Self-Interest, Circumstance, and Effect

Rye glanced at the murderer. To her shame, she thought she could understand some of the passions that must have driven him, whomever he was. Anger, frustration, hopelessness, insane jealousy… how many more of the were there-people willing to destroy what they could not have?

(Butler, 107)

Though both Octavia Butler’s “Speech Sounds” and Phillip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?  do utilize the post-disaster world, they figure self-interest within this world differently, thus producing different effects. The way in which self-interest is figured in “Speech Sounds” is best exemplified in the passage above. Though the man murders the woman, he does so in a fit of passion, “Anger, frustration, hopelessness, insane jealousy;” he wishes to perform basic cognitive functions as well (107). As such, self-interest is not a fundamental human characteristic in the text, it is merely circumstantial. This is furthered by Rye’s ability to empathize with the man, “she [being in such a situation when she learns that Obsidian can write] thought she could understand some of the passions that must have driven him” (107). Figuring self-interest like this produces an optimistic effect; humans mean well and as such, have the ability to thrive once more. Conversely, Phillip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? figures self-interest as a fundamental human characteristic; this is best exemplified by Rick Deckard. Regardless of the circumstance, Deckard acts self-interestedly; he hunts down the androids for economic gain; he purchases an animal for social prestige; he coerces Rachel into relations etc. This figuring of self-interest produces a bleak effect; fundamental human self-interest has and will continue to destroy all that it comes into contact with.

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