Write a 5 page paper that offers an interpretive argument about how this story exemplifies humanity’s flaws, and how this trope affects Science Fiction as a whole. Use the first book in the Lilith’s Brood Trilogy by Octavia Butler, DAWN. Compare this piece of literature to “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” by Philip Dick. How does this story also portray what humanity means? Compare it to “Dawn”, and include a quote from each book in your essay.
What is human in “Dawn”?
Since this narrative occurs in an alternate universe where other intelligent life exists and interacts with humans, the question of the true meaning of the word “human” naturally applies. The Oankali are physically very different from humans, but they seem to experience the same emotions: fear, attraction, joy, sorrow, etc. For their part, however, the humans can’t help but shrink away from the grotesque-looking aliens. They adhere to the purity of the race, rejecting the Oankalis’ plans to engineer a mixed breed between the two species in order to preserve their own species. While the humans would also consequently save their species, they do not want to compromise the human species in order to preserve it. They consider the mixed breed an abomination, not worthwhile. Lilith is the only human to distinguish herself from this mindset because she grows close to Nikanj and learns about how people and culture. Her firsthand in-depth knowledge about the Oankali alters her perspective, allowing her to care about their species as well. After all, they interact with her on completely human levels. She cannot help but consider their lives valuable as well as the human species.
Human Condition in “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”.
Throughout the novel, humans are defined as constructs capable of empathy and “empathetic, role-taking ability.” Human empathy is what the Voigt-Kampff test looks for: whether the test subject responds to a described situation as if it were real for them. Even without the test, humans reveal themselves through their need for other living creatures and their being needed in return. “You have to be with other people … in order to live at all,” says Isidore. To be human, to be alive, is to depend on other people. Pris, Roy, and Irmgard have accomplished this to some extent, and they decide to accept Isidore. That is all he needs as verification that though “not alive” and illegal, the three are people. Through the ability of the three androids to work as a team and Isidore’s acceptance of them, Dick leaves open the possibility of a harmonious future. At present, however, the definition of human is constantly challenged and then reconfirmed…
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