Humanity In Science Fiction: An Analysis Of “do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?” And “never Let Me Go”

June 23, 2022 by Essay Writer


In 2003, the development of Dolly the sheep caused a huge fascination among scientists since it was the first mammal to be cloned from an adult cell. Similarly, the acceptance of the first Saudi Arabian citizenship by the android robot, Sophia, has caused huge controversy last year. Many people debate and discuss this issue, since robotics and technology is a rising topic that numerous people are fascinated by. With a growing interest in the development of androids and clones, people are concerned about the lack of humanity in these artificial creations. Therefore, the authors of science fiction started to employ different rhetorical devices to convey the theme of humanity in dystopian science fiction such as Never Let Me Go and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? The novel Never Let Me Go is written in first person point of view, and the genre of the book is science-fiction, bildungsroman, and speculative fiction. The novel used colloquialism as the writing style, and symbolism, imagery, and allegory were used as main rhetorical devices. The other novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is written in third person limited, and the genre of the book is science fiction, detective story, and a noir. The writing style is casual cerebral, and used similar rhetorical devices as Never Let Me Go.

Both Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick depict clones and androids. Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth, the main characters of Never Let Me Go are clones created for the sole purpose of donating their organs. However, neither the process of creating clones nor that of harvesting their organs is ever explained scientifically. Rather than being a science-fiction story, the novel focuses on the relationship of the three characters, making them quite human. Similarly, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? does not explain the way an android is made in detail. The only way for the protagonist, Rick Deckard, to recognize androids is to use an “empathy test.” Only humans are supposedly capable of empathy, but Deckard finds himself feeling empathy for an android brutally destroyed by a fellow bounty hunter. In fact, the novel is very ambiguous throughout as to who is an android, and who is not. Thus, the lack of scientific details in both novels raises the question of what it means to be human.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro is a dystopian novel written at the beginning of the 21st century, where the development in technology, biological and medical sciences were significant. In the 1990s, scientists began working on cloning, and the first successful clone ever created was a sheep named Dolly. To give a specific definition of this process, scientists tried to clone a sheep instead of an actual human being in order to avoid any ethical issues. They cloned by using a technique called Somatic-cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), which is a method for cloning adult animals using differentiated cells. First, the nucleus is taken from a differentiated somatic (adult) cell of a donor. Second, from the surrogate mother, an egg cell is taken and enucleated (nucleus is removed). Third, the somatic cell nukes and enucleated egg is fused with electricity. Fourth, the embryo is implanted into the uterus of a surrogate. Last but not least, the new born clone will be genetically identical to the nucleus donor. The idea of cloning is still widely debated around the world nowadays and precipitates a great deal of discussion regarding human being’s moral obligation to cellular life. The novel Never Let Me Go deals with the topic of cloning, but with a wider and more complex scope. Unlike the real society and the cloned “sheep”, the novel represents clones as an actual humankind by having them consist traits of humanity.

In the novel Never Let Me Go, Memory of Hailsham plays an important factor in depicting clones. Hailsham is the school where the main characters Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth got their education. To be specific, it is the education of how they should “take care” of their organs. This is the place where they slowly got to know about their status as clones and learn about carers and donors; “carer” becomes a “donor” as they mature. A lot of students (donors) thought that the school, Hailsham, was just a simple paradise and a safe place for them, but as Kathy and other main characters grew older, they soon realized that the place was not just a simple place; it actually protected them, and moreover nurtured them so that they can be ready to donate their organs. In addition, Hailsham was a “privilege” among other clones getting prepared to donate their organs because they didn’t get as much education than students in Hailsham and didn’t receive the best treatment. Hailsham is the place where their friendship bonds got tight and strong, which symbolize “innocence” since they felt and cared for each other just like any other “normal” students. Towards the end of the book, their school (Hailsham) gets destroyed and when the students found out about this, they felt as if their bonds and innocence got destroyed as well, which means that there is a positive correlation between the school and the students. Like this, it proves that Hailsham is a place where students really relied on and stacked their memories together, which is quite ironic since many people believe clones are not supposed to have such emotions nor memories. It is not an exaggeration to say that Hailsham is more than just a school and a place where they got all the protection for most of the characters. Normally in the real world, people do not consider much nor seriously about relationships between clones and people do not put deep meanings on clones; they are just for donating organ purposes, and the inevitable reality is that, it is. However, as portrayed in this novel, it clearly showed how clones can exactly have traits just as Homo sapiens, such as memory, empathy, and the feeling of love. “Well . . . . The thing is, it might sound strange. It did to me at first. What she said was that if I didn’t want to be creative, if I really didn’t feel like it, that was perfectly all right. Nothing wrong with it, she said”. This quote provides evidence that clones can also have or feel emotions by having one of the main characters, Tommy, develop a willingness to discuss more deeply with Kate about his complex feelings, state, and problems.

