Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? – Literary Analysis

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep By Philip K. DIck: Literary Analysis Essay

Light Through Cracks

In Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick presents a dissonant futuristic world, entropic with kipple and pervading silence. Initially, a stark dichotomy between humans and androids clash, but as Dick delves deeper into the nuances of the dystopia, the demarcations between the real and the synthetic begin to blur and illuminate. Through Isidore and his isolated experiences of mostly the synthetic, Dick employs an incompletely transitioned darkness to light motif to suggest that without a balanced experience of both the real and unreal, the isolation of a binary from the other can lead to an unhealthy close-mindedness and impairs a more meaningful human collective. Through Deckard and his isolated embrace of the real, Dick uses the same motif to delineate the blurred complexities of the authentic and synthetic dichotomy and the need to couple these binaries in harmony rather than reject one or the other. By converging the lives of Isidore and Deckard and utilizing a transitioning incomplete to complete, darkness to light motif, Dick explores a transcending blurred model that healthily balances the authentic and synthetic, ultimately suggesting a harmonious integration of these dichotomies as a possible impetus for an enlightened trans-humanist collective.


Book Cover of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? – This novel inspired the famous science fiction movie Blade Runner.

Do Androids Dream of ELectric SHeep Analysis: The Meaning of Mercism – How Mercer plays a symbolic role


Dick uses a motif that incompletely transitions from darkness to light to portray Isidore’s heavy interactions with synthetic Mercer fusions as an unhealthy isolation from a true balanced experience of the real and unreal. Alone in his abandoned apartment, Isidore relies on his empathy box, fusing with “the [others’] mentalities…on the hill, the climb” (Dick 22).  His “hill climb” from the bottom to the top is emblematic of an ascension from darkness to light. While Isidore’s solitude symbolizes the darkness, his simulated “fusion” of collectivity acts as a temporary light, a surrogate for human communication, that allows him to “[break] the illusion of aloneness” (25). Yet, Isidore soon gets hit by a rock and is forced “to end, as always” (25). Through the quick “end” of Isidore’s climb, Dick portrays an incompleteness of his darkness to light ascension to suggest that despite Isidore’s constant synthetic experiences with the empathy box, his climb to collectivity is incomplete without the coupled experiences of the real, “end[ed] as always” by the need to return to reality. Through Isidore’s additional speculation to “live in town,” Dick hints on the idea of striking a healthy balance between synthetic experiences and human communication, the “town,” to reach a more complete collectivity (25).

As Galvan highlights, the empathy box “only temporarily [alleviates] the anguish of social dislocation” but “makes him dependent on the life of the machine” (Galvan 2). Although Isidore desires to experience real collectivity and does interact with fellow humans Mr. Sloat and Milt, he is so attached to the empathy box, the synthetic “life of the machine,” that he ironically becomes more separated from the human and the real. Dick consequently reveals that Isidore’s unbalanced isolation from the authentic limits him to the Mercer box and an unhealthy narrow-minded perspective of the world. Thus, it is through experiencing a balanced interaction between the real and synthetic that later catapults Isidore into a healthier unison with the human collective.

[Read Part 2: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep Literary Analysis, Character Analysis, Symbolic Conclusion –>]

Works Cited

Dick, Philip K. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? New York: Random House Group, 1968. Print.

Galvan, Jill. Entering the Posthuman Collective in Philip K. Dick’s “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” Science Fiction Studies, Vol. 24, No. 3 (Nov., 1997), pp. 413-429. Print.

Vint, Sherryl. Speciesism and Species Being in “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” Mosaic (Winnipeg), Vol. 40, No.1 (Mar., 2007). Print.

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18 replies »

  1. I didn’t enjoy this novel very much, unfortunately, although I still rate the Man in the High Castle as his best work. Sci-fi isn’t always my thing, although I think the Blade Runner adaptation is far superior. Still, he had one hell of a mind, did Mr. Philip K. Dick. No denying he was a creative genius.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the comment, Mr. Wapojif! I haven’t read the Man in the High Castle yet – makes me curious to start it soon. Have you seen the film Scanner Darkly based off Dick’s book?The film’s really narcotically exotic! No spoilers intended. 😉


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