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Summary: Chapter 20

Rick has done the job he came to do, but he is disgusted with the business of hunting androids, and he is disgusted with himself. He snaps irritably at Isidore and heads home. Iran greets him in a state of agitation and tells him that someone deliberately pushed the new goat off the roof to its death. From Iran’s physical description, Rick knows the killer was Rachael. Numbly, Rick gets back in his hovercar and begins flying north, away from San Francisco.

Summary: Chapter 21

It is morning by the time Rick puts the hovercar down in a barren landscape. He tries to call Dave Holden. When he is unable to get through, he begins walking. Soon his walk turns into a Mercer-like uphill trudge. Despite all his success the day before, Rick feels defeated and empty. Suddenly he is struck by a rock. Delirious with fatigue, he experiences something like fusion with Mercer: he is a wretched figure condemned to climb pointlessly uphill. 

Finally, spooked by his own shadow, Rick turns and stumbles back down to his car. Knowing he is in no condition to fly, he tries to call Inspector Bryant. Bryant is unavailable, but Rick reaches Bryant’s secretary. She tells Rick that his wife is worried about him. Rick tries to explain about his dead goat, about having parked his car somewhere near the Oregon border, and about having fused with Mercer. He is, he claims, no longer with the department. To the report that Mercer is a fake, he replies, “Mercer isn’t a fake. Unless reality is a fake.” He ends the conversation with a promise to call his wife. He should not have gone to bed with Rachael, he reflects. He should have killed her.

Summary: Chapter 22

Something in the dust at Rick’s feet catches his eye: a toad. The toad and the donkey are known to be Mercer’s two favorite creatures, but the toad has long been listed as extinct. And yet here, seeing the world through Mercer’s eyes, Rick has found one in the wild. He is in awe. Rick packs the toad in a box and flies home. He excitedly presents the box to Iran, but his excitement turns to disappointment when she quickly discovers a control panel on the toad’s belly. The toad is a fake. Deflated, Rick tells Iran how exhausting yesterday was for him, both physically and morally. Comforting Rick and urging him to get to bed, Iran sets the mood organ to “long deserved peace.” Rick falls asleep almost immediately. Iran regrets ruining Rick’s surprise. She intends to look after their new toad properly, and so she orders some supplies for the toad’s care.

Analysis: Chapters 20–22

At the close of the novel, Deckard numbly wanders the dystopic setting in search of meaning. Exhausted and feeling no joy or relief from his victory over the Batys, Deckard seeks an uninhabitable zone north of the city, symbolizing his desire to escape from his life, his occupation, and his guilt. Deckard begins his own twisted representation of Mercer’s endless climb in the dusty, dead landscape. He even feels a rock strike his arm, a physical and empathic reaction he had never achieved with an empathy box. Deckard has fused with Mercer now, but in the physical world, here beyond the edge of the city. A sense of relief and acceptance floods into the novel, as Deckard finally puts down the burden of destroying life, symbolically becoming the martyr Mercer instead of “the killers.” The wasteland, in a sense, is no different than the city. Deckard knows that his world still possesses empathic connections, even if Mercerism is “fake.” Though he is now out of a job and disillusioned, Deckard is somehow satisfied after fusion with Mercer in the wasteland. The author has thrown everything at Deckard, but he remains resolute in the knowledge that empathy still exists in this harsh, dystopian setting.

The difference between authenticity and artificiality is finally rendered meaningless when Deckard discovers what appears to be a living toad in the wasteland, symbolic of the persistence of life and creation despite the constant forces of death and destruction. His heart lifts momentarily, and he wonders about the price the toad might fetch on the open market, briefly behaving as the man he was, and recalling his obsession with living animals at the start of the novel. But when Iran later discovers the toad to be a fake, just like their electric sheep, it is no longer a matter of disappointment for Deckard. The line between authentic life and artificial life has been blurred to the point that despite his harrowing experiences of the last several days, the death of his goat at Rachael’s hand, and the loss of his occupation, Deckard falls back into alignment with the world he inhabits, exhausted. After a long day, he finally sleeps with the aid of his mood organ, the device that began the novel, and a symbol of humanity’s reliance on technology for salvation in the face of a doomed existence. Now that Deckard has empathy for androids, his need to distinguish between authentic and artificial life is no longer his concern.