Themes and Characters
One of the goals of Dick's fiction is to show that the idea of technology as passive helpmate, slave, or fantastic mistress is unrealistic. Similarly, the opposite notion— that humanity can somehow return to a pastoral way of life and live in an agriculturally based paradise—is naive. These two beliefs, according to Dick, actually endanger the evolution of humankind: so long as humans are uneasy about their own tools, or regard them as in some way mysterious, those tools will be seen as having some innate power over mankind. In other words, regardless of technology's fallibility, if humans regard themselves as less smart or less able than their tools, then they will be at the mercy of their tools. Technology will advance, regardless of what the majority of humanity feels about that technology. Any struggle to remain the ruler or owner of new technology will surely fail. Dick believes the only solution to human uneasiness with technology is a wholesale acceptance of it.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?? expresses Dick's ideas about technology in ways very similar to the story of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. That creature, animated from lifeless flesh, embodied its creator's scientific success, but the doctor was so horrified by his creature's grotesque appearance that he ended up destroying it. In Dick's version, the trouble with scientifically created androids is that they resemble their masters too closely. Yet that is what the...
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Bill Barbour is the neighbor in the Deckards' apartment building who is wealthy enough to own a real live horse. Deckard and Barbour's interaction is mainly one of competition and provides an interesting commentary on interpersonal relations in their society. When Barbour reveals his horse is pregnant, Deckard asks if he can buy the colt from him. After Barbour refuses, Deckard's desperation leads him to reveal that his sheep is a fake. Barbour can afford to feel sorry for Deckard—"you poor guy," he sympathizes—because he has a live animal, after all. His empathy does not extend to helping Deckard with his problem, however. Only after Deckard brings home a live goat does Barbour consider dealing his future colt to his neighbor.
Wife of Roy, Irmgard is a "small woman, lovely in the manner of [1940s film star] Greta Garbo, with blue eyes and yellow-blonde hair." Of all the fugitive androids, she seems nearest to understanding human attributes—if only from a cold, objective standpoint. She appreciates Isidore's peaches as Pris cannot, and she is able to recognize how Isidore has emotionally accepted them. But while she seems to be sympathetic to Isidore, she cannot comprehend what the spider means to him, and she is the one who suggests they cut off its legs to see what will happen.
Leader of the renegade android troop, Roy is the android...
(The entire section is 3493 words.)