Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? | Study Guide

Philip K. Dick

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Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? | Chapter 4 | Summary

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Summary

Harry Bryant briefs Rick Deckard on the new job. There were eight advanced androids, and Dave Holden killed two of them. Deckard is ready to hunt the remaining six, but Bryant worries the "Voigt-Kampff Altered Scale" isn't advanced enough to distinguish humans from androids. He wants Deckard to visit the Rosen Association—the company who makes the androids—so he can test some androids with the same brain units. Bryant also worries about reports from the Soviet police indicating that the "Voigt-Kampff scale" may not be as accurate as they thought. New studies show some humans with psychological conditions that produce a "flattening of affect" may fail the test. Bryant points out if Deckard tests a human and the person fails, he should then murder the human, rather than putting an android out of commission.

Deckard flies to Seattle to visit the Rosen Association. A young woman named Rachael Rosen meets him when he lands his hovercar. As she guides him into the building, they pass an owl and a raccoon—rare living animals. Deckard asks about buying the owl, but Rachael dismisses the idea. Once Rachael's uncle, Eldon Rosen, joins them, Deckard is ready to administer the Voigt-Kampff test on androids. The Rosens, however, ask Deckard to give Rachael the test first. Eldon tells Deckard that Rachael may be an android.

Analysis

This chapter advances and complicates the plot. It provides details on how Rick Deckard judges who is a real human and who isn't. In doing so, this chapter further raises the stakes. It also makes the process more mundane and bureaucratic. Deckard doesn't have a single technological tool (such as the empathy box) that will reliably distinguish between human and android. Instead, the process takes time. It happens within an institutional context—Deckard answers to his boss—and a social/legal one. The test is fallible, and new reports show it is more fallible than they had believed.

In the second half of the chapter, Deckard flies to Seattle. This casual acceptance of advanced technology is part of the science fiction tradition. There, Philip K. Dick further explores the negative implications and contradictions of corporate capitalism. The Rosen Association makes its money manufacturing artificial beings but appears to have some of the rarest animals living in their building. They aren't in a position where people can actively care for them, but are displayed as trophies. The company is also run by a family (or so Deckard thinks), which suggests it may be corrupt (since Rachael Rosen would get her job due to family connections, rather than merit).

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