1. Plot: Garson Poole is the owner of Tri-Plan Electronics. One day, he wakes up in a hospital to find out that he lost his hand during a squib accident. What is worse is that he is told by the doctors that he is a human-appearing organic robot, something called an Electric Ant. Then he learns from a futuristic computer that his subjective reality is being fed from micro-punched reality tape in his chest cavity. He conducts experiments on himself, first by glazing over a couple of holes and then punching new holes to see what effect this has on his reality.
The more he starts to know and understand about his reality, he gets even more and more curious about what would happen when he cuts the tape. And when he does, it becomes too late. 2. Genre: This short story belongs to the science fiction genre. Three specific elements are the concepts of reality control, futuristic time period and the effects of advanced technology on the society and individuals. Many sci-fi films and novels, like Matrix and Inception, have themes of subjective reality, the subconscious mind and solipsism.
Even more take place in the future, near or far, for example, George Orwell wrote his science fiction novel, 1984, in 1949, as a prediction to what would happen in the future. Due to the futuristic time periods, advanced technologies and how they affect society and individuals are a big theme present in many science fictions. Burning Chrome, for example, has many technological elements that we discussed in class, such as the Vasopressin, Automatic Jack’s robotic arm, Sendai eyes and more.
It is very similar to the world that Philip Dick presents in ‘the Electric Ant’, where flying cars called squibs are ubiquitous and computers have now surpassed the human intellect and ability. 3. Characters: Garson Poole is the main protagonist in this short story. He is a workaholic, boundlessly curious, rash and ambitious. He is seriously workaholic; it is very evident in the manner he talks about his work that he is very attached to his work and his identity is very much associated with his occupation.
He says “I’ve worked hard” as he tries to process the fact that he has been a mechanical slave. The most difficult aspect of his discovery is his feelings of betrayal by his employees that he thought he gained respect from and all he has lived for, “his” company has been nothing but an act. The humane instinct of curiosity has been incorporated in the biology of Electric Ants as well as he is one of the most curious characters I have encountered in my study of literature so far. He asks many ‘why? s throughout the story as he discovers more and more about himself. He asks himself, “What am I trying to do? Do I want to interfere with the reality tape? If so, why? ”, when he fiddles with his reality tape. It is also his curiosity that leads to many of his rash, ambitious actions that have dire consequences. He is driven by his ambition to find out everything he can about his reality and by his idea that if his reality is defined by the tape, without the tape, he will be limitless in his ability to “know the universe in its entirety.
Because of his strong desires to satisfy his curiosity, he makes a very brash decision by cutting his reality tape and it is too late when he tries to fuse the ends together. 4. Setting: This story takes place in the future in New York City. The setting complements the story’s theme of advanced technology, since New York City is the economic centre of North America, if not the world. Also, Poole happens to be the head of an electronics corporation and many corporations have headquarters in New York City.
Because of the ubiquity of these businesses, it makes sense that there are many Electric Ants controlled by these corporations in New York City and that the author chose this city to be the setting for this story, which is about an Electric Ant. 5. Point of View: This story is in third person, but is told from a first-person perspective, because it centers on almost only the main character’s senses, thoughts and feelings as he experiences the situations of the plot. This perspective allows the author to emphasize the story’s main theme of solipsism that only one reality is certain to exist.
On the other hand, the third-person narration enables detailed descriptions about the setting, other characters and most importantly, the robotic body of Poole. 6. Themes: Two central themes that this story revolves around are the nature of reality (solipsism in particular) and an individual’s ability or inability to freely perceive it. The story really makes its readers think hard and ask themselves, “Could it be actually possible that all I see around me will disappear when I disappear? ” It explores the differences between an individual’s reality and the objective reality if solipsism is actually true.
Everything that Garson Poole had seen, heard and felt in his entire life might have no connection, value or existence in objective reality. And it makes readers curious about what is the nature of objective reality, if it is completely separate from subjective reality. An individual’s ability to realize the nature of his reality is also touched on, because Sarah never knew or even wondered if she was actually a punch-hole, a stimulus-factor in someone else’s reality tape, until the moment she started disappearing. . Allusion to other texts; other useful background: In order to be able to truly understand the story, you need to have read anything that makes you question reality and ask yourself “What if? ”. Many books and films that I have watched, such as Matrix, 1984 and Inception has made me much more familiar with concepts of reality. Even more useful background would be information on solipsism and because I learnt what it was, I could have applied the knowledge to enhance my understanding of the story. . Key Literary Techniques: The reality tape within the robotic body of Garson Poole symbolizes the extent of his reality, and his knowledge of this extent and how boxed in he is in his own little world by his reality. When he finds out from the class BBB computer that answers queries in microseconds that his reality is basically being fed from this miniscule unit called the reality-supply construct, it shows how his existence is so small he is incapable of perceiving reality without this tape.
Later on, the readers find out he is incapable of existence without this tape, although it is easy to assume that we do not exist if our realities do not. 9. Questions: 1. What is the exact connection between the objective reality and Poole’s subjective reality? Although Danceman, Sarah and Tri-Plan Electronics might disappear when Poole cuts the tape, New York City cannot be just a punch-hole on his reality tape. 10. Evaluation: I consider this a good story, but ineffective in some ways.
Its ending could have been clearer, but its vagueness might have been the author’s purpose to leave the readers pondering and its plot did not have a conclusion nor did it go anywhere. However, it had more strengths than weaknesses, with structured, interesting characters that had many layers considering this is a short story and its themes were also conveyed very thoroughly throughout. It was a valuable story, because it makes readers think twice about reality and actually wonder about the state of reality each of us lives in.