Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Androids as Metaphors




Androids as Metaphors
Brianna R. Pinckney


Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is set in a post apocalyptic future, where Earth and its populations have been damaged by a nuclear war during World War Terminus. Due to the radiation most species were extinct while most of mankind was left to begin life on another planet. Along with the dying species something else is at risk of extinction; the empathy of humans. American author Philip K. Dick published DADES in the late 1960’s, a pivotal moment in the United States during a cultural revolution.
One of the main critiques of capitalism during this period was the belief that America’s own capitalistic hunger only fueled the machines of war that sprung up all over the world during this time, specifically in Vietnam. Through this novel, Dick claims that those propagated violence on others have just as much responsibility for the economic and social conditions of the world as do those that they fight. This theory correlates to the heavy use and talk about empathy.
A corporation such as the Rosen Association, will do anything for their own survival, including cheating, even to encourage the injury or death of the bounty hunters that seek to destroy their androids. This is Dick's critique of an economic system that abandons all value for human life except for the value that creates the most economic gain.
Androids, represent the literary theme of duplication. A character in the novel is presented with a person or thing that looks and acts exactly like him or her, except that this double character is an imperfect reflection, showing a flaw or trait that was otherwise unknown. Androids play this role by looking and acting exactly as humans do, yet they also represent humanity’s dying trait – the opportunity to empathize.  Empathy is a unique quality that allows one to understand and share the feelings of others and according to DADES the only subject to possess enough intellect is the human race.
Empathy is the main theme of the novel and is the root on which Dick's metaphysical reflection on the meaning of life hangs. Each character in the novel must deal with what it means to be empathetic and whether that allows someone to be valued as a living thing. By persecuting and killing androids, humans are really trying to destroy a flaw within themselves. In this way, androids represent a half of the human condition. It’s as if the androids are a foreshadowing of what the humans could become if they lose their empathetic response.
These natural emotions are the basis of humanity and the reader gets a glimpse at its control during Isidore’s dilemma with the dying cat. After failing to realize that cat was real, Isidore faced not only his own horror at having let an animal die but now he is also required to alert the animal’s owner. It’s assumed that the cat’s owner would be more horrified at the cat’s lost life however the owner decides to have replacement android can built so their spouse won’t be too disturbed. Here, Dick is calling into question the value of life and how easily humanity substitutes loss with some kind of replacement.
This empathetic flaw appears again while Rick is on the Rosen Association’s roof and sees their assortment of animals. Unaware that the animals are all androids, Rick’s jealously of the animal collections develops not from any desire to care for the animals, but from a place of personal greed. Rick wants the animals for himself, to simply upgrade his status, he is uninterested in the animals sake. It’s ironic how Rick hates his electric sheep because it is unable to relate empathy while Rick himself struggles to display the same trait. This feeling allows Rick to perform his work as a bounty hunter because he believes that androids similar to his sheep are incapable of human emotion and are not worthy of life in a society where life is the highest ideal.
The audience is also introduced to Buster Friendly, a talk show host that is on radio and television for almost every hour out of the day. Buster represents the power and influence of mass media. Buster’s entertainment segments create a reality that one is able to escape. Buster’s presence is used as a religious replacement. His shows provide guidance for those searching for something. Buster Friendly plays a significant role since many humans lost everything due to the war.

2 comments:

Sarah Ayre said...

I think your paragraph about the Rosen corporation and the paragraph two below it - the empathy one - could be switched and it would make your paper stronger.
I think you raise good points in your essay but don't actually finish them out. The last paragraph doesn't feel like you've really wrapped up your argument - it rather feels that you have introduced a new point. By laying out sooner in your paper the different characters you are going to talk about I believe would allow your paper to flow more easily as the reader then wouldn't be as surprised by the introduction of new characters. Also, try to incorporate more quotes. They will help strengthen your argument and make it more relatable to the audience. Showing specific examples of what you are talking about helps the reader to really follow what you are saying and see textual evidence.
Make sure that you do have a conclusion of some degree, otherwise your whole paper feels unfinished. No matter how many good points you bring up, if you are unable to tie them all together at the end, they don't actually help you out, rather they can hinder you and make your argument confusing.
One last thing I would suggest is to reread your essay and see if there are some paragraphs you can combine or rearrange because right now there are a lot of little paragraphs, which comes across to the reader as choppy. Usually you only have to create a new paragraph if you have a new idea, and combining a couple paragraphs might increase the flow of your essay.
Overall, good job, If you decide to rewrite this essay I think you have a good foundation while definitely still having somewhere to go to improve it.

Adam said...

I like how compact and clear your introductory paragraphs are, although I'd like to see you do more, even this early, with details from the novel.

The paragraph about duplication is a bit of a mess. It seems like a citation might be appropriate here; it's also a little hard to follow. This is more of a collective than individual duplication (although androids can be duplicates of one another). Be careful what individual characters think vs. what the novel means or Philip K. Dick thinks. "Empathy is a unique quality that allows one to understand and share the feelings of others and according to DADES the only subject to possess enough intellect is the human race." - this is what Deckard thinks, of course. But is he correct? You need to do some critical thinking on that subject, using details of the text.

Nonetheless, the *fear* of losing empathy is important here, and your discussion of it is effective, at least at a general level. You even correctly note Deckard's own lack of empathy - without connecting that back to his belief that the *androids* lack empathy.

You end abruptly and sloppily with Buster Friendly, opening a new topic instead of finishing the question "what are the androids a metaphor for?" I think your apparent answer that they are about the *fear* of losing empathy is a good one in theory, but it could use much more detail & support from the book - which is what a revision would need to provide, along with asking whether Deckard's beliefs about the androids are true.

Some of what Sarah and I have to saw are really the same thing from different angles. I would pay particular attention, though, to her suggestions about choppiness and rearranging, which seem like good ideas.