A Scanner Darkly

  1. Analysis of the book

For Arctor the main character in A Scanner Darkly his existence is always in questions, mostly by himself. After taking large amounts of drugs he cannot remember who he is and is left schizophrenic which shows his attempt to escape himself. Because Arctor is himself a drug addict and then plays the drug enforcement officer set to monitor Arctor he starts to lose himself to the drug culture and leads him to paranoia. The loss of self is  the major theme of this novel as most of the drug addicts suffer from paranoia and lack the skills to be self-sufficient without drugs.


  1. Analysis of the film

The film version of A Scanner Darkly presents the celebrity populated world of Arctor who all have problems of their own through the actors they chose to play each character. Each character has had issues within the functional society of Hollywood which makes them all fitting for these off the chart roles as drug addicts. The choice to make this movie animated also adds tremendously to the films ability to animate the reactions of each character to the drugs and the altered state of mind the experience because of it. It is able to use the interpolated rotoscope to create an feeling of unease for the audience as the novel was able to create through its words, and this kind of off feeling would not have been so effectively done if it were real life people since dim lighting and special effects would only lead to confusion for the audience and a break from the realistic setting of the novel while an animated version can draw in whatever they please and because everything is made of the same material it creates a cohesive world.


  1. Analysis of the adaptation

The use of celebrities in the world of A Scanner Darkly not only presents the everyday drug addicts of the novel world, but updates the timeframe to include celebrities of today like Robert Downey Jr., Winona Ryder, and Keanu Reeves and capitalizes on their parts in the film playing the characters, while also commenting on some of the issues they have had in real life, like Robert Downey Jr.’s behavior problems and outlandish ways. The mentioning of New-Path and Substance D is also accelerated which takes away some of the mystery of the novel, while creating a lingering feeling of unsureness throughout the film. They are both able to show the split between ones self in the functional world and ones drug-self.


  1. Online research


This source talks about the differences between California lifestyles and that of the characters the novel portrays. It also says how Arctor grows insane due to his suburban existence. 



This source focuses on A Scanner Darkly in comparison to Philip K. Dick’s other novels and how this fits into the style he created. It also says that this novel is almost all biographical.



This source focuses on how philosophical questions of life, death, and will come into play for the characters of the film and novel. It cites personal identity and consciousness and the loss of these two to madness as the main fear people develop. Therefore the characters in the novel who are drug addicts are attempting to flee the loss of their identity via insanity through the use of drugs since it is there choice to do drugs, but would not be if they were insane, and also provides them an excuse for their erratic behavior instead of just have a mental issue.


5.Critical argument 

The fear of oneself is most evident in both the film and book and through the flower which is used to create Substance D, Mors Ontologica, the characters who abuse this drug and how they attempt to escape the reality of who they are by destroying who they are with Substance D. The most prevalent case of this destroyer of self is Arctor who is a drug addict and begins to lose himself to Substance D, especially when he is assigned to monitor himself under the guise of his police officer name Fred. The split between himself comes from the fact that the drug user is paranoid of the officer who can enforce the law and force the user to stop drugs while reprimanding them, while the officer is also afraid of the user who threatens society, social norms, and innocent people all of which officers are charged with protecting. This split within ones self create the paranoia seen through Arctor and his inability to reconcile himself between these two completely different personalities and lifestyles so he is left with the fear of himself, which he can never escape. This kind of fragmentation is supposed to mirror the split between the government and the people during this time as the 60s and 70s drug era began to create the idea that the people were criminals to the government for breaking the law and citizens believed the government was merely searching for people to punish because they were harsh. Both entities, the citizens and the government, are symbiotic and need each other to survive, much like Arctor.

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