Not just the feeling of friendship or love, one’s identity also represents as one of the factors that human being consists of. The reason for clones’ existence is solely to donate and take care of their organs which would later be donated to the clone. This novel truly deals with the conflict ‘man vs. society’ and ‘man vs. individual’ because if they have no difference between the clones, then why are the donor’s destination different? If it is just about their destiny, isn’t it too unfair that they have to take care of their “organs” while the other clone is enjoying its life? The donors are no more or no less than a bag of walking organs, and moreover their every action is restricted, such as drinking alcohol or smoking, which are factors that can ruin their organs which has to be donated to the other clone. “The gallery Tommy and I were discussing was something we’d all of us grew up with. Everyone talked about it as though it existed, though in truth none of us knew for sure that it did”. This passage shows how desirable students in Hailsham was to know about the “other” world behind the wall of Hailsham. The main characters learn about their predetermined destination as they mature, which might seem quite gruesome to the readers and the outside world. Nevertheless, the incompatible fact is that despite the main characters knowing their tragic destination, they did not show such despair nor renunciation. They rather indeed undergone personal developments and changes that all human beings undergo. Gradually, the main characters developed and strengthened their identity, making themselves more pronounced as it gets more into the novel. For instance, Tommy remaining somewhat naïve than Ruth and Kathy, and Kathy becoming a skillful carer. As depicted, the novel defined clones as true individuals that has no difference between any other human beings.

Another factor that this novel deals with is life, death, and humanity. These clones in the novel live their life just like human beings, but with a different goal. Kashuo Ishiguro portrays the clones not so different with human beings. For instance, Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy learns how to cooperate with each other. The ability to consist emotion and to empathize with others is one of the main characteristics that distinguish humans from other living organisms. Furthermore, Ishiguro deals with “death” and “choices” as well. In the novel, clones make choices of their own life and shows their willingness to live even if they know their tragic predetermined death. This makes audiences consider about their own lives as well; the constraints we accept in them, and the inevitability of our own demise. Although human beings have a greater life spectrum as well as choices that they can make, this novel shows us that the actual “fate” is not so different from the clones. We will all eventually die, whether we choose to “accept” or “deny” this fate. “The problem, as I see it, is that you’ve been told and not told. You’ve been told, but none of you really understand, and I dare say, some people are quite happy to leave it that way. But I’m not. If you’re going to have decent lives, then you’ve got to know and know properly. . . . Your lives are set out for you. You’ll become adults . . . and before you’re even middle-aged, you’ll start to donate your vital organs. That’s what each of you was created to do”. This novel handles with their choices and faith. Lucy had a dream just like any other young human beings; She discussed having any possible career to other students, like being an actor. However, since their lives are predetermined, this is a bit too excessive. Since they have to donate their organs when they age, having a dream is simply impossible for them. This point accentuates how the lives of students in Hailsham are serious and inevitable; they have no choice regarding their future. However, the point is that clones and human beings’ destination is ultimately equivalent even if humans have the privilege to make more choices throughout their lives.

Last but not least, one of the main themes that this novel deals with would be the ability to love, care, and donate. In the novel Never Let Me Go, the technical definition of “care” and “donate” would be in which a carer provides to a donor, which is a quite familiar concept to humans – the interaction in which a donor needs when they are in need of organ donation. The main characters in the novel are educated in a way that donating their organ is considered as art, thus the guardians in Hailsham are constantly reminding the young clones, including Kathy, that their duty is to “give away” and “give selflessly”. Other than caring and donating, the theme “love” is also dealt significantly. “Well, Kathy, what you have to realize is that Tommy doesn’t see you like that. He really, really likes you, he thinks you’re really great. But I know he doesn’t see you like, you know, a proper girlfriend. Besides, you know how Tommy is. He can be fussy . . . . Tommy doesn’t like girls who’ve been with . . .well, you know, with this person and that”. This part of the quote shows how Ruth senses Kathy and Tommy’s real intimacy. The clones in this novel can also get attracted by one another, and consist all emotions that human beings have. Therefore, this novel truly emphasizes how there’s no clear boundary between human beings and clones.

Other than this novel, similarly but differently, there were androids depicted in the novel called Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. This is an excellent novel that lacks scientific process behind cloning but shows how humanity can be applied to androids as well. This book leads to a question: “What does it mean to be human?” as well as “What is an android?”. This novel is set in San Francisco, in the year 1992, following an enormous war, World War Terminus, that annihilated most parts of the world. Only those with intelligence were sent to colonize other planets, such as Mars, while those who can’t pass the test will be left on Earth to die. Furthermore, science has developed so significantly that producing androids became possible so virtually that it is impossible to distinguish them from human beings. These androids are made solely for the purpose of working as an assistant on other planets, but some of them were so clever that they were able to disguise as human beings and live on Earth. Hence, police officers on Earth try to hunt these androids and kill them. In order to catch these androids, they run elaborate psychological tests on suspects, and one of them is called Voigt-Kampff, which is designed to measure human’s innate empathy- which means that androids, who supposedly have no empathy, are not able to pass the test. During the story, humans have a hard time distinguishing androids and human beings, which means that there is no apparent difference between these two.

