Baty had believed that, with the help of mind altering drugs, androids might enter into an experience similar to that of Mercerism. Rick knows that Baty will be the hardest to retire. Rick realizes that Baty was an android with dreams and he wonders if they dream of owning animals as well, something like a sheep.

Rachael Rosen enters with a bottle of real, pre-war, bourbon and Rick pours glasses for both of them. He eyes her and describes her features: she has the body of an adolescent girl, but her eyes are clearly those of a grown woman - “restless” and “shrewd.” She wants to know what Rick had suggested they do if she flew down tonight. Rachael reads the poop sheet on the three androids that Rick must retire and is visibly upset when reading about Pris Stratton.

She tells him that Pris is an exact replica of herself. When Rick sees her, she knows he will be confused and will probably shy away from retiring her, perhaps causing his own death. Rachael is distraught over this because to retire Pris alerts her to the limitations of her own life. Androids are nothing more than “ants.” They will simply wear out over time. Rachael has a kind of empathy towards this android that is, in a way, her own self.

She explains to Rick what the purpose for her presence really was. She is there to observe, to detail what the Nexus-6 does that gives it away on the Voigt-Kampff test. This will allow the Rosen corporation to advance its android technology eventually reaching a point where there is no difference between androids and humans. Rachael, saying she’s drunk, tells him that she cannot go with him. Rick’s fear of Roy Baty makes him realize that he needs Rachael to accompany him or he will surely die.

Rachael begins to make sexual advances towards Rick and gives him a device that will temporarily freeze any android, giving Rick the time to kill them. She undresses and invites him into bed, again reflecting on the impermanence of android life. “Androids can’t bear children...Is that a loss?” Rick backs away from having sex with her and she tells him that she loves him and that she will kill Pris Stratton herself. This brings a relief to Rick and he goes to bed with her, realizing that he is becoming more and more like Phil Resch.

Chapter 17

Rick orders coffee from room service, a “great luxury.” Rachael is in the shower and calls out that “You made a good deal when you made that deal,” alluding to the deal she made to kill Pris Stratton if he would sleep with her. Androids do not have control over their sensuality, she explains, which is why she would make such a deal. Rachael asks if Rick would ever sleep with an android again and he tells her he would if it looked and acted like her. He tells her that if he could, he would marry her.

She tells him that this would be impossible, not only because such marriages are outlawed but because androids only live an average of about four years. Their cell replacement simply cannot keep up with their metabolism. Rick is sad that they could never be together, but she tells him not to be sad because “You’re not going to be abel to hunt androids any longer....” She alludes to all the bounty hunters that have slept with her in the past. Only one - Phil Resch - had been able to continue hunting androids.

Rick realizes the trap he had walked into. Rachael had been sent by the Rosen Association in order to build an empathetic relationship with him. She had done the same many times before. The plan was to build such a relationship so that the bounty hunters would feel empathy towards the andys and no longer be able to retire them. Rick feels cold, but believes that he will be able to retire Roy Baty and maybe even Irmgard Baty. He is unsure of being able to retire Pris Stratton, however.

Rick takes off in his hovercraft with Rachael and, in his anger, decides that he is going to kill her. The mechanical life drains from her as she accepts her fate, but Rick’s empathy towards her stops him from completing the act. She tells him that this was how it was with all of the bounty hunters. They had all threatened to kill her once they realized the trap that had been set for them, but in their empathy they could not do it. Rachael tells him that she has completed her mission and that she knows he will not be able to retire any more androids. He takes her back to her hover car at the St. Francis. While on their way they listen to the Buster Friendly show and Rachael is eager to hear the breaking story that is the most important announcement ever on the show.

Chapter 18

Pris orders John Isidore to bring her belongings from her old apartment upstairs to his. The Baty’s are especially eager to get Pris’s television set so that they can watch Buster Friendly’s big announcement. John goes down to retrieve the possessions and has an overwhelming feeling of happiness. He has the thought that the Baty’s might be taking advantage of him, but he doesn’t care. “You have to be with other people...In order to live at all.”

On his way up to his apartment with Pris’s belongings, John sees a spider walking across the staircase. He excitedly drops all of the things he’s carrying and scoops the spider up and puts it in a pill bottle that he keeps on him for just such occasions. He returns to the apartment and excitedly shows the Baty’s his find.

Roy Baty sets up the TV and expectantly waits for Buster’s big story. Pris and Irmgard are more fascinated by the spider and they look at it, wondering why it has eight legs. Irmgard believes that it could function just as well with four legs and Pris takes it into the kitchen where she begins cutting off its legs with a small pair of scissors.

On the TV, Buster begins his big announcement. He tells all his viewers that extensive research has found that Mercerism is, in fact, a sham. The entire Mercer experience was created on a Hollywood soundstage and Wilbur Mercer was, in fact, an old actor named Al Jarry who is now a drunk. Mercerism, Buster tells his viewers, is just a “swindle” perpetrated on humanity. Roy Baty seems satisfied that this news will end the cult of Mercerism forever. The three tell John that Buster Friendly is, in fact, an android himself.

