Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, or literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s major themes.

The Dust

The radioactive dust is a ubiquitous presence in the novel. It finds its way into everything, including into the living bodies of the story’s characters. The dust is what has made J.R. Isidore into a “special” by degrading his mental faculties. The dust is slowly taking over all of humanity’s endeavors on planet Earth. It has forced many to emigrate to colony worlds. The dust has created an industry for lead-lined codpieces, for those hoping to keep their reproductive organs healthy enough. The dust has also created the bitter loneliness so many of the novel’s characters feel, by driving most of humanity away from the poisoned Earth. The dust drains the color out of their lives and makes them feel empty, worthless, and alone. The dust collects everywhere, slowly killing the planet and its inhabitants. Through all the actions of the story, the dust is always present. It is the silent killer, the one that constantly works against humanity and all its endeavors. 

The Killers

In the Mercer parable, an old man walks up a hill pursued by “the killers.” This unidentifiable group or force comes up again and again in the characters’ perspectives throughout the novel. If something is bothering a person, that something is often identified as “the killers.” The killers are the scapegoat of all humanity’s problems. Deckard feels as though he is one of the killers, while Isidore seeks to protect his new friends from “the killers.” Whoever or whatever the killers are, they represent death and destruction in all its forms. Mercer, like all of humanity, is fleeing the pursuit of the killers. He is trying to survive against them, but ultimately will be killed and descend once again into the “tomb world.” The killers will remain, just as death remains, on the horizon for Mercer. Even when Deckard fuses with Mercer, he still feels as though he is one of the killers. It is a matter of perspective, since he is at once Mercer and the killers. This duality ultimately brings peace into Deckard’s mind, but for most of the novel it torments him. 


The bitter loneliness felt by many of the novel’s characters is counteracted only by companionship and empathy with others. The need for companionship drives the action of the story, and keeps the characters bonded to one another, in the face of extreme loneliness. The Earth has been abandoned by so many people that the remaining few have clustered in cities so as not to feel so lonely. Isidore seeks the companionship of Pris Stratton. Deckard seeks companionship with his wife, Iran. But when she proves unable to support him the way he wants, he searches for companionship in the android Rachael Rosen. Even the androids find companionship important. For them, it is a matter of survival. For the humans, it is a matter of living a happier, more fulfilled life. Using the empathy box is of paramount importance to many of the characters. Feeling connected to others is the only thing keeping them going in such a difficult environment.