The Many Themes of William Gibson's Neuromancer

The Many Themes of William Gibson's Neuromancer

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William Gibson's Neuromancer is a complex story that deals with the future computer technology and the impact on the lives of the world citizens. There are themes of love, betrayal, trust, and forbidden knowledge within each of the story lines of the book. These story lines give a human quality to a world that is described as being controlled by computers and technology. Also throughout the book Gibson brings in the ethical and moral values of the debate over what cost humanity takes as technology advances. In the early 1900s when Henry Ford first used the automatic conveyor belt it came at the cost of hiring manual labor to do the job. The usage of the conveyor belt, however, redefined the factory assembly line. As with the previous example, technology comes with the advancement of a culture, but with those advancements come the decline of some part of the human aspect of the previous way of life. Sometimes this advancement is for the better and aids the next generation do more for their culture as well as the world, but there are those advancements that degrade humanity and cause more harm than good for the rest of society. Gibson deals with this debate and brings it into the modern era with creation of the Internet and World Wide Web in the late 1980s. Case as well as the other characters were faced with the underlying plot of if what they were doing for Wintermute was the right thing to do, and how would it effect the rest of society.


The underlying tension throughout the entire novel is the fear of who do you trust and who will betray me next. In the opening of the novel Case is trying to figure out why a drug lord is looking for him and what will the drug leader do with him. Case received a drug shipment from Wage, the drug lord, and has not paid Wage for the drugs. He goes to one of his friends, Julius Deane, to figure out what to do and what Wage is trying to do to Case, and later in the novel Deane becomes a leader in the mission to sabotage Tessier-Ashpool. There is an incident between Case and Jules as the story develops where Jules has been taken over by Wintermute, and revels to Case that he in fact killed Linda Lee, Case's love.

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This act of betrayal of Jules upsets Case and will further drive him in his job later on in the story. Again, Wintermute reveals to Case that he did this act just to enrage Case, and drive him to complete the job he was assigned. Another early example of betrayal, again to Case, was when Armitage was able to get him to join the force to run on Straylight. When Case agreed to join Armitage, he agreed to provide Case with a new liver, and pancreas. When Armitage has this operation done, however, he places packs of myotoxins around the organs to insure Case will not be able to feel the effects of the drugs he was on and to insure that Case would not leave the group. This action by Armitage insured that at least Case would not betray him. At one point, Linda Lee betrays Case by stealing his RAM device. He is upset at this because he loved her, but he understood that the RAM was her ticket home. "He was finding it increasingly hard to maintain the sense of betrayal"(23). Throughout the entire scheme that Linda was playing on Case, he knew what she was doing and since he loved her he was allowing her to continue doing this.


Along with the idea that Case would allow Linda to manipulate him just to get back home, and that she was murdered by his current boss leads Case to a life filled with lost love. As stated earlier Wintermute killed Linda Lee so that he could give Case some hatred and motivation to complete the Straylight run. Case originally thought that his best and closest friend, Jules, was the killer and this disturbed him more than anything did because he did not understand why Jules would do something of that caliber. He was torn within himself because the two people he trusted most in life were gone, and could never be trusted in the same manner again. When Molly arrives in Case's life it becomes a purely sexual relationship with no level of emotional satisfaction. At the end of the story Case is again torn because Molly has left without telling anyone. Throughout the entire novel Case is searching for love to fulfill some void in his life, but he was never able to find this person. The main character that exemplifies the emotion and love in the story is Neuromancer. He tries to pull Case over to his side by using Case's feelings for Linda, and using the images of her to manipulate him. This does not work because Case was able to block his feelings and allow his anger to rule over his decision.

The main underlying issue that rules over both of the previous ones is that of forbidden knowledge. The knowledge of the mission and who was in charge became forbidden knowledge to those involved in the entire case. Case has no idea about whom Wintermute is or what the real leaders are who are running the missions, Matrix, or cyberworld. Throughout the novel knowledge about who the key players and their jobs are slowly reveled to the others as well as the readers. The knowledge about the real effects of the cyberworld and what is does to the population is forbidden to everyone until the after effects are seen many years later. The combination of Wintermute and Neuromancer and the effects of this are forbidden until the very end of the novel. The dystopia of the cyberworld is smoothed over by the end with the combination of Neuromancer (emotion) and Wintermute (reason), but there are still effects the dystopia.


The dystopia in the cyberworld leads to the downfall of the society that inhabits it. Since the late1980s the population of the United States has become less and less just or moral. Society has become more interested in instant gratification, which is given by the Internet, and a lack in the complete thoughts and ideas of the messages. Instead of processing the ideas in a thorough manner, one now wants the "skinny" or basic information of the message, and derives an opinion of the facts based on the slimmed information. Cyberworld is not a dystopia forever it is a growing and developing function in society, and when all the viruses are fixed it will be an advancement for all of society.
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