Next: Introduction

Do Artificial Men Dream of Being Human?
A Study of the Artificial Men in Frankenstein and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?


In this essay, I try to find out if there is any inherent difference between a ``real'' human being and an artificial simulacrum of a man. I base my discussion on the treatment of the subject in the two novels Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick. The most central problem that I see in both novels is the search for a definition of humanity. In both works, the presence in society of artificial men that in many ways resemble humans give rise to a search for the critical properties that can be said to define humanity. The artificial men are put in a number of situations where one would expect a human being to react in one way and a machine or construct in another. As we shall see, this is not always the case. In fact, our expectations are often turned upside-down completely when the artificial men behave more humanely than the real humans, thus leaving open the question of what really defines a human being. I will also show how both texts use ambiguity and the difficulty of knowing what is ``real'' to relate their message.

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, does not go away.

- Philip K. Dick