The definition of what it means to be human is truly subjective and vague, as there are numerous themes dealt in this book, one being humanity, androids, and empathy. “Empathy is the ability to imagine the thoughts, feelings, attitudes of another person or animal as though they were your own”. The main question is: “What if a person is born as a human being but lacks the ability to empathize with others?” or “what if an android develops the ability to think beyond itself?” There are numerous people who lacks the ability to empathize, for instance psychopaths, or developed androids that has the ability to empathize with others, such as Sophia, the android robot. Philip K. Dick wrote the question “What is Human?” on every chapter of this novel. There are a variety of ways to answer this question, but the most obvious answer would be the ability to “empathize”. However, in the novel, many characters who are technically a human being is depicted as someone who is cruel and lacks empathy, such as Philip Resch and Rachel Rosen. On the other hand, there are androids who show occasional signs of an emotional connection to other androids, such as Pris Stratton. “’An android,’ he said, ‘doesn’t care what happens to any other android. That’s one of the indications we look for.’ ‘Then,’ Miss Luft said, ‘you must be an android.’That stopped him; he stared at her. ‘Because,’ she continued, ‘Your job is to kill them, isn’t it? You’re what they call —’ She tried to remember. ‘A bounty hunter,’ Rick said. ‘But I’m not an android.’ ‘This test you want to give me.’ Her voice now, had begun to return. ‘Have you taken it?’ In this passage, Rick is in the process of hunting down androids and killing a suspected one called Miss Luba Luft. However, Miss Luba Luft asks fairly obvious question, which asks if Rick himself has taken the test before. In other words, this means that Rick could be an android himself. Therefore, this novel shows us how difficult it is to distinguish between a human being and a robot.

Memory and the past is another important theme dealt in this novel. Humans interact with each other and build relationships by building memory. Memory is such an important factor while humans live their lives; it is the tool of selfhood and humanity. However, in the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, memory does not make a lot of difference. Furthermore, their memories frequently tends to be artificially implanted. To illustrate this idea, scientists developed technology so significantly that they were able to implant characteristics in android’s brain, consisting all fake memories and information, hence making them they are an actual human being. Philip K. Dick showed how memory is unreliable and how it has a positive correlation with time: the more time passes, the more memories of the past distorts. Hence, the memories of the past are useless whatsoever, since they get distorted no matter what. “This rehearsal will end, the performance will end, the singers will die, eventually the last score of the music will be destroyed in one way or another; finally the name ‘Mozart’ will vanish, the dust will have won”. This passage shows how the author tried to accentuate the fact that memory is useless and imperfect in human beings as well, since our memory constantly gets distorted.

Last but not least, identity is one of the most major themes that is discussed in the novel. In the novel, it shows how androids and human beings are similar in the way that they both violate their identity during their lifetime. In the passage: “The old man said, ‘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. Everywhere in the universe’. The old man told androids that they will violate their own identity while living their lives. Likewise, humans tend to breach their identity. Therefore, it shows how androids and humans corresponds with each other by violating their identities. Accordingly, the author clearly depicts how humans and androids are similar in the way that they both construct their own identity along their lifetime. In other words, the author uses the quotes to convey that the process of identifying and constructing one’s identity is one of the major factors of humanity.


The portrayal of clones and androids in Never Let Me Go and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? are similar in that they both emphasize the potential of clones and androids in having human connections. They both consisted human factors and qualities, such as empathy, memory, love, and friendship. The only major difference was that one was portrayed as clones, and the other was portrayed as androids. They had different fate, and how they embrace that was different as well. In Never Let Me Go, clones surrendered themselves to fate without any doubt, and strived to live their best life. On the other hand, in the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, androids were reluctant to accept their fate, hence tried to camouflage as human beings. Moreover, clones in Never Let Me Go cared for each other and tried their best to fulfill others’ benefits. However, humans in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep killed androids that jeopardized themselves by faking as an imitation of humans.

There were some similar themes that were mentioned in both books, for instance: identity, empathy, and love. Significantly, the theme of identity was mentioned in both books to accentuate the idea that clones and androids have no such difference with humans, since they both experience the process of building and violating their identity. These two novels both lacked the scientific process behind cloning and building a human substitute which really highlighted human innate characteristics that distinguishes them with robots. By teaching the audience about the humanity behind clones and androids, the authors strongly reassured the opponents of radical development in science.

Works Cited

  1. Arn, Jackson. ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?.’ LitCharts. LitCharts LLC, 29 Jun 2016. Web. 27 Jun 2017.
  2. Dick, Philip K.. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. Ballantine Books. 1996.
  3. Ishiguro, Kazuo. Never Let Me Go. Vintage. 2006.
  4. Schlegel, Chris. ‘Never Let Me Go.’ LitCharts. LitCharts LLC, 7 Sep 2014. Web. 18 Apr 2019. Shmoop Editorial Team. “Never Let Me Go Analysis.” Shmoop, Shmoop University, 11 Nov. 2008, www.shmoop.com/never-let-me-go/literary-devices.html.
  5. De La Cruz, Yvonne A. “Science Fiction Storytelling and Identity: Seeing the Human Through Android Eyes.” California State University Stanislaus, www.csustan.edu/sites/default/files/honors/documents/journals/thresholds/Delacruz.pdf.


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