Analysis Of Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep By Philip Dick

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Dick observes that throughout his career he has been preoccupied with the question, “What constitutes the authentic human being?” How is this question explored in the text?

In Philip Dick’s 1968 novel ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’, a significant idea is the constitution of pure humanity. This pervades throughout the story, and indeed Philip Dick’s writing career. The protagonist Rick Deckard’s actions are a notable element used to explore this question; his systematic attempts to quantify an ‘authentic human’ demonstrate how humans, and by extension androids, can be complex and variable in their actions and values. Key motifs in the story also examine this topic, establishing that it is a prevalent theme that is not limited to one
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Initially, Deckard takes an analytical approach, and has a heavy reliance on the Voigt-Kampff test. This indicates that he believes that there is a measureable difference between androids and humans. However, Dick presents an alternative to this way of thinking by initially presenting androids as humans. The idea that humans and androids can be differentiated purely through tests and due process could be considered a mockery of real-life tests that classify and brand humans such as the Rorschach test (butterfly test). This parallel between ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ and the real world is strengthened by the second test that is introduced; the ‘Boneli Reflex-Arc Test’. The overtly scientific nature of this test, which takes ‘place in the upper ganglia of the spinal column’, indicates the lengths to which humans will go to assert their own humanity. The quantitative, measured method Rick Deckard employs is juxtaposed by the intuition also used to identify androids. The third-person limited narrator employed by Dick cannot reveal if characters are indeed androids or not, which means a judgement must be passed to decide if a character is human or an android. This is the opposite of the how Rick uses the Voigt-Kampff test, as it relies on intuition and logic rather than quantitative data. This is especially apparent in the character Buster Friendly, who is an icon for many of the novel’s characters. This is shown through the adoration of both Isidore and Iran, who ‘depended on the TV’ for their day-to-day needs and the human, happy connotations that ‘friendly’ evokes. After Buster Friendly is revealed to be ‘one of us’ (an android), he fades completely from the storyline, and Dick leave the question of how he should therefore be viewed unanswered. This again
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