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I read Perky Pat a few days ago and it doesn't make sense to me.

Summary from Internet (updated):

It's post apocalyptic earth, and martians are dropping food and supplies to the few remaining human settlements. Adults are obsessed with a game called Perky Pat, which seems to be a cross between playing barbies and the game of life. In The game, Perky Pat goes through ordinary pre apocalyptic life, and all the adults build elaborate dollhouses for perky pat, and her boyfriend Leonard. The adults learn of a game played in a different settlement called Connie Companion, which is much like Perky Pat, except Connie is older, and married. The adults playing Perky Pat find out about Connie (but don't know that she's older, or married), and decide to challenge the Connie settlement to a game of Perky vs. Connie, with the stakes being the doll.

Then:

The Perky Pat town sends 2 players to the neutral town, and there they are shocked to find out that Connie is older, married, and even pregnant. the Perky Pat team wins, and takes the Connie doll back to their town. Their town is shocked as well, and when the 2 players show them the connie doll, they are kicked out of town.

3 Questions:

Is it a metaphor for something? IE Parents raising their kids.
Why were they kicked out of town?
What is the story behind it? What point was PKD trying to make?

Also, the Simpsons did an episode recently called Brick Like Me where Homer is playing Perky Patty's Princess Shop adventure game. I feel like it's an allusion to Perky Pat although it has not yet been identified yet on the main page there is some vague reference made to a PKD universe (but not the Perky Pat story).

Someone else asked the same question here.

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If something in a Philip K. Dick story appears to have no sense, it is only because you have misread it. Granted. Now seriously, can you refresh us a little about the history (using spoilers tags and the like) –  SJuan76 Jul 8 at 13:37

3 Answers 3

up vote 12 down vote accepted

You're not the only person left confused. My viewpoint on it is that the story is a criticism of a few different concepts.

Escapism

Faced with harsh realities, the adults are too rigid to deal with the ruined world outside. Much like how a child in a bad situation will often retreat to their toys and dolls, trying to drown out the shouting downstairs with the pretend conversation of a tea party, the adults here are trying to forget themselves through the toysets. As a turnabout on the situation, the children are able to adapt and forgo the escapism for reality.

Rigid social structure

Culture is a very rigid and yet undefined field. The rules can be tremendously arbitrary and undocumented in any way, but if you transgress the unwritten rules, society comes down on you hard. The culture of Perky Pat cannot tolerate the heretical concept of their toy becoming married, of changing. This runs a parallel with how societies sometimes become more inflexible as they cling to an artifact of a past that may never have been. Those halcyon days are scrubbed clean of their impurities and real reality just can't stand up to it. Add to it that the regular supply drops from the Martians mean that the adults really have very little to do. The more leisure a society has, the more likely it is to come up with structure to fill up the time and effort they would have normally expended on ensuring living conditions.

Cliques

Humans are very prone to organizing into groups that band together against outsiders. The two enclaves are essentially the same other than different doll sets. While not really stated in the story, it's likely that the same conditions that reduced the enclaves to surviving on Martial supply drops have also removed many of the social conditions people use to set themselves apart. Everyone has standard housing and standard food with the Perky Pat dollhouses and accessories being the only real way to distinguish oneself. The couple who win the competition have been tainted by their association with the other conclave and are no longer considered part of their home. Given the name of "Connie Corporation", I have to wonder if Dick had in mind a conflict between those who embrace consumerism explicitly and those who profess to live a "simple life" but are just as tied to the products. Perky Pat is forever in that position of carefree youth while Connie Corporation is older, has accepted more responsibilities, but is likely just as frozen in place, an emblem of what that Enclave believes is the ideal.

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This makes it much clearer for me. +1 or thanks. You said, "Everyone has standard housing and standard food with the Perky Pat dollhouses and accessories being the only real way to distinguish oneself." This sounds like a description of the suburbs. –  1.21 gigawatts Jul 8 at 14:27
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It can also be read as a critical of materialism: "winning" the game is defined by the accumulation of stuff. Nice answer. –  dmckee Jul 8 at 15:23

PKD is often prone to re-using a short story as a chapter in a book, or pulling a chapter of a book out and publishing it as a short story. Since he often re-used themes between his works, comparing them can shed light.

Perky Pat is a side plotline from the Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch which goes into more detail about how Perky Pat layouts are used. Of course, by reading that you may replace one open question about PKD's work with a dozen. In the book, perky pat layouts are used for a quite literal form of escapism, by taking psychoactive drugs and concentrating on your layout, you can cause your hallucination to take the form of your layout and you take on the role of Perky Pat. Notably, you only have access to the items that are in your actual layout while hallucinating.

Random fact, eXistenZ threw in a PKD reference by having the protagonist order food from "Perky Pat's". The movie was very aware of its roots in PKD's work even though it isn't a direct adaptation.

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We have a Perky Pat now: it is called mass media. We already have "Can-D": it is called alcohol, pot, valium, Xanax, etc. We do talk about our layouts: our layouts are the latest TV show, movie, sports event, and concerts into which we disappear (layouts can be books for some of us!). We work so hard to escape the every day. It is the human condition. There is always greener grass just over that next hump but if you can't get to that grass, numb yourself and pretend you are there.

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Welcome to SFF.SE. This does not answer the question and should be a comment instead. Once you have earned 50 reputation you will be able to comment everywhere. –  Null Nov 26 at 15:40

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