Happy Zapping and Hope for Ajax
Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
asks several startlingly poignant and yet perhaps unanswerable questions about the nature of reality, of humanity, and of simulation
. It is by no means an accident that Dick introduces “andy
s,” the mood organ
and its empathy box
, Buster Friendly
’s TV show, lead codpiece
s, “specials,” and artificial animals all in the first chapter (pages 3-14) of the book. The reader should quickly develop a sense that something is surreal, amiss, even discomforting, about this world, even though most of these concepts are not examined in depth in this intro to the world of Rick Deckard. There is an overwhelming sense of facade
about this world, and it is not until the parts are examined that Dick’s ideas become clear. The first chapter could be taken alone as a sort of futuristic Hemingway
story in its own right, and many of the major themes of the story would still be expressed (although not with much clarity).
A merry little surge of electricity piped by automatic alarm from the mood organ beside his bed awakened Rick Deckard.
Even the first sentence of the book is more about simulation than about the character whose experiences it details. We know immediately from the name “mood organ” and from the fact that it sends out a “merry little surge of electricity,” that it is some device which creates mood
. We know that it is being used to awaken a man who has been sleeping. The only thing we know about Deckard so far is that he is a man who uses this device, but we have a fair concept of what the device
is all about. The rest of what we learn about the mood organ in the following pages of the book are merely details. Its purpose is clear
immediately. We later learn that despite Deckard’s reliance on the mood organ, he is perfectly capable of generating his own emotions, when he becomes angry with his wife when they begin talking, despite his morning dose of “merry electricity.”
We do learn, however, that Deckard relies on the mood organ not simply for emotional stimulation, but for hope
. He is well acquainted with that
setting- 481-and has “dialed out the combination many times.” It is probably unimportant- but interesting- that the code for what appears to be a kind of “empty intellectual(ism),” is 382. Both 4 + 8 + 1 and 3 + 8 + 2 add to thirteen
. Perhaps this is a hidden message from Dick- perhaps hope for the future and empty, objective thought add to the same, unlucky sum
. Perhaps this simply means that the mood of a person doesn’t matter, since a person on earth is doomed to sterilization
ization” eventually. The only emotion which is referred to as having anything to do with reality is Iran’s “self-accusatory depression
,” which Deckard actually says is “about total reality
.” On the other hand, perhaps looking too deeply at the numbers of the Penfield is simple numerology, and a waste of energy...
Another interesting piece of this world is Deckard’s Ajax model Mountibank Codpiece
. There is a sort of humor in the concept of a lead codpiece, in that in history, codpieces were a piece of “protective gear
,” that ended up becoming a style, because they appeared to augment the male genitals
. In Deckard’s world, codpieces exist to protect the male genitals from radiation and sterility. Dick has given us a visual pun, then; lead codpieces are a simulation of virility
, while simultaneously protecting a man’s actual virility. Further, the model Deckard wears, the Ajax
, bears the name of the ancient Greek hero
, the giant of a man who fought Hector
and lived, and slew many Trojan
s before losing his mind and killing himself. Ajax is not so dissimilar to Deckard then, in that Deckard becomes a great warrior and kills many andys before losing his grip on the world and being forced to question not only his sanity, but the reality of his reality.
Although it is necessary for Deckard to wear his Mountibank Codpiece when he goes outside, his wife, Iran
, hates the commercial for them. She actually calls it “that awful commercial,” and suggests that there has been at least one discussion regarding this codpiece commercial between Iran and Rick before. Why would she have such a loathing for cod
piece commercials? It could be that the commercials are a reminder to her that she and Rick have no children. What good is a codpiece, then, if not to protect the ability to reproduce? If one is not going to have children, why have a codpiece at all? This idea is reinforced at the end, when Iran desires to keep the toad
, despite the fact that it is a fake
. She’s happiest when Deckard is at home in bed. She just wants to care for something, and with no children, she’ll take what she can get.
At the request of both my ENGL 300 professor and The Lush, I will be expanding this essay into a more wide-ranging piece. More fun coming soon.
Further update: expansion (which diverted pretty severly from this one) can be found at The Precession of Simulacra in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?