Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Chapter 12 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Rick and Resch have arrived at the opera house. They learn that Miss Luft has left the building to go to a museum. At the museum, Rick notices a strict, severe-looking teacher yelling at her schoolchildren—this, he thinks, is what an android should look like. Resch and Rick notice Luba Luft walking through the museum, looking at the paintings. Rick goes up to Luft and points a laser gun at her. Luft snaps that Resch isn’t human, and neither is she—they’re both androids. Resch replies, “Well, we’ll deal with that at the proper time.” Together, Rick and Resch march Luft out to the hovercar.
Now Rick and Resch the same token, they’re the one’s asking questions about Luba Luft’s humanity, not the other way around. This reiterates one of the novel’s key points: the characters assert their power by questioning other people’s humanity. Even to ask the question, “Are you an android?” is to assert one’s power over another.
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As Rick and Resch walk Luft out of the museum, Luft asks Rick to buy her a postcard of one of the paintings in the museum. Rick pauses, and then agrees. He buys Luft a big book of the painter’s collected works. Luft tells Rick that he’s very nice—an android would never have done such a thing. Luft confesses that she hates androids—she’s been imitating a human for so long that she’s become convinced that humans are superior to robots. She teases Resch about being an android, and Rick has to convince Resch not to shoot her with a laser gun while they’re still in the museum.
Luba Luft is in a position of weakness—she’s an android, and is being arrested. And yet she finds ways to assert her own power, teasing Resch for being an android himself. We get the sense that Luft could be teasing Rick just as easily—he’s no more certain about his identity than Resch is. Resch’s behavior in this scene further supports the idea that even if he’s human, he’s a particularly cold and violent one.
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Rick and Resch march Luft to an elevator, and when the doors close, Resch shoots her in the stomach. Luft screams in pain and falls to the floor. Rick, feeling shocked by Resch’s actions, then burns the book of paintings he had just bought for Luft, as Resch looks on, perplexed. Rick tells Resch that he’ll give Resch the Voigt-Kampff test soon, and Resch will see that he’s an android. Because Resch came to Earth a little later than the other Nexus-Sixes, Rick hasn’t been hired to retire him. Rick also tells Resch that this will be his last job—he’s getting out of the business, and perhaps he’ll even go to Mars.
Resch’s destructiveness is shocking, as he shoots Luft in a way that seems more like murder than “retirement.” Rick’s experiences in these last few chapters—not just with Resch’s violence, but with questions of what is and isn’t human—have clearly made an impact on him, and this is poignantly shown by the fact that he burns the book of paintings when Luft is dead. If androids can appreciate art and human kindness, then what makes them less human than a killer like Resch?
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The elevator doors open, and Rick tells Resch to stay with Luft’s body—Rick will call the police. Resch accuses Rick of hating him. In response, Rick points out that Resch is basically a heartless person who enjoys killing. He enjoyed retiring Luft, and he enjoyed the excuse to shoot Garland. Resch offers Rick his laser gun—to put Rick at ease, he explains, in case Resch fails the human-android test. Rick replies, “How’ll you kill yourself without it?”
Rick asserts his own humanity in this scene by showing a measure of sympathy for Resch (offering him an easy way out if he turns out to be an android after all), even if it’s the bitterest, coldest sympathy imaginable.
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Get the entire Androids Dream LitChart as a printable PDF.
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After Rick calls the authorities, Resch and Rick climb into the hovercar. Inside the car, Rick takes out some of the Voigt-Kampff equipment that he carries in his briefcase. He attaches adhesive pads to Resch’s cheeks and aims a light at his eyes. Then, he asks Resch the usual half dozen questions.
The suspense builds: will Resch pass the test and turn out to be a human, or not? At the same time, however, we’re beginning to have doubts about the very idea of using a test to measure humanity.
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The novel cuts ahead to just after Rick has finished the test. Resch is relieved by what he’s found out, and asks Rick for his gun back. Rick explains that Resch was right about Garland: Garland was trying to split up Rick and Resch. Rick wonders aloud why the Voigt-Kampff test doesn’t measure humans’ empathy to androids. Previously, Rick had believed that empathy toward robots was an oxymoron, but lately he’s wondered if it is possible to feel empathy for a machine.
Rick is finally confronting the irony of his profession: he has to suspend his own empathy in order to retire androids, creatures that are being killed precisely because of their inability to feel empathy. Rick is changing his mind about androids and about his own profession: he’s realizing that the distinction between robot and human isn’t remotely as clear as he’d believed.
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Rick tells Resch that he wants Resch to administer the Voigt-Kampff test on him. Rick points the machines at his own eyes, and then says, “I’m going down by elevator with a female android I’ve captured. And suddenly someone kills it, without warning.” Resch reports that the dials have spiked up suddenly, showing that Rick has an emotional response to the android’s pain. Rick concludes, “That’s high enough.”
It’s strange that Rick gives the Voigt-Kampff test to himself, instead of allowing Resch to read him questions—and the test Rick gives himself also shows just how deeply he was affected by Luft’s death. Rick is treating his job as a bounty hunter more and more loosely: he’s becoming introspective, asking himself unanswerable questions. The way Rick phrases his conclusion (“high enough”) suggests that being human isn’t a binary—it’s something more like a spectrum, on which all humans are at different, immeasurable points. (This also questions the idea of just how objective Rick is being in testing himself).
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Resch tells Rick that on Mars and other off-world colonies, there are android mistresses, designed to have sex with humans. Resch points out that Rick feels guilty about killing Luft because he was physically attracted to her. Rick realizes that Resch is an excellent bounty hunter—and he wonders, for the first time in his life, if he’s cut out for bounty hunting any longer.
Rick is finally getting a full perspective on his own profession. Rick’s attraction to his victims makes it nearly impossible for him to continue retiring them—he can’t help but think of them as people. Resch, by contrast, is an ideal bounty hunter—nearly as cold and unfeeling as the androids themselves are said to be.
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