Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Formal Blog 6

In Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, technology takes a central role in describing the world in which the novel is set. The different technologies that are used by the characters are often used to represent larger details about the DADoES world. These technologies provide an interesting way of telling a story about the world in which they exist, and they do so without having to explicitly explain every detail of the world.

The first piece of technology that is introduced to us in the book is the Penfield mood organ. It is a machine that can be “dialed” to produce any sort of emotion or state of mind. In the novel it is implied that the mood organ is used quite often. “On his own console he dialed for a creative and fresh attitude toward his job, although this he hardly needed; such was his habitual, innate approach without recourse to Penfield artificial brain stimulation.” (Dick 5) This machine is used to represent how the world in the novel is nearly entirely dependent on technology. People are so dependent on the technology that they use a machine to create moods and emotions for them. Rick is essentially described as addicted to machine “habitual, innate approach without recourse”. He does this everyday without thinking about it. The mood organ in the novel is a representation of how people in this world are addicted to technology.

Another important piece of technology that is used in the novel is the empathy box. This piece of technology is the central piece of the Mercerism religion in the novel. The box allows the user to connect physically and mentally with Mercer. At the same time the person is also connected to anyone else using the machine at the same time. This machine represents the mental state of the people in the novel. Since almost all people have emigrated off the planet the world is an empty place and simply feeling the presence of other people through this empathy box is considered a religious experience. The empathy box represents a world of extreme loneliness in which people interact with each other primarily through this machine.

The next important piece of technology that is shown in the novel is the electric animals. These electric pets play an important role in the novel. People unable to afford real animals often buy electric ones in order to give the appearance that they can afford a real one. They act as both a status symbol and companion. These animals help reinforce the idea of a planet that has little life on it. They also represent the altered value system that people in this world have. The people value animals and life in general much more highly than we do in our world. This elevated regard for life shows how people were affected by the war, and in a way shows how much they have lost in the war also.

Each of these technologies provides clues to the nature of the world. Each one represents an idea that is important to the story. By using the technologies as a way of telling a story without explicitly stating it, Philip K. Dick is able to make a strong impression on the reader. Personally I felt the emptiness of the world more because of this method. I believe that simply stating that the world is empty would not have had as strong of an affect. By using this type of story telling Dick is able to create a deeper more believable world to set his novel in.

1 comment:

Adam Johns said...

This is a nice, but somewhat scattered discussion of several distinct technologies in the novel. I think you have a good handle on all of them, but at least part of me thinks that you could have done more (and addressed part b of the assignment, which you didn't do) by focusing on just one of the three.

For instance, is there anything in our world with the Penfield Mood Organ correlates to? Many of us use drugs (illegal and legal) and therapy to regulate our feelings, for instance. You even start to move in that direction by acknowledging that this is a world in which people are addicted to technology...

I like what I see, but more focus would have made it even better.