Butler & Dick Comparison : Numb & Mechanical

As Rye sits in Obsidian’s car, the mentally crippling emotions of “growing hopelessness, purposelessness” and “jealousy” remind the reader of the enslaved android’s dilemma (99). Rye’s “powerful urge to kill another person” stems not only from her own personal issues, but from the idea that someone could have more ability and access to knowledge and expression (99). Rye nearly snaps when she realizes how she is inferior to Obsidian due to her illiteracy and how easily he may or may not take the ability for granted. The scale of the complaint seems arbitrary, but one more issue is enough to nearly set her over the edge. Her gun has the same killing power of a determined Android like Roy before his father & creator. The text places the smoking gun in the hands of a mentally polarizing character and seems to ask the reader whether or not he or she empathizes with her.  Butler seems to be forcing the reader into deciding whether or not one cares if Rye hurts herself, or someone else, or both.  Separately, Butler establishes a hyper-focalization on Rye and Rye’s thoughts, whereas Dick spreads some of the world-building into the thought-experiments and androids themselves. Not to hammer the nail too much, but an emotionally numb and unpredictable narrator has the qualities of an insensitive android, but reads as more real and possible. So although the decision remains on how one values the needs of a troubled human vs. a programmed android, the reader response effect develops similarly from a close narration of the darkest of emotional lows.

The problem of the Penfield

“‘My schedule for today lists a six-hour self-accusatory depression,’ Iran said.

‘What? Why did you schedule that?’ It defeated the whole purpose of the mood organ. ‘I didn’t even know you could set it for that,’ [Deckard] said gloomily” (Dick 5)

Although there is plenty more to be uncertain about, Dick sets the scene of the novel with a piece of technology which provokes extremely mixed responses from Deckard and Iran. For Deckard, the Penfield mood organ is a fantastic piece of equipment which allows him to escape the ‘negative’ human emotions and thus lead a more concentrated, efficient, and productive life. For Iran, the mood organ is an interruption of normal, necessarily negative human behavior; since she cannot function outside of the mood organ (thanks in part to her controlling husband) she must manufacture the feelings she believes she would feel without the presence of the Penfield. Interestingly, while the characters certainly have more information about the mood organ and its functions than the reader, this information is far from complete. Deckard does not realize that the mood organ has a range of emotions beyond those he associates as positive; the revelation of this information depresses him. Why is this? Deckard’s relationship with technology is difficult to parse. His job involves ruthless pursuit and destruction of technological ‘life’ forms, but he is dependent on a machine to set the structure of his life and does not dig into the complex workings of the machine. He has a certain faith in the positive effects of certain technology which Iran lacks or feels suspicious towards. There is also a sense of the uncertain progress of technology. The reader must wonder when exactly the Penfield came into being; is this a recent technology, a new model of an older technology, or something that is deeply incorporated into the world? Can we presume that all characters we encounter use a similar system or is Deckard somewhat unique? And the 3 code, a desire to dial something is deeply problematic. It is clear that this world has an inextricable link to technology as a driving force, but the exact limits and reasons are unclear and unavailable. A really fantastic introduction to a delightful and intriguing story.