Identity in William Gibson’s Neuromancer

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The Question of Identity in William Gibson’s Neuromancer

William Gibson’s Neuromancer is a science fiction novel that is seen by many as the preeminent work of the “cyberpunk” genre. Neuromancer, like the countless others of its kind to follow, addresses themes concerning identity and/or lack there of. The “cyberpunk” genre as argued by Bruce Sterling was born out of the 1980's and was due in part to the rapid decentralization of technology. With the influx of computers, the internet, and virtual reality into the everyday household came technological discoveries that affected the individual. Certain themes that are central to “cyberpunk” involve implanted circuitry, cosmetic surgery, and mind invasions such as brain computer interfaces and artificial intelligence. (Sterling 346) With these issues in mind one must wonder what affect they have on the self or one’s identity. Within Neuomancer, Gibson creates a future where identities can become obscure/ambiguous, due to the sophisticated technology available which may alter various facets of a person’s physical or mental identity.

In Neuromancer, Molly’s sunglasses can be seen as a technological adaptation prohibiting her eyes from being seen. “...the glasses were surgically inset, sealing her sockets. The silver lenses seemed to grow from smooth pale skin above her cheekbones...” (Gibson 24) The eyes are said to be windows to the soul. Many emotions and states of mind are conveyed by the eyes. Molly, however, does not relinquish this power of perception to others. “The lenses were empty quicksilver, regarding him with an insect calm.” (Gibson 30) The mirrored sunglasses mask key characteristics of Molly’s identity (emotions).

Cosmetic surgery is another means by which characters in Gibson’s Neuromancer obscure their identities. On several occasions the reader comes in contact with individuals who have had surgery to make themselves appear more youthful or even to create a new face. Armitage and Riviera are two such characters who had faces created for them. “He was very beautiful; Case assumed the features were the work of a Chiba surgeon. A subtle job, nothing like Armitage’s blandly handsome blend of pop faces.” (Gibson 97) In this instance we have an example of two characters who have utilized state of the art technology to alter their physical identity. Referring to two policemen, “Case peered at them and saw that their youth was counterfeit, marked by a certain telltale corrugation at the knuckles, something that the surgeons were unable to erase.
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