English 738T, Spring 2015
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Neuromancer & the Prosthesis of Self

Posted by Sara Lyons on Saturday, May 16th, 2015 at 12:56 pm

According to Merriam-Webster, Prosthesis is “medical: an artificial device that replaces a missing or injured part of the body”. In Neuromancer, prosthetics are more than physical devices but figurative-made-literal ways of discussing the absence and presence of pieces of self. In other words, I argue that the novel documents Case as he attempts to reconcile his lacks in order to assemble some type of cohesive self.

Case first relies on the matrix in order to do this, which is fleeting, faulty. Once he gets this ability back he connects the matrix to himself on a deep level: “This was it. This was what he was, who he was, his being” (59). He depends on this as a prosthetic of self which, once taken from him, becomes a lack. Indeed, the original lack stems from his fragmented identity (between the virtual and the real), but he misconstrues this, perceiving the present lack as the focus for his discomfort. So, he attempts to fill his lack of the matrix with drugs: “In some weird and very approximate way, it was like a run in the matrix. Get just wasted enough, find yourself in some desperate but strangely arbitrary kind of trouble, and it was possible to see Ninsei as a field of data, the way the matrix had once reminded him of proteins linking to distinguish cell specialties” (16). It’s apparent, though, that this prosthetic is imperfect; like a prosthetic limb, it only resembles the original, it doesn’t encompass it. As mentioned before, though, this is a prosthetic of a prosthetic, making it even more imperfect.

Another example of this is in Linda Lee and Molly. Linda Lee, once dead, haunts Case, becoming a presence of an absence that pulls him between the real and the unreal – a prosthetic that presents the struggle between the two worlds of the text, and for Case. This provides some meaning to her haunting him as he doesn’t seem all that emotionally invested in Linda Lee as a person once she’s gone. Molly, too, exists in the real world and the virtual. It is Molly’s physical prosthetic – her mirrored eyes – that implicate Case’s self-examination.

In the end, then, Case can only achieve a cohesion of self through his division of the virtual and real worlds. The text says, “He attained a level of proficiency exceeding anything he’d known or imagined. Beyond ego, beyond personality, beyond awareness…grace of the mind-body interface granted him, in that second, by the clarity and singleness of his wish to die” (262). This “wish to die” seems negative, but what Case experiences here is an epiphany followed by that cohesive thought – and “clarity.” I feel it’s no coincidence, then, that he is saved by the song that proclaims “a true name” (262), which indicates a true self for Case. This is only part one of is reconciliation, however: the other part lies in his final refusal of the virtual reality of the matrix. The final climax of the story marks this when Case tells Neuromancer, “I don’t need you” (270). In fact, those are the last words before we find out what happens to Case in his “happily ever after.” His final refusal of the overall self-prosthetic, the matrix, allows Case to exist outside of and within the matrix, both cohesively. I say this because there is a version of his self that lives within the matrix, with Linda Lee. In fully disconnecting his virtual and real selves, he’s allowed the ability to function as a cohesive self in both realities.


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One Response

  • Amanda Gogarty says:

    Hi Sara,

    Interesting post! I really like the idea that throughout the novel, Case searches for some sort of “prosthetic” in order to feel whole, and I agree with you that he can ultimately only achieve this within himself by dividing his consciousness. I also think it’s interesting to note that before the novel starts, he also relied on drugs as a prosthetic it seems. I also agree that Molly is extremely important in Case’s journey toward becoming (or attempting to become) a unified whole. This is somewhat unrelated to your post, but I found it really interesting to read the scenes between Molly and Case in conjunction with Haraway’s “Cyborg Manifesto” and Jackson’s article “Stitch bitch.” A lot of th language is mimicked, and I think it’s interesting to talk about Molly in relation to Haraway’s “cyborg” and Jackson’s ideal reader/author as well.

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