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 dialĀ somethingĀ 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.

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