Study Guide

The Man in the High Castle Tough-o-Meter

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(6) Tree Line

Philip K. Dick wrote very fast because he needed to make money to eat. (It's one of the best things about money: that we can trade it for food.) So, most of his books aren't difficult to read because he's doing weird things with sentences or making up words. Check out a randomly chosen example:

She smiled at the young truck driver but he did not smile back. (3.39)

That seems pretty straightforward. So Man in the High Castle isn't hard on the sentence level (as long as we understand that "pedecabs" are bike-powered vehicles, like this one). But it gets a little more complicated because so much of the book shows us what people are thinking—and people don't always think in complete sentences:

I'm sorry, she thought. But she said nothing. I can't save you or anybody else from being dark. She thought of Frank. I wonder if he's dead yet. Said the wrong thing; spoke out of line. No, she thought. […] Did he fall dead without me? A fink is a finch, a form of bird. And they say birds die. (3.40)

So, yeah, that's a little harder. This is all from Juliana's POV, but notice that Dick doesn't put her thoughts in quotation marks or italicize them. So you've got to pay attention to tell the difference between what the narrator says (like "She said nothing") and what Juliana thinks ("I can't save you…"). Also, check out that final stream of consciousness about birds (which only makes sense if you remember that Frank's original last name is "Fink" not "Frink").

There's another big reason this book is hard (besides the whole "getting into people's heads" thing), which is that the book follows several different characters and their plots. If this book were all about Juliana and her thoughts, it would be probably a 3 or 4 in difficulty. But it gains an extra few points of difficulty because you've got to follow Juliana and Childan and Frank and Tagomi and Baynes—and see how they all relate to each other. It's the kind of thing that makes you want to go out and start making charts and graphs to keep track of all these characters. Don't worry, though, Shmoopers. Who needs charts when you have us?

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