In science fiction, violence can sometimes feel sterile or matter-of-fact. Think about all those poor stormtroopers that the heroes of the Star Wars series have gunned and/or lightsabered down. Did you ever stop to think about all those deaths before? Exactly. Do Androids Dreams? steps back and considers the acts of violence that, in many other science fiction novels, might be committed without second thought. It looks away from large-scale conflict like world wars to focus on small scale violence, such as the torturing of a spider. Can you imagine a future in which no android—or future stormtrooper—will be "retired" without a little stab on conscience again? Yeah, neither can we. But Philip K. Dick wants us to try anyway.
Questions About Violence
By the end of the novel, did you see Rick as "retiring" androids or "killing" them? What is your reason for thinking this?
Who would you say is the most violent character in the novel? What makes this character more violent than the others?
Who would you say is the least violent character in the novel? What does it tell you to compare this character with the most violent one?
Does a certain type of violence seem more horrible than the others in the novel? If yes, what is it and why do you suppose this is? If not, then why do you think the novel treats all violence equally?
Chew on This
We never see Mercer's rock throwing attackers because their violence symbolizes the violence the world does to people and that people do to themselves.
The android who most hurts Rick is Rachael, the android who doesn't try to inflict physical violence on him. Dick wants us to realize that not all kinds of violence are physical.