An Excerpt from “Real? : An Analysis of Phillip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” — By Ryan Davis

After a series of life-changing events cause him to reevaluate his basic worldview, Rick Deckard comes towards a very interesting conclusion by the end of the book (Dick 606). Finding a frog, he briefly gets excited that he could have a living pet as he always wanted, but he soon learns that it is mechanical. However, rather than be crushed by this discovery, he embraces it. He decides that he wants to care for the mechanical creature anyway, and in doing so completely breaks out of the capitalist cycle that had been dominating his world. He knows that there is practically no difference between the mechanical frog and a real frog, and ultimately decides that he’s okay using the mechanical one instead. Through this decision, Rick Deckard makes it impossible for his decisions to be manipulated by anything in the story, because he’s decided that he doesn’t need something to be practical, universally popular, or even real for him to be confident in believing in it. This runs rather counter to the standard Marxist idea that love of objects is what will allow for the classes of the economy to be manipulated. Typically, it is understood that Marxist studies “…[follow] Marx in defining commodity fetishism as a force that instills life into inanimate objects by endowing them with the vitality of human relations; the paranoia that this process generates becomes a necessary condition of postmodernity,” (Enns 68). However, with this new development, Deckard is able to fetishize whatever commodity he wants without being tied down to following the leader. Enns later argues that “…paranoid schizophrenics and androids become interchangeable in Dick’s works because they are both figures of hybridity that “are associated with unstable boundaries between self and world,” (Enns 68). By this, he continues the theme of reality as being an unimportant detail in life. There’s no reason for Deckard to keep buying into whatever the corporations want him to.

This is also explored in the character of Mercer. A popular religion, Mercerism asks people across the world to fuse with this suffering man in order to connect humans on a level we all understand: overcoming great obstacles, even in death. One of the twists of the novel involves Rick Deckard discovering that Mercerism is a completely staged and fake set up, and is completely a government creation. In theory, this would render the whole religion pointless, and make any and all time invested in the system a complete waste. Mercer convinces Deckard, however, not to see it that way. Mercer argues that if you agree with the ideas behind the religion anyway, then there’s no reason you shouldn’t keep on believing in it. It doesn’t matter if it’s real or not, that isn’t the point. The point is that the message, or that idea, or that animal that a person wants to own so bad. If the real thing and the fake thing are truly indistinguishable, than there is no reason to select one over the other beyond simple convenience. Mercerism allows humans to all share an experience of the most intense emotions on the spectrum, as Mercer climbs up that hill towards his death. There is shown to be real merit in people having this kind of strong connection to each other. If this is the case, then Dick seems to be arguing that people should just take part in it all anyway, especially if it makes the world a better place (Dick 580).

According to Jill Galvan, “Do Androids Dream tells the story of one individual’s gradual acceptance of these changing parameters,” (Galvan 414). There could be no greater explanation of

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the point of this story. It forces Rick Deckard’s mind to open up to new possibilities. It changes his perspective. It makes him understand that he doesn’t have to be a simple sheep following the masses, under the rule of his corporate masters. He can break off and do his own crazy thing, and in many ways, that’s the best thing for him to do. His new perspective comes with liberation and freedom. A great deal of responsibility comes with it, of course, as the danger of completely detaching from society and becoming a non-factor is entirely possible. But this world is so depressed; it’s like this might even be what Rick Deckard wants. To just exist somewhere else, not having to stay all caught up in the crazy trends of his human brothers and sisters, but rather

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to control his own choices based on what personally works best with him seems to be the goal he wants the most out of life by the end. This novel has many, many layers of fictional re-invention going on, but it all comes to a single point at the very end. Ultimately, there’s just something fantastic about the difference between the real and unreal, and we just can’t understand it. We just need to accept it.

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