Study Guide

The Man in the High Castle Plot Analysis

By Philip K. Dick

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Plot Analysis

Exposition: Starting Positions

Imagine every one of the five main characters as if they were toy cars on a slot race-track, and the exposition is their starting positions: Frank Frink makes fake antiques but has trouble with his boss; Childan sells "authentic" antiques; Tagomi wants to buy some authentic Americana for Baynes; Baynes has some secrets; and Juliana Frink teaches judo in the Rocky Mountain States but is unhappy.

Rising Action: And They're Off

Here's where the cars start accelerating: Frank Frink and Ed McCarthy start their jewelry business by blackmailing Wyndam-Matson, but unfortunately, their jewelry doesn't sell. Childan gets spooked by Frank Frink claiming (correctly) that his "antiques" are fakes. Childan tries to become close with the Kasouras. Tagomi and Baynes wait around for Tedeki. And Juliana Frink, in a moment of very poor judgment, picks up Joe Cinnadella and agrees to go on a road trip.

Climax: Top of the Loop

Here's the part where we're not sure how these characters will end up, just like if they were cars at the top of a loop-de-loop. Note that their bad places are almost always a consequence of something they did. So Frank Frink gets arrested—because he blackmailed Wyndam-Matson. Juliana Frink gets caught up in a mental breakdown—because she went along with Joe Cinnadella. Childan gets hit with the dilemma of whether or not to exploit this authentic American art for lots of money—because he tried to seduce Betty Kasouras. And Baynes gets hunted by German agents—because he got nervous. We could be wrong, but it seems like Tagomi is the only one whose bad position (getting attacked by Germans) isn't because he did something wrong.

Falling Action: Cars Slowing Down

Here's where the cars make it through the loop: Baynes delivers the secret message, Tagomi shoots the Germans, Childan refuses to exploit the American artisan, Juliana kills Joe Cinnadella, and Frank gets released from prison (though, note: this happens after Tagomi's resolution).

Resolution: Cars Fall into Another Timeline

This is the part where our "slot car racetrack" metaphor breaks down. Also, a book usually ends by tying up the loose plot threads. Maybe it includes an epilogue that will tell us how everything turns out. That's not what this book does. There are some clear parts to the "Ending": Frank goes to make jewelry and will probably continue to do so; Baynes arrives in Germany, having survived his secret mission; Childan will start selling Edfrank jewelry seriously (and probably profitably). But what about Tagomi? He falls into our world, doesn't like it, makes a stand against Nazi Germany, and then has a heart attack. That's a very action-packed bit of story for him. And then there's Juliana, who comes to one of the biggest realizations in the book: the timeline she's living in isn't 100% real. Is that a resolution? That seems to raise more questions than it answers.

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