An old adage states that the eyes are the windows to the soul. What if, however, those eyes have a trademark name stamped onto them? William Gibson’s short story "Burning Chrome" depicts an advanced but soulless society where most of the technological advances are portrayed as being perverted by commercialization and human mechanization, rather than dedicated to improving the quality of life. This paper will touch upon the frivolous consumerism of as well as the dehumanizing uses of technology in the world of Automatic Jack, the reader’s companion throughout the story.
Perhaps the most visible example of this perversion is the high degree of commercialized technology in their society. The character of Rikki, a female friend of Jack’s, has her heart set on a pair of Zeiss Ikon eyes, and, as Jack describes them as a "Brand of the stars" and "Very expensive" (Gibson 1015). Though she desires 20/20 vision, Rikki does not want the eyes because they will help her see better; rather, she has an entire catalogue full of the most fashionable and stylish eyes of the season. Rikki’s friend Tiger gets his eyes redone simply so he can go to Hollywood, risking his eyesight with the not-as-reliable Sendai brand. The fact that anyone would put fashion and fame before something as precious and irreplaceable as optic nerves goes beyond foolish consumerism. It becomes reckless consumerism, putting goods above all other concerns for self and others. As for Tiger himself, Jack describes him in the following manner:
He had the kind of uniform good looks you get after your seventh trip to the surgical boutique; he’d probably spend the rest of his life looking vaguely like each new season’...
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... newest way to connect to others without needing human interaction. It’s impossible to know when technology will become "too" invasive and society "too" hollow, but by the time anyone looks hard enough, nothing but empty, soul-devoid, trademarked windows will blink in return.
Gibson, William Ford. "Burning Chrome." The Prentice Hall Anthology Of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Ed. Garyn G. Roberts. NJ: Prentice Hall, 2001. 1006- 1019.
Maddox, Tom. "Cobra, She Said: An Interim Report on the Fiction of William Gibson." Hall 142-144.
Hall, Sharon K., ed. Contemporary Literary Criticism. Vol. 39. New York: Gale Research, Inc., 1986.
Coleman, Howard. "Other Voices, Other Voices." Matuz 129-130.
Greenland, Colin. "Into Cyberspace." Matuz 130-131.
Matuz, Roger, ed. Contemporary Literary Criticism. Vol. 63. New York: Gale Research, Inc., 1991.
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