Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick: Literary Analysis Essay of Silence, Entropy, Loneliness, and Connection

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick: Silence, Entropy, Loneliness, and Connection

People, as social creatures, rely on human contact for survival.  However, without this contact, the resulting silence causes people to tend toward disconnect and entropy.  Philip K. Dick’s novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, uses the symbols of silence and “kipple” to represent loneliness and entropy to show how the ultimate exhaustion of things and people is the eventual fate of the universe, but that this fate is natural and should be accepted. When the main characters, Rick Deckard and J.R. Isidore, are first introduced, silence plays a large role in their experiences, showing different people’s reactions to everyday loneliness before the events of the story truly begin. 

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Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick: Analysis of Television and Loneliness Symbolism

Rick’s wife, Iran, describes her experience turning off the TV: “‘And so for a minute I shut off the sound.  And I heard the building, this building; I heard the-‘  She gestured.  /  ‘Empty apartments,’ Rick said.  Sometimes he heard them at night when he was supposed to be asleep” (5).  In this mainstream, “normal” family, the silence of the world affects them more than they’d like to admit, shown by their aversion to mentioning the word, instead referring to the “empty apartments” and gesturing.  They speak of the silence as if it’s something physical that can be heard and felt, showing how greatly it affects their lives.  As Jill Galvan says, “Television . . . offers the individual a . . . “fix,” in that its screen simulations salve-but only temporarily-the anguish of social dislocation.”  Rick’s and Iran’s TV is used to combat the silence that makes them aware of their loneliness, but it cannot be used to truly defeat the ever-increasing silence.  When Isidore has a similar experience in turning off the TV, he describes that “it [silence] managed in fact to emerge from every object within his range of vision, as if it-the silence-meant to supplant all things tangible” (20), showing again the depiction of the silence as a physical entity, but instead of denial, acknowledgement of the silence’s power.  Since Isidore is a “special,” a person so damaged from the radiation that he is not permitted to emigrate to a colony world, he is more frank and accepting of the conditions around him, allowing him to explicitly explain how the silence makes him feel: lonely, disconnected, and hopeless for the future. 

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Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick: Analysis of Kipple and Silence

Furthermore, he connects a visual aspect to the silence: the “kipple” that Isidore explains as “useless objects, like junk mail or match folders after you use the last match or gum wrappers” (65), that are always multiplying if left unchecked, seem to radiate silence, showing the connection between the “world-silence,” representing loneliness, and entropy, the eventual and unavoidable destruction of everything. Silence is not the only symbol used to represent loneliness and entropy; kipple is also used, often in the same context as silence, to represent the same concept.  After Rick has completed his goal of killing all six androids in one day, he “[sits] there in the silence of the apartment, among the non-stirring objects,” showing the exhaustion of his usefulness as a bounty hunter after this nearly impossible job (224).  As Rick sits among the kipple in silence, he and the now-dead androids have become a part of the entropic gathering of useless objects, since he and they, like the kipple, is used up. 

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Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick: Analysis of Entropy and Kipple Symbolism 

Since Rick has become, through his destruction of other beings and his exhaustion of himself, the silence and the kipple, this shows how silence and kipple are the physical manifestations of entropy.  As Christopher A. Sims states, “The novel suggests . . . that by destroying all that humans have made, entropy will have conquered the human attempt to organize reality into a recognizable human realm”; Rick’s destruction of the androids and of himself cause himself to become an entropic being, represented by silence and kipple.  Furthermore, Isidore, when leaving the androids living with him, Roy and Irmgard Baty and Pris Stratton, briefly to retrieve a TV, he thinks that “the silence, all at once, penetrated; he felt his arms grow vague.  In the absence of the Batys and Pris he found himself fading out, becoming strangely like the inert television set which he had just unplugged.  You have to be with other people, he thought.  In order to live at all” (204).  Since eventually the Batys and Pris are killed and Isidore is heartbroken, Isidore ceases to live, also becoming kipple in the silence.  However, Isidore also accepts his fate, saying that “the entire universe is moving toward a final state of total, absolute kipple-ization” (66). Previously, after Rick has successfully killed three androids of the escaped group of six, he thinks, exhausted, that “they, the outstanding members of the illegal group, were also doomed, since if he failed to get them, someone else would. 

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The ambiguous boundaries between androids and humans in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Art Credit: voodooheartscircus.deviantart.com

Time and tide, he thought.  The cycle of life.  Ending in this, the last twilight.  Before the silence of death.  He perceived in this a micro-universe, complete” (185).  Rick’s realization of his expendability and his contribution to the “silence of death” omnipresent in their postapocalyptic world shows how entropy is the final result of the universe, as he and everything contribute to the growing silence.  However, he also realizes that this end to the universe is “complete” and natural, and that though the silence and kipple will eventually take over, he accepts it, showing not only the author’s support of the entropic theory of the universe regarding things and people on Earth, but also his belief that entropy is the natural and acceptable course of the universe. In the novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick uses the symbols of kipple and silence together to show his belief in the theory of entropy as well as his support for this theory’s acceptability.  The often-referenced silence, nearly a character in the novel, and the omnipresent kipple are eventually the same as the characters in the novel, but since they accept the fate of the universe as one of “kipple-ization” and of the natural order, the author’s true support for the acceptance of the theory of entropy is shown.

Works Cited

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

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[Read Part 1: Analysis of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, including themes, Deckard, and Isidore Character Analysis–>]

[Read Part 2: Analysis of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, including themes, symbolism of Luba and the androids, and their relationship to Deckard –> ]

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