A scanner darkly

Today’s topic is A scanner darkly by Philip K. Dick.

One of the most scariest drug novels ever, A scanner darkly presents the life of drug addicts, the consequences of drug consumption, and the misery life of people who take drugs. The main character, Bob Arctor, is a secret police agent who infiltrates the life of the junkies in order to find proof about the big drug dealers. During his stay with them, he begins taking drugs himself, and living their life. Even though he periodically checks with his boss, he is using a specific mask that prevents anyone to know who he really is. He begins to develop dual personality because of consumption of substance D, but also because he must adapt to his new drug life, but also have a clear mind to do his police work.

The novel clearly depicts the mind affected by drugs, starting from a friend of Arctor’s who always thinks he has insects on his body and in his house, but there are none there, only in his mind, and ending with all his friends who lose their common sense, have panic attacks, or just cannot think straight, can’t even count. The horror of the drug effects is presented with examples in real life, people who lost their mind, people who get beat up, sell everything for drugs, withdrawal symptoms, and many others. The novel clearly is against the drugs, and presents a very good and educative way by negative example.

Substance D is a very strong drug that affects the mind by splitting the brain into two different personalities given by the two brain hemispheres. This looks to be based on some real scientific articles and some experiments in the 50s. Arctor becomes more and more addict, and the effects on him are stronger. He cannot realize that the policeman and the junkie is one and the same, and gets infatuated with another drug dealing girl, Donna. His friends do not care so much about him, and they only try to find cheaper and better drugs.

Arctor is alone, caught in a spinning wheel that never stops, and just spins harder. He doesn’t know what is happening to him, he doesn’t even realize. He refuses to admit that the drug has got to his mind, and still believes everything will be fine.

In the end, Arctor falls to the drug and severely loses his mind and suffers heavy amnesia. Donna, who proves to be also a police agent, puts him in a treatment clinic. Here, the conspiration is revealed, the treatment center is getting money by treating addicts, and produces the D substance, with the free help from mindless junkies that they produced themselves, he best business of the future, in Philip K. Dick’s imagination. It is shown that Arctor was intentionally let to get into this state, such that the police can have a man inside and uncover the truth. How helpful Arctor is in his vegetative state, it remains to be seen.

A scanner darkly is frightening, scary, but somehow it makes you feel empathic for the suffering, for the people who sometimes deserve their fate, but sometimes are too young or too stupid to realize what others are pushing them to do. Also it shows that sometimes getting involved too much for a job, impersonating something you are not, has grave consequences.

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