Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

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World War Terminus Symbol Analysis

World War Terminus Symbol Icon

Long before the plot of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? begins, humanity launched a horrible world war with itself, during which much of the planet was destroyed, presumably by some kind of nuclear holocaust. World War Terminus—a bloody, destructive, but ultimately mysterious conflict (nobody remembers why it started) symbolizes humans’ inexplicable tendency to destroy themselves and their environment for the sake of selfish desires.

World War Terminus Quotes in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

The Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? quotes below all refer to the symbol of World War Terminus. 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 1 Quotes

As he started toward his car Barbour called after him hurriedly, "Um, I won't say anything to anybody here in the building."
Pausing, Rick started to say thanks. But then something of the despair that Iran had been talking about tapped him on the shoulder and he said, "I don't know; maybe it doesn't make any difference."
"But they'll look down on you. Not all of them, but some. You know how people are about not taking care of an animal; they consider it immoral and anti-empathic. I mean, technically it's not a crime like it was right after WWT. But the feeling's still there."

Related Characters: Rick Deckard (speaker), Bill Barbour (speaker), Iran Deckard
Related Symbols: World War Terminus
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:

In Rick's society, humans demonstrate their morality and empathy--essentially proving that they are human, and thereby different from androids--by taking care of animals. Pets of any kind are incredibly rare, due to the environmental devastation caused by WWT, a nuclear apocalypse that happened at some point in the recent past.

First, notice the subtle competition between Rick and his neighbor, Bill Barbour, in this passage. Bill lectures Rick about being a good pet-owner, but in reality, Bill is bragging to Rick about being able to afford an exotic pet. In other words, being a "good" person in Rick's society presupposes having the money needed to buy an animal.

Second, it's important to note that humans think of pet-care as an almost nostalgic act; a reminder of a time before WWT, when there were trees and animals in abundance. To own a pet is to gain access to humanity's vanished past. In general, then, animals exemplify many of the key themes of the novel: consumerism, memory, empathy, and the environment.

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Chapter 2 Quotes

In addition, no one today remembered why the war had come about or who, if anyone, had won. The dust which had contaminated most of the planet's surface had originated in no country and no one, even the wartime enemy, had planned on it. First, strangely, the owls had died. At the time it had seemed almost funny, the fat, fluffy white birds lying here and there, in yards and on streets; coming out no earlier than twilight as they had while alive the owls escaped notice. Medieval plagues had manifested themselves in a similar way, in the form of many dead rats. This plague, however, had descended from above.

Related Symbols: World War Terminus
Page Number: 15-16
Explanation and Analysis:

Here, Dick explains some of the history of World War Terminus, the mysterious global disaster that led to the current state of Rick Deckard's society. At some point in the past, the powerful nations of the world fought a long, brutal war--but as Rick points out, nobody can remember which side won the war. The message is clear: in trying to protect their own people and win glory for their side, the world's superpowers have in reality brought misery to everyone. As a result of (presumably) nuclear fallout, animals have been virtually wiped out; owls fall out of the sky, and at this point, as we see, even once-common animals like sheep are considered rare and exotic.

Dick describes the aftermath of WWT with a nearly Biblical fervor--his descriptions of owls falling out of the sky evokes Moses' Egyptian plagues and even the signs of the Apocalypse. (Dick will allude to the Biblical Apocalypse throughout his novel--later on, we learn that all successful humans have found the money to fly to other planets, dividing the species into two ironic groups, the "saved" and the "damned.")

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World War Terminus Symbol Timeline in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

The timeline below shows where the symbol World War Terminus appears in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Humanity, Androids, and Empathy Theme Icon
Animals and the Environment Theme Icon
Commodification and Consumerism Theme Icon
...Rick breathes in a cloud of dust and smog. Ever since World War Terminus, or WWT, he thinks, the air has been horrible in San Francisco. Rick has to wear an... (full context)
Chapter 2
Animals and the Environment Theme Icon
Commodification and Consumerism Theme Icon
...begins in a huge, decayed building, in which there’s a single TV, turned on. Before WWT, the building had been upscale and full of people. Now, the owners have left Earth... (full context)
Animals and the Environment Theme Icon
Commodification and Consumerism Theme Icon
We learn a little more about WWT. Nobody knows who started the war, or how it ended. But the results of the... (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
...and watching the TV. He’s lived in this building for years—ever since the beginning of WWT. Now, John is late for work. On TV, a reporter interviews a woman who now... (full context)