Narrative and Technology
Deckard's Loss of Humanity in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep
In Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Rick Deckard is actively destroying his own humanity piece by piece, while Rachael and Isadore both are a stable middle ground, despite their definitions as non-human.
Rachael's humanity is established in the beginning of the novel, despite being immediately refuted. She almost passes the Voigt-Kampff test, but fails with Deckard's final question. Although she is established as an android, she expresses many more human characteristics throughout the novel to balance out Deckard. She immediately has regret in her discovery of what she truly is, a much more human response than the uninhibited confidence Deckard has in his sense of purpose. Through their various encounters, she attempts to prohibit Deckard from his own ultimate destruction, but is unsuccessful. No matter what she tells him, he continues on his assigned mission, and effectively destroys the various aspects of what it is to be human.
Isadore, on the other hand, does not directly interact with Deckard until the end of his mission, but serves as an antithesis to him throughout. He cannot determine the differences between what is human or what is an android, as is shown in his attempt to save a cat that he believes to be an android but is actually a living creature. Later, he goes on to give shelter to a group of androids who he perceives to have true emotions and purpose, and through his actions he shows true compassion. He is the antithesis to Deckard; he does not see a black and white difference between something artificial and something organic. Instead of having these clear definitions, he sees what is beyond the exterior and what is truly the essence of a living creature.
Deckard's destruction of his own humanity is broken into three steps, embodied by the androids which he actively hunts down and "retires". The first sign of his dehumanization is his willingness to obey the commands that are given him, regardless of any doubts he has about their morality. Much like an android, he is given commands, and obeys them. Throughout the novel, doubts do arise for him, but he pushes them to the side to complete his mission.
His first target is Polokov, which is basic human interaction. His existence is described through his job as another agent working for the Soviets, and Deckard's association with him is their mutual job of hunting down renegade androids. They have very basic conversations before Deckard realizes the truth about Polokov, which is when he kills off this part of himself through retiring Polokov. Deckard loses his trust for those around him, and so the most base form of his interactions with others is also destroyed; without trust he loses his ability to experience normal interaction with those around him.
After he disposes of this part of himself, Deckard moves on to Luba Luft, who is an opera singer, the empbodiment of art. He first sees her from her performance, and realizes that she truly is something beautiful within the world, and questions the need to retire her. Though she is an android, she is a creative force and an expression of inner self. In destroying her, Deckard is also destroying his own creativity, and moves further away from his humanity. He is faced with the decision as to whether it is better to follow the orders assigned to him or destroy something that is beautiful in the world, and his decision to follow orders that are black and white forces his mind further into a world that is inhuman and devoid of creativity.
Deckard's final target is Roy Baty, a leader of an idea that is greater than himself. Baty is the embodiment of the belief in a cause that is not just functionality. He has given those around him a sense of purpose that they can determine for themselves, rather than purpose that is a directive that must be followed. Deckard kills Baty in total darkness, furthering his descent into a completely black and white world; there are no shades of grey for Baty's destruction, just a directive that must be followed. This is the final destruction of Deckard's humanity, as he destroys the possibility for the belief in a cause, he simply does as instructed.
As Deckard completes his dehumanization, he has become that which he initially was sent out to destroy; he is no longer a thinking, feeling being, but is instead something that is told a directive and follows it. He exists within a world that has no middle ground or shades of grey, and has become his own conception of God. Throughout the novel Mercer is a form of God for him, and Mercer is a pre-programed God, forced to follow the directives which have been sent to him. By becoming this, Deckard can no longer associate with the normal passions of humans. In the end, Deckard has become what he sought to destroy and can never return to the humanity he sought to save.