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Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
2014 Reads > DADOES: The toad

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D. E. (fudderduds) I just finished the book and my immediate take-away is something I find a little weird.
(view spoiler)

Joanna Chaplin | 1175 comments I had basically the same reaction.

message 3: by Ken (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ken (kanthr) | 334 comments Reality doesn't have happy endings, and Mercer won't come save you from getting hit by the rocks.

Joyce (eternity21) | 177 comments I was sad to find out that it was electric too. I was hoping that maybe the animals would be making a comeback to the world.

message 5: by John (Taloni) (new)

John (Taloni) Taloni (johntaloni) | 4073 comments Yeah, I had originally taken

(view spoiler)

Buzz Park (buzzpark) | 346 comments Yeah, the toad didn't really make logical sense to me. Maybe as another tool in the story to illustrate the futility of the lives of people left on Earth? (view spoiler).


D. E. (fudderduds) It didn't make sense to me either, Buzz. Which I think may be part of the reason I was so upset (view spoiler)

message 8: by Warren (new)

Warren | 1556 comments The scene with the toad was poignet and relevent.
It's a shame that it did’t fit into the movie.
My take away was that Decker was very emotional about the toad.
Until he heard that is wasn’t ”real”. Very much like the attitude towards replicants. Once you decide their not “real’” turning them off
is no big deal.

Sean | 353 comments I saw the toad as an extension of the whole Mercerism thing. (view spoiler)

message 10: by [deleted user] (last edited Nov 16, 2014 07:29AM) (new)

I don't understand why Deckard deserved a happy ending? Other than the fact that he made several comments about how he wanted to get rid of his wife and "she was useless" because she was depressed. Then he killed androids without testing whether they were androids and solely because their name was on a piece of paper. They could've easily been "empathy-lacking humans" that tried to escape from their home world. I actually preferred that he didn't have a happy ending and (view spoiler)

Also, I think the reason the androids want to bring down Mercerism is that it's an example of religion used as a method of exclusion. The androids aren't built with empathy so the best way to exclude them from a faith system is to base it around empathy. It is a symbol of everything they lack to get basic rights as people. I would hate it too.

Joanna Chaplin | 1175 comments I feel like Mercerism gives people the sense of connection without the substance. The warm fuzzies without the inspiration.

Rob  (quintessential_defenestration) | 1035 comments Sean wrote: "I saw the toad as an extension of the whole Mercerism thing. [spoilers removed]"

I'm with Sean on this one.

Maybe it's because I've met too many mystically-oriented religious people, who don't care about the logic/ reality/ history of things ("what if tomorrow we found definitively Jesus' corpse?" "It does not change the reality of the incarnation, of the death and resurrection of the God-man, wherever He was and is" is a conversation I've had many times). Mercer is, regardless of allegations, real in some metaphysical sense, and he is able to give people real, meaningful experiences, both of empathy and of isolation, beyond his existence in the programs of the empathy box.

I think, though, contra Sean, it's not an entirely positive ending. It's a very nuanced, balanced one. Yes, Mercerism is real. Yes, Mercer is real. Yes, Mercer is able to give practitioners some kind of real mystical empathic experience. But. The spider and the toad are electrical. Yes, they are real, and yes, as Deckard notes, they are in their own way alive. Real, valuable, but electrical, and thus limited.

I'm with Anja too, up to a point. Because while it seems like Mercerism is used to exclude androids, Deckard (view spoiler)
There's something really complicated going on, something strange and paradoxical and I suspect a bit gnostic, that I can't quite wrap my end-of-term addled brain around.

message 13: by Ken (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ken (kanthr) | 334 comments I don't think anyone "deserves" a happy ending.
They deserve the right ending.

I think Sean nailed the toad significance perfectly.

message 14: by Sean (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sean | 353 comments Rob Secundus wrote: "it's not an entirely positive ending."

I'm not entirely sure it is a positive ending, to be honest. I think it all comes down to this - would you prefer a comforting lie, or a harsh truth? There's no right answer.

message 15: by Tom (last edited Nov 19, 2014 02:32AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tom (colonelmudcrab) | 3 comments I had the same disappointed reaction about the toad at first...

