The Successful More Than Human Garson Poole
English and Literature
Submitted By vanderto
In "The Electric Ant," Phillip K. Dick portrays the character Garson Poole as a success in his journey to complete his quest. Garson Poole becomes more than human as he is able to feel every possible combination of sensations all at once and that is something beyond human. After his tape ran out Garson Poole felt an intense rush of emotion and feeling simultaneously, a literal, real, physical synesthesia; Garson Poole felt human for the first time. The details he sees, hears, tastes, smells, and touches are significant because they are what finally cause Poole to feel human. The tape filtered Garson's senses: he had one type of touch, one type of hearing, one type of sight, etc; when the tape ran out, the filter was removed, and Garson was able to experience the contrast of an unfiltered world. His statement, "I am living, I have lived, I will never live," can be interpreted as an allusion to "veni, vidi, vici" through the use of asyndeton. The Narrator describes what is happening to Poole's actual mechanical body as if it had no person relying on it, as something that is simply replaceable. After Poole discovered that he was indeed not a human, his quest was to get rid of his reality tape in order to have the "opportunity to experience everything. Simultaneously. To know the universe and its entirety, to be momentarily in contact with all reality. Something that no human can do" (Dick 236). Once Poole did cut the tape, although he had up to 40 minutes to put it back together, he choose to delay long enough so that when he looked into his chest he saw it was too late for him and came to the realization that it was going to be over finally. Dick then uses extensive imagery and metaphor usage with phrases like "the silky texture of cloth" (236), and "the warning noise of a defective elevator in one of those ancient, ruined downtown hotels" (236), to show that Poole had experienced everything, that he was momentarily in contact with all reality. Dick showed that Poole had succeeded in his quest. Poole quickly figures out that he is not a human in the story, and also very brashly. A doctor comes in and says sorry we can't treat you because you aren't human, but remember to pay your bill before you leave. It's here that the inhumane treatment begins and where Poole learns that he is less than human and is treated that way by the real humans such as when the doctor was saying goodbye to Poole, ""Thank you so much Mr. Poole," the doctor said. "Or rather I should say just Poole"" (227). That he is simply a device that reads a previously made reality tape and he has no immediate input or control over. He is watching a recording of a life he never had any impact on. Everything he experienced was just a blip on a reality tape, nothing more, nothing less. He was an "electric ant" treated merely as property where he or his owners could pay the bill as the doctor requested of him, "replacement, on your hand can be made at a reasonable price if you're self-owned, or to your owners, if such there are" (227). It no longer mattered if he could do everything else a human could, even if those actions were based off of a static reality tape, the people of this world no longer treated him as a human, so he wasn't one. Poole then experiments with his reality tape and starts adding in new sensations and taking all sensations away. Although, it is not until he finally cuts the tape that he reaches the human level, and then goes beyond what any other human has done, or will be able to experience. Ultimately, a human lives to experience whatever life throws at them and Poole was able to experience everything, in a sense, that moment turned him from a non-human robotic creature to the man who lived the 100 percent life. He was able to experience every possible positive and negative sensation and he never had to wonder "what if" because, he had experienced everything. After all of this build up that Dick has created prior to Poole going completely off the tape Dick, goes into an extensive passage detailing everything that Poole is experiencing. This is as if Poole had all of the sensations of reality coming at him and the only thing putting them into a format that was "human" was the reality tape itself. Dick sets this passage up as a journey that Poole is going on. At first he just see random objects appear like he had before when he punched more holes in the tape, thereby letting more sensations through the filter. He then feels an intense wind leading him on his journey. At first he sees the city of New York as a whole and he sees "the squibs about him scuttled and bounced through night skies and daytime and flooding and drought" (238), he then moves on to the horrible things in life such as the "hideous odors and tastes [that] assailed him" (238). Poole is then teased as he lay in the arms of a woman only to simultaneously hear the sharp shrill in his ear from the warning noise of a defective elevator. One is then left to just imagine every other possible sensation that Poole is feeling. What Dick has described in this passage is something that no true human can feel under normal circumstances. Although, there are mind-altering chemicals, such as LSD, that can work by temporarily "cutting" the filters out of our brains and thereby opening us up to a world similar to what Poole is seeing. Everything that Poole experiences during his time without the reality tape is of stark contrast to what he experienced through the filter of the tape. With the tape running he was living a predetermined static life that was limited in being less than human, but in that one moment without the tape, he was able to finally have some sort of contrast in his life, something unexpected. The most interesting quote from this passage is when Poole says "I am living, I have lived, I will never live." (239) Dick used this sentence structure with reduced relative clause or asyndeton to represent that he wants the reader to pick up the structure as an allusion to "veni, vidi, vici," and to describe the transformation that Poole has gone through. He was less than human during most of his life, and then he became more than human for a split second and then he fell into nothingness. "Veni, vidi, vici" means I came, I saw, I conquered. This is a theme that we saw Poole accomplish in his quest to "experience everything, simultaneously." Once he found out that he was not a human, his one goal in life was to try and achieve a sort of superhuman status and when he came to this realization, he looked inside himself and saw the reality tape, but he would be the one to conquer it. While Poole is experimenting on himself and the tape, the narration of the effect on his body is very cold and without thought of what the body represented. His body was treated like a machine, he could feel no pain and everything was just exchangeable parts. It did not matter that he looked human and that cutting his tape meant certain death, the narration simply offered "He cut the tape" (238), excluding any kind of imagery or build up of the process, perhaps trying to show that he really was nothing more than a robot who could have a owner and would merely be a piece of property without the ability to be free and make decisions. Poole had also experimented prior to cutting the tape and during this time his body responded exactly the same as it always had, the only difference was that the machine would read some things that were considered out of this world for his mind, but the body would not react any differently. Much like how a DVD player doesn't have any feelings about whether you put in a high quality production film into it or if you put in a film of random colors and noises thrown together. Poole's body was simply a machine. Garson Poole is depicted as being successful in his journey to complete his quest to be momentarily in contact with all reality. Garson goes above and beyond a normal human's ability when he experiences a synesthestic experience when his reality tape runs out. The removal of the reality tape ultimately ends Garson's life, but for his final moments he was able to experience the highest state of a human mind. Dick uses a variety of structure elements that add meaning to the story. Dick uses asyndeton to allow the reader to understand the incredible amount of effort that Garson put into his quest to feel human.
Dick, Philip K. “The Electric Ant.” 1969. (225-239). Photocopy.