Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

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The Toad Symbol Icon

At the end of the novel, Rick Deckard discovers a toad crawling through the desert. Although Rick believes that the toad is alive, and therefore highly valuable, he discovers that it’s actually just a machine, placed in the desert by an unknown explorer. As Rick describes the toad—a resilient creature capable of surviving anywhere, even a post-nuclear desert—it becomes increasingly clear that the animal is a symbol for humanity, which has somehow braved the ravages of its own world wars. Importantly, Rick then continues to value the toad even after he learns that it’s robotic. This is a crucial turning point in the book—it suggests that Rick has come to find humanity even in androids, or else has become even more lost in the question of just what is “real” and what is “fake.”

The Toad Quotes in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

The Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Toad. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Humanity, Androids, and Empathy Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Ballantine Books edition of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? published in 1996.
Chapter 22 Quotes

I'm a special, he thought. Something has happened to me. Like the chickenhead Isidore and his spider; what happened to him is happening to me. Did Mercer arrange it? But I'm Mercer. I arranged it; I found the toad. Found it because I see through Mercer's eyes.

Related Characters: Rick Deckard (speaker), John Isidore , Al Jarry / Wilbur Mercer
Related Symbols: The Toad
Page Number: 237
Explanation and Analysis:

At the end of the novel, Rick goes into the desert, where he has a semi-religious experience. Like so many followers of Mercerism, Rick experiences the world through the eyes of Wilbur Mercer himself. While he's in the desert, Rick comes upon what he believes to be a monumental discovery: a "real" toad, an incredibly rare animal. Rick considers his discovery of the toad a miracle--proof that Mercerism might be a valid religion after all. Rick's renewed faith in Mercerism comes at an unusual time: Mercer has just been exposed as a fraud; a TV personality performing before a studio audience.

Rick seems to be approaching a counterintuitive conclusion: even "fake" objects and beings can produce a kind of emotional truth in their audiences. So even though Mercer himself might be a fraud, his pseudo-religion might be capable of producing genuine comfort (or even a genuine miracle, though the toad, as we'll see later, is "fake," too) in its followers. By the same token, a "fake" human being can experience and elicit a "real" emotional connection in another person; which is to say, Rick is capable of feeling genuine emotional bonds with other people, whether or not they (or he!) are androids.

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"Do you want to use the mood organ? To feel better? You always have gotten a lot out of it, more than I ever have."
"I'll be okay." He shook his head, as if trying to clear it, still bewildered. "The spider Mercer gave the chickenhead, Isidore; it probably was artificial, too. But it doesn't matter. The electric things have their lives, too. Paltry as those lives are."

Related Characters: Rick Deckard (speaker), Iran Deckard (speaker), John Isidore , Al Jarry / Wilbur Mercer
Related Symbols: The Mood Organ, The Toad
Page Number: 241
Explanation and Analysis:

Back in his home, Rick Deckard is disappointed to discover that the "miraculous" toad he found in the middle of the desert is just an electronic toy, and therefore not very valuable at all. Rick is frustrated--he'd thought that his toad would bring him lots of money, and that its discovery was a kind of religious miracle.

Yet in spite of his frustration, Rick still seems to experience an epiphany in this passage. Rick has been trained to believe that things are "real" if and only if they pass a rigorous test: if they can be purchased for a high price in a store; if they pass a Voigt-Kampff test, etc. Here, however, Rick seems to change his mind. Even a fake spider has its own kind of life. Rick characterizes the life of a robotic spider as "paltry"--but of course, the life of a "real" animal (or a real human being!) is just as paltry in the grand scheme of things.

What Rick realizes about animals applies to robots and people, too. Even robots, it's implied, have lives, thoughts, and feelings. Dick subtly implies the shift in Rick's thinking by noting that Rick refuses to use the mood organ. Rick refuses to accept socially-approved definitions of emotion, humanity, or life. Instead, he chooses to feel his own emotions and construct his own definitions of life and human nature.

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The Toad Symbol Timeline in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Toad appears in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 22
Humanity, Androids, and Empathy Theme Icon
Perception, Reality, and Power Theme Icon
Memory Theme Icon
Animals and the Environment Theme Icon
Commodification and Consumerism Theme Icon
Rick sees a toad near his hovercar. This is an incredible sight, as toads are considered extinct creatures. Furthermore,... (full context)
Humanity, Androids, and Empathy Theme Icon
Perception, Reality, and Power Theme Icon
Animals and the Environment Theme Icon
Carefully, Rick catches the toad, placing it in a cardboard box he finds. The toad is big and fat and... (full context)
Humanity, Androids, and Empathy Theme Icon
Perception, Reality, and Power Theme Icon
Animals and the Environment Theme Icon
Commodification and Consumerism Theme Icon
...tells Iran that he has a surprise for her, contained in a cardboard box: a toad. Toads, he explains, are tough creatures—they can survive anywhere, even a desert. (full context)
Humanity, Androids, and Empathy Theme Icon
Perception, Reality, and Power Theme Icon
Animals and the Environment Theme Icon
Commodification and Consumerism Theme Icon
Iran inspects the toad carefully. She finds an electric switch on the toad’s abdomen—it’s just a fake animal. Rick... (full context)
Humanity, Androids, and Empathy Theme Icon
Perception, Reality, and Power Theme Icon
Animals and the Environment Theme Icon
Commodification and Consumerism Theme Icon
...While Rick sleeps, Iran calls the pet store and orders artificial flies for the artificial toad. The store salesman suggests that Iran bring in the toad for periodic “tongue adjustments,” and... (full context)