Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Blade Runner)



I'd like to begin with a close look at Chapter One to define the situation of the novel (time period, setting, conflicts) and to identify a few of the principal thematic concerns established through specific language and characterizations.


If all goes well, these opening concerns might lead to directed discussion of some of the following issues, which are typically considered to be central to both Do Androids Dream and Dick's work in general.  These issues are listed in no particular order and may be taken up as our interests direct us. 



  1. Ursula K. Le Guin argues that science fictions are always about the here and the now.  That is, she believes that science fiction writers are not in the business of prediction, but are in the business of displacing concerns relevant to our current experience into a science fictional context in order to hold them up for inspection.  How does Dick employ displacement to direct our attention to issues current to 1960 America and perhaps to our experience today?  That is, what is this novel really about? 
  2. What makes us human?  In what ways does Dick direct us to fundamental definitions of humanity?  Do all of the humans pass the humanity test in this novel?  Do all of the androids fail that test?  How do characters like Isidore and the very concept of "specials" complicate definitions of humanity? 
  3.  Why does Dick include Mercer and Mercerism in the novel?  How does Mercer's identity complicate issues of value and belief?  At one point, Isidore directly compares and contrasts Buster Friendly and Mercer (66).  How does this comparison promote the conflict between the simulated and the real? 
  4.   By the novel's end. What are we to believe about the distinction between the artificial and the real?  Is there, at novel's end, anything left to embrace as the truth?