John Isidore is physically and emotionally upset both by the news of Mercerism and by the horrible torture that Pris conducts on the spider. The androids notice that he is upset, but think that he will just get over it. They tease him by telling him that this could be the last spider on earth. Even more upset, John scoops up the mutilated spider and drowns it in the sink. “Mercerism isn’t finished,” he tells the androids.

He walks into his living room to his empathy box and begins to have an intense vision. Everything around him is in decay. Animals are dying and are killing each other and he watches as their bones turn to dust. The entire landscape of the earth appears to be dying. Suddenly a spider crawls across his foot and he knows that things are coming alive again. He watches as the dead plants of the landscape start to bloom with new life, overcoming the decaying world around them.

Mercer appears before Isidore and tells him that he is, in fact, a fraud but that that shouldn’t stop him from believing. “I lifted you from the tomb world just now and I will continue to lift you until you lose interest and want to quit.” Mercer opens his hand and gives Isidore a restored spider. Suddenly, an alarm bell rings and Baty cries out that there is a bounty hunter in their building.


Another similarity between Roy Baty and Rick Deckard is seen which supports the theme of Roy being Rick’s literary double. Rick reads that Roy was a pharmacist while on Mars and that the attempted to give out drugs in order to create human sensations for androids, such as fusion with Mercer. Rick cannot help but see some of himself in Roy Baty as he himself played pharmacist for his wife, Iran, in the opening chapter of the book by attempting to get her to take drugs that would alter her mood. Rick was actually trying to Iran to take drugs that would take away human emotions such as depression and sadness. Again, Dick is asking the reader to discern who is the more human amongst the two.

The critical point of question in regards to what makes an android an android, and a human a human, is raised in Chapter 16 when Rick wonders if androids dream, and if so, what do they dream of? Dreaming, along with empathy, is a quintessential human activity. The dreams that Dick is writing about here are not just the temporary dreams of sleep. He is, instead, talking about the big dreams that humans have for their lives, or for the lives of others. Rick had a dream of owning a real animal, both for his own self satisfaction but also because he learned that he needed another real life to care for. If androids could have the same dreams - dreams that would help them to experience the human condition much like Mercerism, then there is not anything other than their physical reality that makes them an android. This makes Rick’s job very hard for him.

The idea of literary double is again explored in the characters of Rachael Rosen and Pris Stratton. The reader learns that both Rachael and Pris look the same. They were built by the same company and are the same model. The two characters are meant to represent dueling sides of android life. On the one hand, Pris Stratton is doing everything she can to save her own life, while Rachael is willfully participating in Rick’s scheme to retire all of the Nexus-6 androids. Rachael admits that she is only there to observe the process, to see where the Nexus-6 is weakest and how they can be strengthened in future iterations.

The real antagonist of the novel is revealed here. While the tensions between humans and androids had been the driving conflict of the novel, the reader sees in these chapters that the real villain of the story is not any one person, but is instead the entity known as the Rosen Association. Two events in these chapters make that clear.

First, Rachael’s double cross of Rick shows that just as androids and humans do anything to preserve their own life, so do large corporate entities. Rachael reveals that she had been in control of her relationship with Rick the entire time. She had engineered their sleeping together in order to make Rick fall in love with her and become so empathetic towards androids that he could no longer be a bounty hunter. This was not an isolated incident but was, instead, something she had been doing to many bounty hunters for quite some time. The Association had created her and trained her in order to “retire” bounty hunters. She notes that only one bounty hunter, Phil Resch, had not been affected by her.

The second event that demonstrates the evolutionary instinct for corporate survival is found in Buster Friendly’s big announcement. The reader learns from the Baty’s that Buster Friendly is actually an android and is probably controlled by the Rosen Association. Buster had been creating an alternate reality for humans for years, and they didn’t even know it. Buster was a tool of the Association used to chip away at the structures of control, such as Mercerism, that distinguished humans from android. The ultimate goal was to make human society so frail that android life would be able to survive unimpeded.

The climax of the novel begins to build in Chapter 18. The scene in which Isidore discovers a spider only to have it tortured by Irmgaard Baty and Pris Stratton is a pivotal moment for John Isidore. While Pris and John’s relationship had blurred the distinctions between human and non-human, the android’s lack of appreciation towards life, and indeed their open hostility towards it, makes John realize that they would act no differently towards him. He retreats into Mercerism, though he now is distraught over the knowledge that even that is a fake. John begins to sink into a state of nihilism.

Yet Mercerism proves to be more resilient than Buster Friendly or the Rosen Association thought. Mercer admits to John that he is a fake, but that that doesn’t mean Mercerism means nothing. His gift of the spider represents the spark of new life that always finds a way in even the most desolate of landscapes.