Textsplosion: (view spoiler)

Matthew (matthewdl) | 341 comments Mercerism is just another way that people relinquish the agency to assign value to things themselves. In this respect it is just like the Animal Price Guide (my brain can't remember the exact name of it and I'm lazy). And it's just like the emotion box from the beginning.

If there is any differene between the Andys and humans it's that the Andys have no control over what they assign value to/empathize with whereas the humans do have control but they don't exercise it.

Many people don't seem to want the animals for anything but a social symbol (why else would Deckard want a damn Ostrich?) And they don't seem to empathize with Chickenheads anymore than they do andys.

(view spoiler)

So what's more terrifying: the andys with selective empathy and penchant for animal cruelty; the humans who are unpreturbed by the fate suffered by a group of...beings almost identical to them (whether andys or chickenheads); or the idea that someone can think of the ending as anything remotely close to "good" or "happy".

I think the toad is there to reinforce that there are no happy endings here. Only a slow decay towards kipple.

message 17: by Tom (last edited Nov 20, 2014 01:32AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tom (colonelmudcrab) | 3 comments "If there is any differene between the Andys and humans it's that the Andys have no control over what they assign value to/empathize with whereas the humans do have control but they don't exercise it."

Do the humans really have control though? Sure they have the ABILITY to empathize, but is there really a conscious effort to feel/ignore it? Deckard felt bad for the Opera android (really sorry, I'm terrible with character names), but it seems like it was only because she was a 'female' and he valued what she was contributing to human culture in art form. It didn't seem like a conscious effort on his part, nor did it stop him from going back and finishing the job on the other Androids. Maybe the humans are just as bad/worse than the Androids who were killing the spider like Matthew mentioned.

Honestly, I felt worse for the spider than I did for anyone else in this book. And a little for the goat too, but I'm assuming it was a tall building and a swift death.

Edit: Also felt bad for the chickenheads. Is it a coincidence that the more "intelligent" beings were in the story, the more they were really just not good people?

Michael (michaelbetts) I think the author definitely wanted us to question whether humans were really more empathic than the androids.

message 19: by Tom, Supreme Laser (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tom Merritt (tommerritt) | 1155 comments Mod
I took something a little different form this ending. And maybe it's informed by other books he wrote. But I always thought he was exploring how the value of something is entirely rooted in our perceptions. When Decker thinks the Toad is real he is saved. He has found his hope. But when he thinks its fake it all crumbles.

It's not about whether the toad is or isn't mechanical. It's about his belief that it is. Similar to the reason he has an electric sheep which is to make others believe he has a real one.

This is also why I think he makes the Androids physically almost identical to humans. Because he really wants to push the idea of what makes someone human. It starts to become difficult to tell the Androids from the humans without sophisticated tests. if that's the case is their any real difference? Hence the playing with the idea that certain psychological illnesses might fool the tests.

To me the takeaway is that the meaning of something should come from how we interact with it and what it means to us directly, not from some pre-conceived idea of what it's supposed to be.

He plays with this idea in Man in the High Castle too regarding 'historicity' of pre-war objects.

message 20: by Ruth (tilltab) Ashworth (last edited Nov 27, 2014 10:10AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ruth (tilltab) Ashworth | 1889 comments To me, the toad showed Deckard's development. He started out with an electric sheep, and he was growing to hate it, because he viewed it as 'fake', and because he was pretending it was real. Then got the goat, and he was so happy, but also afraid that something bad would happen to it. And it did. The goat was killed. Then he found the toad, and it seemed like one life was replaced by another. But the life wasn't real. It was an electric toad. So he is back to square one. Except when his wife is ordering the flies, she says something about her husband being very attached the the toad. I get the feeling he will cherish it even though it isn't real. He has learned that he can empathise with the Androids, and it seemed he would be suffering guilt after the final killing. His views are shifting, even though he tells himself he cannot hurt Rachael back because of her lack of empathy.

Also, since he can prove the goat was killed by Rachael, he would probably be able to claim money to buy another. This isn't even suggested.

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