Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? | Study Guide

Philip K. Dick

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Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? | Chapter 3 | Summary



Rick Deckard stops briefly at a pet store on his way to work at the Hall of Justice. Deckard's boss, Harry Bryant, tells him the office's top bounty hunter Dave Holden was shot. Deckard chats briefly with his secretary, Ann Marsten, who says it must have been an advanced android with a "Nexus-6 brain unit." Deckard reviews the information on that model brain before meeting with Bryant. He thinks about the relationships between androids (or "andys") and humans, and why empathy distinguishes the two. This makes him think about the empathic principles of Mercerism, and about animals. This also prompts Deckard to call the Happy Dog Pet Shop salesman and ask how much the ostrich he had admired costs: $30,000. When the salesman asks for Deckard's name, Deckard replies, "Frank Merriwell." Deckard then calls the store where he bought his imitation sheep and asks how much an imitation ostrich would cost. The salesman says, "less than eight hundred dollars."


This chapter largely develops the novel's central plot, and especially Rick Deckard's situation and motivation. Before this time, Dave Holden had been the main bounty hunter in the office. Therefore, while the day's duties are familiar to Deckard in a general sense—he is an experienced bounty hunter—the day is also new, because he is stepping into another hunter's shoes. This increases the level of risk and tension, because the androids already beat Holden, who was supposed to be better than Deckard.

In this chapter, Philip K. Dick makes a key element in the book explicit: empathy is what distinguishes humans from androids. Humans experience empathy; androids do not. However, as is common in the novel (and his work), Dick immediately complicates this seemingly clean distinction. Humans feel empathy, but they have only limited access to the animals that are central to their empathic experience. Capitalism also complicates their ability to practice empathy. Deckard cannot have the ostrich he wants because he doesn't have the money. There is also more than a little economic competition in this book: Deckard compares himself to his neighbor, who has a horse, and places himself on a spectrum of real pet owners (rich) and owners of fake pets (poor).

Dick sketches some of the principles of Mercerism in this chapter. An empathic religion, Mercerism is quite complex. It has a central ethical tenet: people can only kill killers. However, Mercerism never really defines the evil that threatens their leader. Instead, it is free-floating, and anyone can accuse anyone else of it. This creates an elevated level of paranoia.

Dick drops humorous notes into his work at unexpected moments. Readers can see one of those here when Deckard gives the fake name of Frank Merriwell. Merriwell was a popular fictional character who appeared in many novels at the end of the late 19th century and beginning of the 20th century. Merriwell was a wholesome, all-American young man, active in sports and school.

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