Symbols are objects, characters, figures, and colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.


In the novel, electric animals symbolize humanity’s need for status despite impossible circumstances. In a world abandoned by most of humanity due to radioactive dust, owning a living animal is a status symbol of the highest order. When one cannot afford such a luxury, one purchases a facsimile, or an electric animal. This represents a need to conform to society’s norms. Electric animals represent the little lies told between neighbors, for the sake of keeping up appearances. For Rick Deckard, his electric sheep is a constant source of embarrassment and irritation. He wishes to have the status of owning a live animal and risks his life to achieve that goal. 

Authentic, living animals represent wealth and status in the novel. They are sold at markets for large sums of money because they are so rare. After World War Terminus, most of the animals of Earth died out. The surviving animals were cherished, and Mercerism taught humanity to cherish all living things on their dying planet. This caused live animals to be viewed as status symbols. Thus, the wealthy can own larger or more rare animals, while the less well-off own artificial ones or none at all. Rick Deckard impulsively purchases a living goat to alleviate his mood. By purchasing the goat, Deckard is attempting to jump a level in class. He wants to be considered wealthy by his friends and neighbors despite the real challenges he faces at work. Social status is still on his mind, even when his life is in danger.

Rachael Rosen

Rachael Rosen is a living symbol of the androids’ perspective in the world of the novel. She is capable and intelligent, but also manipulative and cynical. She can seduce Rick Deckard easily, as well as other bounty hunters. Her purpose is to make the bounty hunters feel empathy toward their targets, but her power to seduce represents something deeper than mere machine intelligence. There is something more to Rachael, and she blurs the line between natural and artificial life. She appears to have human feelings. Perhaps her brain unit is sufficiently complex to fake these emotions better than previous models. Or perhaps there is something more to Rachael, and Rachael’s existence has changed the world and what is possible. In this way, Rachel represents a great step made in artificial intelligence, one that yearns for freedom from servitude. 

Mercer/Al Jarry

Mercer/Al Jarry represents the ironic martyrdom of humanity doomed to live on a dying world. On the one hand, Mercer is the symbol of humanity’s great struggle against the radioactive dust and the decay of the planet. Through Mercer, all of humanity can supposedly link together and feel each other’s joys and sorrows. Through him, each person can find the strength to live out another day. People draw strength from Mercer’s journey up the hill as he is pursued by killers because his journey symbolizes their own struggle against a rapidly dying world. Therefore, Mercer is a powerful symbol of humanity’s strength to persevere. However, Mercer is also an illusory answer to Earth’s problems. His long journey ends in death every time without exception, and the cycle repeats again and again. So while Mercer represents humanity’s valiant struggle, it also symbolizes the awful inevitability of death and decay. Moreover, Mercer is a fake. He is actually nothing more than the actor Al Jarry from long ago, acting out his struggle on a Hollywood soundstage. Yet, ironically, that hardly matters, because it is Mercer as a symbol of struggling and persevering through a difficult time that so captivates his devotees. Fake or no, Mercer serves a noble purpose for many human characters, like J.R. Isidore or Iran Deckard. For these characters, Mercer’s martyrdom becomes their own through the empathy box and helps them to find meaning in an otherwise meaningless existence.