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Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
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2014 Reads > DADOES: Casual cruelty/lack of empathy

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message 1: by John (Taloni) (new)

John (Taloni) Taloni (johntaloni) | 3961 comments I find it interesting how Dick describes casual lack of empathy. Perhaps the first is when John meets Pris. She's described as wearing only pajama bottoms, as if for Pris being topless around a strange man isn't odd at all. Later on it's during the vote when Roy Batty casually says he would prefer to kill John and hide elsewhere, right in front of John. Dick doesn't describe these developments as shocking, he simply tells the story and lets the reader decide.


Ally (leopardqueen) I found (this being the only Dick book I've read) that his whole writing style was like this. It was infuriating to me, wanting to know the thought process that was going through the characters heads, and not getting it. Perhaps it was only in this particular book, but it was the only thing I didn't really like about it.


message 3: by Thane (new)

Thane | 476 comments I wondered about this also. For instance, Polokov. Was Polokov only pretending to be the foreign bounty hunter, or was that just a ruse that came from the fake police station? Deckard didn't seem the least bit worried that Polokov might have taken the other hunter's place by murdering him. It seems like something that you might consider!


message 4: by John (Taloni) (new)

John (Taloni) Taloni (johntaloni) | 3961 comments Finished the book, along the way the spider scene was just chilling. There we got John Isidore's viewpoint at least. Seems the "special" was the most empathetic of all.

I find it interesting that Deckard was trying to implement Resch's advice, have sex with them and then kill them, when Rachel used her sexuality to dissuade him. It didn't work on him, but it had saved androids before. Rachel had more empathy for her own people than Deckard had for her.


Rochelle | 69 comments That scene with the spider almost made me cry. So cruel! That's when you really feel the danger of these androids, and why humans feel they need to protect themselves from them.


Joyce (eternity21) | 173 comments The scene with the spider just showed why Deckard had to eliminate them. I had just started to perhaps empathize with them and then Pris went and did that to the spider.


message 7: by Ken (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ken (kanthr) | 334 comments I think you're meant to wonder what the difference is. Humans are shown to be just as capable of evil, and just as cynically detached. The lines are intentionally blurred. Are we beings of of emotion and conscience, or machines? For Dick, empathy is the deciding factor. The book is deliberately cruel. It's not meant to be a fairy tale.


Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 2365 comments Joyce wrote: "The scene with the spider just showed why Deckard had to eliminate them."

Wait, what? Torturing a spider is bad, but it's okay to murder intelligent beings? That's some kinda crazed morality right there.


AndTheRest Torturing a spider is bad. Casually destroying something new and meaningful and rare to one who has reached out in friendship as he helplessly watches is horrifically cruel.


message 10: by Warren (new)

Warren | 1556 comments David wrote: "Torturing a spider is bad. Casually destroying something new and meaningful and rare to one who has reached out in friendship as he helplessly watches is horrifically cruel."
But enough about 6th grade


Matthew (matthewdl) | 341 comments Bookshelf wrote: "But enough about 6th grade"

Ha! Sadly true. I think that's an apt descriptor for a lot of this book though: Sadly true.

I think the one consistent element across all the characters is this idea that we have the ability to draw lines in the sand delineating that which is sacred and that which is not. And then we're total dicks (no pun intended) to everything in the "Not" pile. Deckard does it to Andys. Andys do it to animals. They're all pretty terrible but we all do it too.

In fact, PKD sets up this little trap to implicate you in the horror. You're presented with a bounty hunter out to kill all these andys. Then you start to think he's in the wrong because they are so human. Then you see the andys at their cruelest and you think "what dicks, they really aren't human. I guess Deckard is right" Then you realize what a horrifying chain of thought that is given how cruel Deckard is to these beings that are practically human and the whole idea of drawing these lines becomes repugnant.

It's kind of like what Tarantino did in the theatre scene of Inglourious Basterds. You have the brutal and glorified slaughter of Nazis in a theatre in which they were watching a Nazi propaganda film glorifying the violence and slaughter perpetrated by a Nazi hero. I wish I had seen that in theatres. I wonder if people laughed.


message 12: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Knighton | 158 comments Like Ally, I found the lack of insight into the characters' thoughts and feelings a bit vexing at times. I never really got a good idea of how strange and traumatic events were affecting these people. Not having read any of Dick's other books I wasn't sure whether this was a deliberate thing, connecting into the book's concern with the difficulties of empathy, or was just the way he writes.


Walter Spence (walterspence) | 707 comments The comment about sixth-grade behavior made me wonder, in the mind of Philip K. Dick, how much of empathy did he considered to be engrained versus learned behavior? I don't recall encountering any children in the novel, but the type of cruelty Pris displays while torturing the spider isn't at all uncommon amongst children, not all of whom grow up to become sociopaths. After all, the androids have very limited lifespans of four years or so.

Yes, they are intelligent, but in terms of emotional growth it can be argued that they are the equivalents of toddlers. I can't help but wonder how different they might have been with human lifespans. Would they have been the same? Better? Worse?


Ruth (tilltab) Ashworth | 1864 comments I thought it was interesting that Roy cried out when his wife was shot. The Andys were not meant to feel anything for each other, but clearly, he did. Just when we'd accepted that maybe they really did lack any empathy (the scene with the spider), this suggested otherwise.


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