Study Guide

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Isolation

By Philip K. Dick

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Chapter 2

[Isidore] wondered, then, if the others who had remained on Earth experienced the void this way. Or was it peculiar to his peculiar biological identity, a freak generated by his inept sensory apparatus? (2.17)

Isidore is so isolated that he doesn't even know if his isolation is unusual. (We think he'd be a lot less concerned about inhabiting an entire apartment building if he'd ever had to deal with upstairs neighbors having elephant dance parties at two in the morning.)

Chapter 3

Evidently the humanoid robot constituted a solitary predator. (3.18)

Isolation might go against human nature, but it's the go-to state for androids. They're isolationist by their very nature, like some species of snakes or sharks—or Reddit users. (We kid, we kid.)

Chapter 6

"But an empathy box," he said, stammering in his excitement, "is the most personal possession you have! It's an extension of your body; it's the way you touch other humans, it's the way you stop being alone." (6.35)

The empathy boxes are like the smartphones of the future. They help people connect to one another over great distances and keep isolation at bay. Even better, the battery never runs down!

Chapter 8

No support, [Rick] informed himself. Most androids I've known have more vitality and desire to live than my wife. She has nothing to give me. (8.89)

Rick feels isolation creeping into his life as he begins to disconnect from his wife. You could argue that Rick's true antagonist is not Roy or Rachael but his own feeling of isolation from others. In other words, himself. (Hint: try thinking about your wife in terms of what she needs and what you can give her—that might be a start.)

Chapter 11

"All our vidphone lines here are trapped. They recirculate the call to other offices within the building. This is a homeostatic enterprise we're operating here, Deckard. We're a closed loop, cut off from the rest of San Francisco. We know about them but they don't know about us." (11.20)

How isolated is the future city of San Francisco? It's isolated enough for an entire android police station to operate without ever coming into contact with the real San Francisco Police Department. Honestly, you'd think they'd accidently get the other's mail or something.

Chapter 12
Rick Deckard

The creature stood on a bridge and no one else was present; the creature screamed in isolation. Cut off by—or despite—its outcry.

"He did a woodcut of this," Rick said, reading the card tacked below the painting.

"I think," Phil Resch said, "that this is how an andy must feel." (12.10-12)

The novel uses Edvard Munch's The Scream as a visual representation for isolation. And check it out—Phil Resch is actually imagining how an andy might feel. Maybe that's the function of art: to help us empathize.

Chapter 13
John Isidore

"It's not in accord with present-day Mercerian ethics," [Isidore] pointed out. "All life is one; 'no man is an island,' as Shakespeare said in olden times."

"John Donne." (13.22-23)

John Donne made history—or at least a couple of quotes on Goodreads—with his famous Meditation XVII. Interestingly, Do Androids Dream? seems to be reconsidering Donne's famous words. The novel's equivalent would likely read, "No man should be an island." Or an android.

Chapter 16
Rachael Rosen

"I wish," Rachael said, "that I had known that before I came. I never would have flown down here. I think you're asking too much. You know what I have? Toward this Pris android?"

"Empathy," [Rick] said.

"Something like that. Identification; there goes I. My god, maybe that's what'll happen." (16.27-29)

Here, Rachael has a real chance to connect with another android—which shouldn't be too hard considering they've got a lot in common—but she can only see Pris as an extension of herself. In Rachael's world there is only "I." That makes for some serious I-solation. (Sorry, couldn't help ourselves.)

Chapter 18

You have to be with other people, [Isidore] thought. In order to live at all. I mean, before they came here I could stand it, being along in the building. But now it's changed. You can't go back, he thought. You can't go from people to nonpeople. In panic he thought, I'm dependent on them. Thank god they stayed. (18.8)

Thanks, Isidore, for basically summing up the theme of isolation: it's unnatural. We need each other to survive. As Aristotle said, a person who doesn't need others is either a beast or a god, but definitely not human.

Chapter 21

Who threw the stone at me? he asked himself. No one. But why does it bother me? I've undergone it before, during fusion. While using my empathy box, like everyone else. This isn't new. But it was. Because, he thought, I did it alone. (21.20)

Even getting stoned is better when you have a friend. Rick faces the same violence and difficulties on that hill as he does in the empathy box, but now he has no one to help him along. The task of climbing that hill alone was so difficult it almost killed him. (Just try climbing Everest without a whole support team.)

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