The Demolished Man was was the first Hugo Award Winner and, while it hasn’t aged perfectly, it’s still worth a read.
The primary themes of the novel are the role of Nietzsche’s Uberman in society and the truth that lies behind the mask of humanity. With that in mind, we picked the quotes from the novel that best fit into those themes.
“Be grateful that you only see the outward man. Be grateful that you never see the passions, the hatreds, the jealousies, the malice, the sicknesses… Be grateful you rarely see the frightening truth in people.”
The tragedy of Espers in the Demolished Man, their gift of telepathy means they can’t help but see the true face of those around them.
“If a man’s got talent and guts to buck society, he’s obviously above average. You want to hold on to him. You straighten him out and turn him into a plus value. Why throw him away? Do that enough and all you’ve got left are the sheep.”
A key element to the Demolished Man, the idea that an exceptional person should be expected to transgress societies rules.
“Neither of us is very trustworthy, eh?”
“Pfutz!” Reich said emphatically. “We don’t play girl’s rules. We play for keeps, both of us. It’s the cowards and weaklings and sore-losers who hide behind rules and fair play.”
“What about honor and ethics?”
“We’ve got honor in us, but it’s our own code…not the make-believe rules some frightened little man wrote for the rest of the frightened little men. Every man’s got his own honor and ethics, and so long as he sticks to ’em, who’s anybody else to point the finger? You may not like his ethics, but you’ve no right to call him unethical.”
As with the quote above, this shows Reich as the Uberman whose force of will places himself outside of normal human morality.
“The mind is the reality. You are what you think.”
The key element of this quote is ‘think’ rather than ‘do’. If someone, like an Esper, can see into your mind you can’t fool them with your actions.
“Powell repressed the wave of exasperation that rose up in him. It was not exasperation with Chooka. It was anger for the relentless force of evolution that insisted on endowing man with increased powers without removing the vestigial vices that prevented him from using them.”
The idea suggested here is that humanities evolution and successes are somehow linked to its baser instincts. This is an idea also discussed in Bester’s classic The Stars My Destination.
“Listen,” he cried in exaltation. “Listen, normals! You must learn what it is. You must learn how it is. You must tear the barriers down. You must tear the veils away. We see the truth you cannot see … That there is nothing in man but love and faith, courage and kindness, generosity and sacrifice. All else is only the barrier of your blindness. One day we’ll all be mind to mind and heart to heart …”
Espers have a tough live, they can see how close humanity is to each other but also how far apart they are.
“The law makes the silliest damned fuss about death. People die by the thousands everyday; but simply because someone has had the energy and enterprise to assist old D’Courtney to his demise, the law insists on turning him into an enemy of the people. I think it’s idiotic, but please don’t quote me.”
A question The Demolished Man is willing to ask, what makes murder so bad?
“In the endless universe there has been nothing new, nothing different. What has appeared exceptional to the minute mind of man has been inevitable to the infinite Eye of God. This strange second in a life, that unusual event, those remarkable coincidence of environment, opportunity and encounter…all of them have been reproduced over and over on the planet of a sun whose galaxy revolves once in two hundred million years and has revolved nine time already. There has been joy. There will be joy again.”
A quote that is simultaneously both depressing and uplifting.