The Man in the High Castle Essay - Critical Essays

Philip K. Dick


The Man in the High Castle is among the most highly regarded of Dick’s works. It strays from the standard formula of the dystopia, one that culminates in the overthrow of a corrupt social order, to a more complex narrative form in which the dystopia is both less corrupt and more powerfully entrenched. Because the dystopia is not overthrown, there is no single central action that unites all the novel’s characters; the narrative structure is therefore more complex. The absence of an organized resistance frustrates the reader’s desire for a rectification of history, a desire that fuels the conventional novel of alternative history. The reader’s desire for resistance is frustrated and transformed by the novel into an acknowl-edgment of alien values. The only character to openly defy the German authorities is not an American but a Japanese; nevertheless, when Tagomi refuses to sign Frink’s extradition papers, American readers are likely to cheer the act of defiance.

The Man in the High Castle further undermines the dystopian formula by establishing a sharp contrast between the mere rigidity of Japanese rule and the horrors of Nazism. Like the German Mars landing that serves as a recurring background motif throughout the novel, Nazi violence and oppression occur almost exclusively offstage. This is partly a result of the genocidal scale of the Nazi holocaust, which encompasses the entire African continent. In contrast to what Childan...

(The entire section is 435 words.)