Study Guide

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Memory & the Past

By Philip K. Dick

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Memory & the Past

Imagine: A government crushes a peaceful protest using tanks and guns against people armed with picket signs and no tanks. Then, the government uses a special device that alters people's memories, so they remember things differently. In this new reality, the protesters came ready for a rumble. Science fiction? Try fact. The government was 1989 China's, and the protesters were in Beijing's Tiananmen Square. The special device wasn't a sci-fi thingamajig but good-old fashioned propaganda using memory-distortion techniques. In Do Androids Dream?, memory is just another version of reality that can be altered or blended to create something new. As with the Tiananmen Square Massacre, the tools necessary to alter memory in Do Androids Dream? aren't complex James Bond inventions. They can be deceptively simple.

Questions About Memory & the Past

  1. We're told that only androids can have false memories implanted in them. Do you find any evidence in the novel suggesting this isn't strictly true? Why or why not? What does this tell you about the novel's use of memory as a theme?
  2. Why do you think the space colonists have an active underground market for pre-colony science fiction stories? What does it suggest to you that they long for a fictional memory of space colonization?
  3. What is the connection between animal keeping and memory in the novel? Use evidence from the text to support your answer.
  4. Why do you suppose it is important that no one can remember how the world got in the shape that it is in?

Chew on This

Wilbur Mercer's knowledge of his real life counterpart, Al Jerry, suggests he has the memories and past of both versions of himself—and that human memory can be altered, too.

Buster Friendly's exposĂ© on Wilbur Mercer proved unsuccessful with characters like Iran and Isidore because memories are not the same as facts.

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