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Study Questions
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Cornell University Edition

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Complete text of winning essays (pdf)

  • Bret Casey - Bret Casey is an aspiring Renaissance man from Winchester, Massachusetts. He is currently studying the sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences, along with as much music and dance as he can fit in on the side.
  • Wybren de Vries - Wybren de Vries is an international student from The Netherlands. Born and raised near Amsterdam, he moved to England at the age of 16 to attend an international boarding school in Oxford for 2 years. After spending his gap year studying filmmaking at the New York Film Academy and doing volunteer work in Ghana, he is now at Cornell as a Computer Science and Economics double major.
  • Ben Feinson - Ben Feinson is from Richmond, Vermont and is psyched to be working toward a major in music as well as looking forward to taking other classes in the sciences. He would like to go into music composition in the future, but his plans for the next four years are definitely undecided.
  • Kayla Figueroa - Kayla Figueroa, a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences, was born in New York City, but attended high school in Tampa, Florida. She plans to be a History major, possibly with a focus in Asian or European History.
  • Noah Kantro - Noah is a freshman from Long Island, New York, and is pursuing a degree in engineering.
  • Lauren Lee - Lauren Lee hails from both Hudson, OH, and Boston, MA; she's moved back and forth so many times that it is impossible to choose just one hometown. She was homeschooled through high school, and enjoys reading, playing the piano, policy debate, and science. Lauren is studying biological engineering in the College of Engineering.
  • Anne Park - Anne Park is a student from Columbia, Maryland currently enrolled in the College of Arts and Sciences. Due to a variety of academic interests ranging from the humanities to the sciences, she is currently undecided, and plans to explore her many different options throughout her four years at Cornell. As of now, she is primarily interested in the fields of biology, psychology, and government.
  • Bahareh Saadatmand - Bahareh Saadatmand is from West Palm Beach, Florida and attended Suncoast Community High School, where he earned his International Baccalaureate Diploma. He is a student in the College of Arts and Sciences. Although he is undecided about his major at the moment, his preferences lie in the areas of Biological Sciences and English, and is also considering pursuing a minor in either Theater or Music.
  • Trevor Slaton - Trevor Slaton is from Louisville, Kentucky. His primary interests include science, technology, and music. Although he is a student in Cornell's College of Engineering, he has not yet decided which specific major he wishes to pursue, though he is currently investigating Engineering Physics.
  • Kayla Warter - Kayla Warter is from Acton, Massachusetts and is majoring in History.

The Study Questions

1. How have the mass extinctions caused by World War Terminus reshaped the natural world and redefined the relationship between human and nonhuman animals?

2. What can we learn about the difference between androids and humans by considering the difference between robotic and real pets?

3. In addition to social status, what do animals signify in the post-war society of the novel? How do the human-animal relationships in Dick’s work change our current understanding of pet-keeping?

4. What are the similarities and differences between the parallel plots of the novel: the stories of John (or J. R. Isidore) and Pris Stratton, and of Rick Deckard and Rachael Rosen?

5. Within the world of the novel, is the Voigt-Kampff test an accurate way of distinguishing androids from humans? What quality does the test single out as the defining aspect of the human? Does the test make it rationally legitimate or morally acceptable to “retire” the androids?

6. What role does the character of Phil Resch play in the unfolding of the plot, in the novel’s treatment of the distinction between the real and the imitation, and in Rick’s sense of his own identity?

7. What does Rachael Rosen reveal about android character, motivation, or identity? Why does she appear in two different beings (Rachael and Pris)? Why does she push the goat off the roof?

8. What is the connection between the virtual world that John and other characters enter through the “empathy box” and the real post-war world of nuclear winter and electric sheep or robotic pets? What is the relationship between the “empathy box” experience and Rick’s climb up the desolate hill in northern California?

9. The design and creation of androids represents an extreme version of the exploitation of technology in the service of human kind, and the use of the Penfield wave transmitter and the “empathy box” demonstrate a human dependence on technology to fulfill basic needs and desires. Does Dick’s novel reject, accede to, or revel in technology?

10. Dick described science fiction as “the conceptual dislocation” of our own society in order to generate “a new society . . . [that] occurs as a convulsive shock in the reader’s mind, the shock of dysrecognition” (1981). What is the most shocking or dysrecognizable aspect of Dick’s work, for today’s reader? What role does Dick’s science fiction play in our own thinking about the present?