Study Guide

Neuromancer Isolation

By William Gibson

Isolation

Case fell into the prison of his own flesh. (1.29)

For Case, his own body feels like a prison. After being injected with the mycotoxin, he can't enter cyberspace, which is the only place he feels free as a bird. And this bird you cannot change (or can you…?).

Case watched Corto work corporate defectors in Lisbon and Marrakesh, where he seemed to grow obsessed with the idea of betrayal, to loathe the scientists and technicians he bought out for his employers. (6.24)

After Corto is betrayed, he becomes suicidal and isolates himself within the criminal underworld. In a way, Corto's past and Case's present are very similar, with Wintermute pulling the strings on each like a deranged puppeteer.

"It figures. You know, [Armitage] doesn't have any life going, in private. Not as far as I can tell. You see a guy like that, you figure there's something he does when he's alone. But not Armitage. Sits and stares at the wall, man. Then something clicks and he goes into high gear and wheels for Wintermute." (7.90)

Through Armitage, Corto's isolation becomes complete. Not only has Armitage completely submerged Corto's persona, but even Armitage himself has chosen isolation from all levels of social interaction, even criminal ones. On the other hand, maybe Armitage didn't choose this level of isolation. Maybe Wintermute's control is that great.

Case tried to find the man called Corto behind the pale blue eyes and the tanned mask. He thought of Wage, back in Chiba. Operators above a certain level tended to submerge their personalities, he knew. (7.112)

Corto may be the extreme example of an isolated personality, but as Case points out, people isolate themselves from others all the time and for different reasons.

Zion had been founded by five workers who'd refused to return, who'd turned their backs on the well and started building. (8.26)

Here, isolation takes on a more positive role. The Rastafarians choose to isolate themselves from the rest of the world, so they could create their own free state. Bob Marley's "Exodus" absolutely should be their national anthem, in Shmoop's humble opinion.

The girl sat up in bed and said something in German. Her eyes were soft and unblinking. Automatic pilot. A neural cutout. [Case] backed out of the cubicle and closed the door. (11.122)

Thanks to the technology of this future, people can choose to isolate their own experiences from their memory. This example shows the dark side of future technology. On the other hand, think of all the boring chores you could forget ever having to do.

[Case'd] been numb a long time, years. All his nights down Ninsei, his nights with Linda, numb in bed and numb at the cold sweating center of every drug deal. But now he'd found this warm thing, this chip of murder. (12.7)

We see Case's numbness as a part of his self-chosen isolation. Here we see the barriers of that isolation begin to break down through anger. Interestingly enough, it wasn't getting back into cyberspace that did it, but the anger Case feels toward Wintermute for how he treated Linda Lee and Molly.

"Of course I dreamed. The cold let the outside in, that was it. The outside. All the night I built this to hide us from. Just a drop, at first, one grain of night seeping in, drawn by the cold." (15.79)

The Tessier-Ashpool family use cryogenic tubes to isolate themselves from time and the outside world, so they can extend their family's influence through the decades. This sounds great, in theory, but think of all the things you'd miss. New lolcats, the Oscar award ceremony, Superbowl commercials, you know, the important things in life.

"I like it, you know? Like I've always talked to myself, in my head, when I've been in tight spots. Pretend I got some friend, somebody I can trust, and I'll tell 'em what I really think, what I feel like, and then I'll pretend they're telling me what they think about that, and I'll just go along that way. Having you in is kinda like that." (16.23)

Through the simstim, Case and Molly can connect to each other despite being in two different places. It helps Molly feel less isolated during a difficult time. Although today we call this technology an iPhone, in 1984, it was pretty amazing to think about.

"There's others. I found one already. Series of transmissions recorded over a period of eight years, in the nineteen-seventies. 'Til there was me, natch, there was nobody to know, nobody to answer."

"From where?"

"Centauri system." (24.35-37)

The Wintermute/Neuromancer hybrid reveals that humanity is not alone in the universe. So, perhaps one day technology will help humanity end its sense of isolation in the universe. Of course, this is only fiction. We all know real aliens prefer to communicate through crop circles.