Study Guide

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Versions of Reality

By Philip K. Dick

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Versions of Reality

We did the math, and Philip K. Dick's worlds contain, on average, 3.74 versions of reality. (Okay, we totally did not do actual math.) For Dick, realities aren't like in the Matrix or Narnia, where the boundary between the real world and the other world is definitive. Instead, Dick's realities bleed together so much that the characters can't tell where one reality begins and the other ends—or if they were even separate realities to begin with. In Do Androids Dream?, Mercerism makes us ask some hard question about what's real. When the novel begins, Mercer's reality is distinct from the character's world and only the empathy boxes connect them together. As the novel progresses, Mercer finds his way into Rick's world and Rick into his until the readers no long know who is who or what reality they are in or, if one is the other, then where is the one who isn't the other…ow, brain pain.

Questions About Versions of Reality

  1. Did Mercer really provide Rick and Isidore their revelations or was it all in their minds? Does it matter?
  2. Do you think the empathy box brings its participant into another reality or does it just stimulate his or her mind into believing the connection to others? Why do you think this, and why is it important to your reading?

Chew on This

Rick's journey into the Oregon wasteland took him into the same reality as the empathy box; he just managed to enter without the contraption.

By the end of the novel, Rick comes to see Isidore's reality: that the electrical animals have their lives too.

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