Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Chapter 17 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Rick and Rachael have just had sex in their hotel room. Rick tells Rachael he enjoyed himself—he’d gladly have sex with her again. Rachael calmly tells Rick that her life span is about two more years. Rick can only say, “I’m sorry.”
Rick has begun to sympathize (and empathize) with the androids, and yet he still struggles to express his emotions to Rachael in this scene. This points to the overall absence of empathy in Rick’s society.
Themes
Humanity, Androids, and Empathy Theme Icon
Perception, Reality, and Power Theme Icon
Commodification and Consumerism Theme Icon
As they walk out of the hotel and climb into Rick’s hovercar, Rachael tells Rick the truth: she has sex with bounty hunters to ensure that they’re too empathetic to retire any more androids (she’s done this at least eight times already). One the men she had sex with was Phil Resch—the only bounty hunter who continued to kill androids after making love to her. Rick is shocked by what he’s hearing, and his whole body feels numb. Rachael goes on to tell Rick that she knew Polokov, Luba Luft, and the other androids Rick and Phil retired—indeed, Rachael and Luba had been friends for two years before her death.
In this plot twist, we come to realize that Rachael has been aware that she’s an android for some time (we’d previously thought that Rick and Eldon had “outed” her in Seattle). Ironically, in spite of the fact that Rachael seems manipulative and duplicitous in this scene, her mission to protect other androids is arguably the only truly moral act in the entire book: she’s sacrificing herself for the sake of other beings.
Themes
Humanity, Androids, and Empathy Theme Icon
Perception, Reality, and Power Theme Icon
Animals and the Environment Theme Icon
Commodification and Consumerism Theme Icon
Rick tells Rachael he’s going to kill her, along with the other androids—Rachael will be “practice” for him. Rachael begs Rick to shoot her in the “occipital bone” of her skull. Rick realizes that he’s incapable of hurting Rachael, however—he has too much empathy for her. Rachael smiles and nods. She explains that every other bounty hunter has come to exactly the same conclusion. She turns on the radio in the hovercar and listens to the “babble” of Buster Friendly.
This is a frustrating scene for Rick, because even though he’s now angry at Rachael for tricking him, he knows he can’t kill her. The fact that Rick is angry with Rachael at all is proof that he’s come to regard her as a person morally responsible for her own actions—and therefore, for all intents and purposes, a human being.
Themes
Humanity, Androids, and Empathy Theme Icon
Perception, Reality, and Power Theme Icon