What is Reality?
What is reality? This is the question Philip K. Dick poses in his book, Time Out of Joint. Dick strategically uses literary devices such as narrative structure and symbolism in order to comment on one’s perception of what is real, and what is fiction. By making “time out of joint” and allowing a shift in moral power within his novel, Dick exposes the feelings of paranoia and insecurity that were experienced during the fifties, when Dick wrote this novel, but implies that there is hope that peace can still be attained.
By structuring his novel where time is out of joint, Dick is able to illustrate that one’s perception of reality is entirely based on what one believes to be fact. This point is illustrated through Ragle Gumm, who, “from his years of active military life” in the beginning of the story, “prided himself on his physical agility” (Dick 100). It is not until time is mended again toward the end of the book that he realizes that it had been, in fact, his father that had served in the war. This demonstrates how one’s firm belief can turn into a reality, as it did for Ragle Gumm for the two and a half years he lived in the fabricated city of Old Town.
Symbolism is an integral component of Time Out of Joint because it further illustrates Dick’s assertion that reality is not always what it seems to be. He appropriately illustrates this idea in his science fiction novel during the scene when the soft-drink stand turns into a simple slip of paper. This scene represents the disparity between how the world exists to Ragle Gumm, and how the world actually exists in Dick’s novel. Dick uses this scene to symbolize America in the fifties, which is the time period in which this novel was published. Referred back to as the “golden age of America” by many, the fifties were a time of economic prosperity and well-being. Although this may have been true, this is a skewed representation of America during the fifties as a whole. Despite the fact that America was striving economically, feelings of paranoia and insecurity impeded American growth socially. At first, the soft drink stand symbolized how people perceived America in the fifties at first glance (the “golden age”), but when it “fell into bits. Molecules…”, (insert citation here) Dick implies that during the fifties, America was still filled with chaos at its core. Reality is not what one perceives at first glance, but what one experiences over a period of time. Those who lived during the 1950’s new that American life was not all prosperous like it is portrayed in television today. Although Ragle’s interaction with soft drink stand is shorter, he realizes after a few short moments of interaction with the soft drink stand, that it is actually just a slip of paper; something he thought was real and tangible on the surface was actually not.
In addition to this, Dick uses this scene to mirror the anxiety and paranoia felt by many during the fifties. It is evident that Ragle’s paranoia...