Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

by

Philip K. Dick

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Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Themes

Themes and Colors
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
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Humanity, Androids, and Empathy

In 2007, the journalist Adam Gopnik wrote a long essay on Philip K. Dick in which he proposed that all of Dick’s novels are structured around the same question: “What is human?” Sure enough, this question hangs over every chapter of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? In a way, the other four themes of the novel represent four different ways of answering this question (for example, humans are human because they’re capable of making…

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Perception, Reality, and Power

According to Gopnik, the other overarching question of Philip K. Dick’s fiction is, “What is real?” In the futuristic version of the U.S. in which Do Androids Dream is set, that question is almost impossible to answer. Powerful corporations manufacture electric animals and people who seem to be “alive,” but aren’t. To make matters worse, nearly everyone in the future uses drugs that blur the line between reality and hallucination—even Rick Deckard, a police…

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Memory

By forming new memories, humans build relationships with each other, mature emotionally, and gain knowledge and wisdom. Without memories, ideas of selfhood and humanity become more difficult to define. But in Do Androids Dream, memory isn’t a reliable tool for humans looking to understand their environments. On the contrary, characters’ memories seem hazy, and on the rare occasions when characters do remember the past clearly, their memories often turn out to be artificially implanted…

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Animals and the Environment

In Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, humans have an uneasy relationship with the natural world. After decades of nuclear war, the natural world is in ruins: lush forests have become inhabitable deserts. Because the state of nature is so dire, pets are extremely valuable, and it’s a mark of social status to own a sheep, a goat, or a horse. The relationship between humans, animals, and the environment is even revealed as an…

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Commodification and Consumerism

Although Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is a work of science fiction, it can also be interpreted as a satire of contemporary American society—a society where everything is for sale and where the mass media ensure that everybody craves the same things.

In his novel, Dick depicts a futuristic society in which the art of “keeping up with the Joneses” has gone out of control. In the future, we learn, families still compete with…

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