Analysis 4

Philip K. Dick’s Martian Time-Slip brings up many ideas that challenge the modern-day stereotypes of autistic, schizophrenic or otherwise neurodivergent people in society. Jack Bohlen was suffering from bouts of schizophrenia and fled to Mars in order to escape his bouts. Married with a son and a business mogul of a father on Earth, Jack works as a repair technician. This position is very critical and extremely imperative to everyday life on the newly-colonized Mars. Also on Mars we find Manfred Steiner, an autistic boy that is believed to be able to predict the future or alter time and enter through time portals.

The main plot aside, Jack and Manfred pose a very interesting topic as far as Dick’s representation of the two characters and having neurodivergence be a focal point of his novel in a time (published 1964) where autism and neurodivergence were still misunderstood, and the treatments for mental illness lacking research and scientific backing. Having a the “good” guys of the story both be neurodivergent is fascinating, as is the idea that Jack is married throughout the novel, and despite both Jack and his wife Silvia having had affairs and Jack’s schizophrenia, they choose to remain together, something that even neurotypical couples struggle with.

Another main focus of the novel is Manfred’s savant-like abilities, something seen in other, typically fictional novels, and movies like Rain Man. This can be a double-edged sword, as these characters can set extremely high bars for the neurodivergent that may never be possible to reach, while also raising awareness and empowering neurodivergent to an extent. Also seen in other plots with a savant character, Kott attempts to abuse the gift that Manfred has been given to alter time in order to stake his claim in the land that Jack’s father had already purchased so that the United Nations can install apartment complexes. Just like in Rain Man, the neurotypical antagonist is attempting to wreak havoc through the companionship of a neurodivergent protagonist or main character.

Another point of emphasis is the idea that is presented in the book, that both schizophrenic and autistic people have a different sense of time, having time pass them by extremely fast and much faster than a neurotypical person or at a snail’s pace. The main point brought into play is that these people are essentially trapped in their own brains, which could lead to why Jack originally attempted to “flee” from his condition by moving to an entirely new planet. Manfred’s ability can also be explained by this theory for the book’s sake, with an older Manfred coming back thankful to all of those whom helped him as a boy.

In summary, these two characters represent the challenges as well as the positive characteristics of neurodivergent people. Jack being married, staying married through tough times and assisting Manfred through his journey to Manfred himself coming back in time, in a wheelchair with breathing devices hanging on him just to say thank you to those of whom helped him in his journey show that Dick was writing ahead of his times as far as neurodivergence and that some of these topics are still extremely relevant to this day.

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2 thoughts on “Analysis 4

  1. kiesselt

    I think the really interesting thing is that the book centers around sterilization and the “cleansing” of the human race. While I think you bring up a good point of Dick attempting to write ahead of his time, I also think the novel attempts to look back at sterilization and focus on the question of science and therapy. That question being: Even if we had cures and therapy that could cure neurodivergence, would we want it? I think Manfred’s ability to see into the future and time travel conveys this idea: is this a good thing? Should we learn how to utilize it, or should we keep to normal, everyday social conventions?

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  2. rachel16d

    I was not too eager to read this book only because I am not a science fiction fan. However, I think the use of that genre really made the schizophrenia and autism shine throughout the book. Because they were in a strange place, the conditions didn’t seem that strange to me.

    Like “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, I too found a lot of evidence for stereotyping. It did seem that Jack and Manfred were the good guys of the book, and the reader liked them the most. I found a good book review online were someone pointed out the great writing of the characters and the intersecting viewpoints. I really did enjoy the changing perspectives on each page as I read because it gave a sense of strangeness.

    One other thing the book review touched on was the other stereotypes in this book. There is racism and sexism throughout the book, and it mostly comes from Arnie Kott. To me it seems that the last couple of works we’ve studied have had both sexism and racism, and I wonder why those are such common stereotypes in books with neurodivergent characters?

    Even though I like that the neurodivergent characters are portrayed with the stereotypes of being funny, nice and having savant abilities, I wonder what would have changed if they weren’t like that? I think it’s important to challenge the stereotypes because I don’t want to think every neurodivergent character is the same. So far, that’s what I’m thinking.

    The ending was very strange to me and I also thought it was a good example of how kind and good hearted the neurodivergent characters are. Not many people would stay in a marriage like Jack’s and Sylvia’s, or risk traveling in a delicate state just to say thank you like Manfred. These characters have true heart, and you want to help them with their problems.

    Source: https://guysalvidge.wordpress.com/2008/02/17/book-review-martian-time-slip-by-philip-k-dick/

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