While today’s class lingered on the ending of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, in which the discovery of an ersatz toad might give the Deckards’ relationship a new life, I hope to start a discussion about this one long-term, human-human relationship Philip Dick allows his readers to glimpse. The majority of the book presents the nature of the Deckards’ relationship as a pessimistic and unhappy one (which someone else could perhaps take up), yet the story concludes on a different note.
A place to start is the part the mood organ plays, or doesn’t play, in the book’s final scene. The last section of chapter 22 begins with Iran sitting, “too listless and ill to want anything,” at the mood organ, returning to the same state in which Rick left her in chapter eight. Rick returns from his wanderings at the Oregon border as she considers what to dial, and her listlessness vanishes as she “jump[s] up,” and thinks, “I don’t need to dial, now; I already have it—if it is Rick.” (239) This could be a reference to the 481 the organ was supposed to reset to, which, in chapter 1, she describes as an “awareness of the manifold possibilities open to me in the future” (6). Most importantly, however, is that she does not dial anything within the book’s final moments. While Rick’s previous encounters with her center around her depression and arguing over the mood organ, neither appear after he returns from the wilderness. The reader is presented with a much different Iran, making Rick coffee (though it takes little effort), feeling guilty for telling him his toad is electric, and finally urging him to go to bed, supplanting his role at the beginning of the story of getting her out of bed. Her stubbornness from their previous encounters is gone. Rick, from his questions to what she perceives as his devotion to the ersatz toad, entirely drives her actions.
As a slight tangent, I wish to address the toad-devotion question, for I believe it illustrates a heightened awareness on Iran’s part. The question of why Iran claims Rick was “devoted” to the electric toad was raised in class, but something Rick said was not discussed. He does not completely dismiss the toad once it is revealed as ersatz, instead, after concluding Isidore’s spider was also mostly likely fake, he says, “But it doesn’t matter. The electric things have their lives, too. Paltry as those lives are” (241*). Iran changes the subject, yet her later claim indicates that she clearly heard what he said. She may not know how exactly Rick came to have a new-found appreciation for mechanical “life,” but she knows the appreciation exists. If she had only seen the “change” (241*) that came over him after she discovered the control panel, it is unlikely she would have made her “devoted” claim, considering how guilty she felt for making the discovery.
To turn to Rick, he displays in this final scene a dependence on Iran that does not appear in their other encounters. The most striking – and, arguably, cinematically cliché – is his child-like pleas for affirmation. “It is over, isn’t it?” (241) is most obvious, for he apparently reflects after he asks that his words “didn’t become real, not until she agreed” (242). This dependence on her even surpasses his renewed connection with Mercerism, as evidenced when he asks later, “Do you think I did wrong? . . . What I did today?” (242). While he promptly recounts what Mercer told him, it is Iran who explains to him about “the curse on us,” clarifying an aspect of Mercerism. Despite the lonely journey he undertook, from retiring the last androids to climbing up the hill (not to mention being unfaithful to his wife), her presence serves his need for reassurance.
This is a far more optimistic ending (in regards to human relationships) than I was expecting to interpret, regardless of its one-sided nature. While Rick is reassured, Iran gets nothing but a man to take care of. Still, especially in light of the beginning of the book, I was expecting a much more depressing ending – so I am very interested in what everyone else has to say.
*This page number is an educated guess. I have a different edition and am relying on the limited preview available on Google Books for page numbers.