The Man in the High Castle was groundbreaking novel by Philip K. Dick long before it was an average TV programme. It’s so good that we’re not the only ones to include it on our list of best science fiction books.
This review covers some of its main themes of The Man in the High Castle and how they can help us understand the rise of Donald Trump.
This article will include spoilers for the book.
Fragile realities in The Man in the High Castle
The I Ching is prominent in the book, and is unerringly accurate in its assessment of the situation. At first, this seems like a pretty straightforward device used by Philip K. Dick to introduce drama and a gnawing sense of unease into the plot. As the plot progresses it becomes clear that the I Ching is able to help the characters detect the truth about their reality. The truth being that the Axis Powers did not actually win the war. An understandably confusing fact for the characters living in an America owned by Japan and Germany.
What was the ending all about?
For those of you trying to remember the ending of the book, I’ll give you a quick recap. Juliana visits the author of The Grasshopper Lies Heavy and discovers that the Axis Powers didn’t won the war.
There are many interpretations of the ending of The Man in the High Castle, but the one I’d like to discuss is the one that suggests all of the inhabitants of the world of The Man In The High Castle are suffering under a shared delusion that the Axis Powers won the war.
Could our world be a delusion?
Sadly for those of us shocked by the political turmoil of 2016, the answer is no. But, while our world itself isn’t a delusion, our shared delusions can shape our world. Think of how so many people voted for Donald Trump not because of solid facts, but because of some mass delusion that the reality he described was actually real.
How does this relate to Trump?
It’s simple. Donald Trump was able to create a powerful message because the people he was targeting had already let their delusions craft their perception of the world. Delusions centred on fear. Fear of the great Muslim menace. Fear of big government coming to take their guns. Fear of Mexicans taking their jobs and raping their women.
What Dick hit upon so many years ago is that our preconceptions and perception of reality can have as big an impact on the flow of history as anything ‘real’ or ‘factual’. In The Man in the High Castle, the people have created a horrifying delusion about the Axis Powers winning the war. In America 2016, we saw another delusion shape a country.
There also need not be anything reasonable about our delusions for them to take hold. In The Man in the High Castle, Hitler is not revered. He is stuck in a lunatic asylum. The sick joke being that this entire horrible world the characters are living in has been shaped by a mad man. While that may be science fiction; it is also something we need to confront in our own world. Time will tell if the USA is ready to confront reality and free itself from delusions like Juliana does at the end of The Man in the High Castle.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about The Man in the High Castle, especially if you are going to tell me how I’m talking nonsense.
If you like Philip K Dick, you may enjoy reading our analysis of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and the classic Ubik. You may also want to take a look at our list of the eight best Philip K Dick books.
- Man in the High Castle