Quote 1

“The entire planet had begun to disintegrate into junk, and to keep the planet habitable for the remaining population the junk had to be hauled away occasionally . . . or, as Buster Friendly liked to declare, Earth would die under a layer—not of radioactive dust—but of kipple.”

In Chapter 8, Deckard tracks the android Polokov to the Bay Area Scavengers Company and reflects on the hopelessness of those left on Earth. Garbage collection has blossomed after World War Terminus and those who are left now struggle with waste and radioactive dust in equal measure. “Kipple,” a colloquialism of Deckard’s world, is used to describe this disorder, and kipple competes with the radioactive dust to bury the disintegrating world. Deckard’s once-cheery outlook is tamped down, here not by his personal problems, but by the problems of his world. This reflection comes just before Deckard “retires” his first android, and the comparison between a garbageman and a bounty hunter is made clear. Humanity’s previous errors, such as renegade androids, can be seen as more “kipple” to be dealt with by those remaining. No mood organ can dial Deckard away from the disaster of his world, because it is his job to clean up the mess, a job that wears down the human spirit.

Quote 2

“’You will be required to do wrong no matter where you go. It is the basic condition of life, to be required to violate your own identity. At some time, every creature which lives must do so. It is the ultimate shadow, the defeat of creation; this is the curse at work, the curse that feeds on all life.’”

Mercer’s unique message for Deckard in Chapter 15 both accuses and forgives the bounty hunter of his wrongdoing. Since the story began, Deckard’s conscience has been fighting against the inhumanity of his profession, and here Mercer helps him understand the immutability of the “curse” that afflicts life. The curse is simply that life makes death and creation makes destruction. Mercer admits that there is no salvation, since he will forever be climbing his mountain, just as Deckard will “forever” be destroying life, no matter how hard he tries to escape his role. Deckard has been reticent to commune with Mercer, perhaps not willing to confront his guilt. Mercer judges Deckard and finds him guilty of doing evil, but this judgment is not what Deckard was expecting, nor is it aligned with Mercerism as it has been defined so far in the novel. Here Mercer admits that “the killers” who hound him are a necessary and unending function of life. Just as the actor Al Jarry fills the role of Mercer, Deckard must fill the role of a “killer” for the world to make sense.

Quote 3

“In actuality [Baty] had probably been a manual laborer, a field hand, with aspirations of something better. Do androids dream? Rick asked himself. Evidently; that’s why they occasionally kill their employers and flee here. A better life, without servitude.”

At the start of Chapter 16, Deckard ruminates on Roy Baty’s motivations for coming to Earth, and wonders at the inner workings of the artificial brain. Throughout the book, references to “servitude” and “slavery” are made to the androids, whose sole purpose is to serve the humans who have decided to emigrate to colony worlds. Deckard concludes that androids must have aspirations and dreams, otherwise they would not kill their masters and flee their servitude. As Deckard’s day unfolds, his empathy for the enslaved androids grows stronger and stronger. Here the question of the novel’s title is asked and answered. Since he must kill Roy and the others, Deckard doesn’t consider this for too long, but he makes a logical deduction that any being who rejects servitude must dream of something better. This is the first instance of Deckard wondering about the androids’ motivations and the lives they lived before their rebellion. Deckard’s contemplation also recalls Iran’s pitying sentiment toward “those poor andys” from the beginning of the story.

Quote 4

“‘That goat,’ Rachael said. ‘You love that goat more than me. More than you love your wife, probably. First the goat, then your wife, then last of all—' she laughed merrily. ‘What can you do but laugh?’”

By Chapter 17, Deckard and Rachael are fully involved in one another’s lives, but Deckard’s obsession with organic life wins out over their relationship. When Deckard realizes that Rachael’s secret assignment is to seduce him and force him to empathize with his targets, he cannot kill her for deceiving him due to his newfound empathy for the ‘andys.’ Despite this, Rachael laments the hierarchy of the world she inhabits. Since she is not alive, she is worth less to Deckard than his goat or his wife. She even points out the absurdity of Deckard loving the goat more than his own wife. Unlike Rachael, Deckard occupies a more powerful role in the hierarchy of his society, but his obsession with maintaining that status has caused him to lose his humanity even toward his own wife. In a sense, Rachael is freer than Deckard. She is so low on society’s ladder that she cares little for her own life or its effects. Her conclusion, to laugh, is an expression of empowerment, where Deckard feels powerless against the forces of his world.

Quote 5

“Maybe it had been the last spider on Earth, as Roy Baty said. And the spider is gone; Mercer is gone; he saw the dust and the ruin of the apartment as it lay spreading out everywhere—he heard the kipple coming, the final disorder of all forms, the absence which would win out.”

In Chapter 18, J.R. Isidore gets a rude awakening, and he is forced to confront his new friends on their lack of empathy. Isidore’s beloved Buster Friendly is on TV exposing the “lie” of Mercerism, all while the androids in Isidore’s apartment amuse themselves by torturing a living spider he has found. Now J.R. loses faith in Mercer, loses faith in his new friends, and is again haunted by the thought that life in all its forms is meaningless. He sees the living world losing out to entropy and chaos, or in his words, losing out to “kipple.” There is a strong thematic message in Isidore’s thinking about order and chaos. Roy revels in Buster Friendly’s exposé, showing a strong tendency toward order. Roy loves that the artifice of human empathy proves that androids are no different from humans, but J.R. laments Friendly tearing down Mercerism as fake. The order Roy wants out of life is the very same chaos that J.R. has been running from since the novel’s beginning.