VanOrd, Analysis Four — “Martian Time Slip”

Even though it is impressive the way author of “Martian Time Slip”, Phillip K. Dick, was able to incorporate multiple point of views into the novel, I didn’t enjoy it. I found that swapping to a different POV every few pages was a bit tiring. To me Si-fi novels are totally hit or miss. This one came off as if the story line was trying too hard to be artistic in its leading up to a grand point. While incorporating many different themes, ideas, opinions, point of views, I felt that the unique style of writing was certainly unique but never made me clear on its big statement.

Since I found the story to be odd and irritating I likely didn’t read it in an open-minded perspective or thoroughly for that matter. I often struggled with attention and found myself rereading pages which made it more difficult to find the will to continue reading. I wasn’t into it. But, what I can say I like is the “mentally dysfunctional” character Manfred Steiner as well as the gifted yet mistreated Bleekmen.

The biggest part of the novel that stood out to me is when the United Nations, who controls Mars, plans to go into the B-G Camp and destroy any and all “anomalous children”. This reminds me of basic genocide of a particular type of human being. In this case abnormal children who in the eyes of a small human population are polluting their race. Norbert Steiner, the father of 10 year-old Manfred Steiner, is appallingly okay with his son being destroyed based on the belief that Manfred is deranged in time. There is an interesting comparison with this belief to the ignorance that often plagues our modern society. When people are unable to fully understand something that is unfamiliar, like neruodivergent individuals, they become judgmental and are unable to make informed decisions. Norbert didn’t want Manfred to come home to live with the family nor did he really want Manfred to be destroyed/killed (even if it was in a “scientific, painless, instantaneous way”). Unsure of what to make of his son, Norbert ultimately commits suicide due to the unnerving pressure. This was a poor and irrational choice to make and one that left his wife alone with four daughters and a still living neurodivergent son. I relate this fear and inability to accept Manfred to the way our society sometimes behaves today. We often do not know how to handle what is considered different and as a result we don’t usually react well.

Overall I didn’t like this novel but I guess you could say I appreciate parts of it. Mainly Manfred. Throughout the novel as his parents reject him and Arnie attempts to use him, Manfred is a character I often feel bad for. Luckily, in the end  Manfred finds a home with the Bleekmen and it is revealed that he lived a happy life which leaves me with a semi-positive view of this story.


One thought on “VanOrd, Analysis Four — “Martian Time Slip”

  1. sgrit96

    I too was interested in the incorporation and ties between the different perspectives represented in the story. My interest, however, was in how these different perspectives guide the readers to view neurodivergent characters. The choice of a protagonist with ties to mental illness along with the portrayal of characters typically viewed as neurotypical as corrupt or selfish leads the reader to view neurodivergence positively. Jack Bohlen is portrayed as a generous character as he gives water to the Bleekmen, but Arnie Kott is juxtaposed as being cruel and unfeeling. Jack confronts Arnie’s cruel manner and prods him saying “Doesn’t it make you feel good to know you saved the lives of five people?” (26), Arnie however responds saying “Five niggers, you mean. I don’t call that saving five people” (26). Arnie’s views toward the indigenous tribes of Mars mimics his views toward the “abnormal children” just as it mimics the compassion with which Jack regards these children.
    The outcasts of society, or those who either cannot or refuse to conform to the expectations of society are treated as objects of shame. The Bleekmen are treated this way because they do not conform to the societal expectations, but even when they attempt to conform as Heliogabalus (Arnie’s “tame Bleekman”) they are still treated as being inferior because they are not perfect specimens of human breeding. Even Helio’s view on mental illness is more accepting than that of Arnie and others in the colony, he approaches the subject in a more philosophical manner saying “They (schizophrenic people) turn away from mere things, which one may handle and turn to practical use; they turn inward to meaning” (82). He views schizophrenia as a different view of the world in which those who are schizophrenic assign different meaning and value to situations, not as a disability, but purely as a different approach to life. The characters representing those who live outside of societal expectations once more are revealed to have a much more accepting view towards others who are considered “abnormal”. The neurotypical approach to those who are considered “abnormal” is much harsher as is seen when Steiner enters the Red Fox, and the owner converses with him about camp B-G saying “We don’t need those freaks here on Mars; it’s bad advertising” (41). Steiner later committed suicide because of the internal conflict he was suffering, a mixture of shame, guilt and fear.
    This societal pressure permeates even the Public School as Jack describes the school as studying the children for appropriate responses and “A child who did not properly respond was assumed to be autistic- that is, oriented according to a subjective factor that took precedence over his sense of objective reality” (64). Autism was diagnosed as a deviation from societal expectations and the calculated responses which were expected in the school. This mechanical detachment further pushes the reader to sympathize with the neurodivergent characters of the Mars colony and Jack’s negative views of the Public School push that disgust with the system which ostracized these people. Overall, the views of the reader are expertly guided by the characters Philip Dick creates and therefore allows for a more sympathetic reading to be done by a potentially unsympathetic audience.



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