The empathy box is a cornerstone of the religion of Mercerism, which, in the world of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, has millions of followers. Mercerists join together with each other by touching the empathy box—when they do so, they’re rendered capable of feeling each other’s thoughts, feelings, and pains—the most literal kind of empathy imaginable. Despite its name, however, the empathy box doesn’t seem to make people particularly empathetic in real life—on the contrary, the world of the novel is bleak, frightening, and cold. In this sense, the empathy box could be said to symbolize the failure of community in the future. Despite people’s best efforts, they’re alienated from each other. Furthermore, the empathy box resembles the mood organ, in that they’re both tools designed to build group conformity by playing on the idea of individual human emotion. In this way, the empathy box might as well be a television, a radio, or an iPhone—a sinister symbol of the homogeneity of mass culture.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)
The timeline below shows where the symbol The Empathy Box appears in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.