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The Man in the High Castle

Term Definition
The Man in the High Castle

The Man in the High Castle is an alternative history novel by American writer Philip K. Dick. Set in 1962, fifteen years after an alternative ending to World War II, the novel concerns intrigues between.

The Man in the High Castle was written by Philip K. Dick in 1962 as an alternate history novel. Set in 1962, it takes place fifteen years after the conclusion of a fictitious and longer Second World War. The victorious parties are Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, who rule of what used to be the United States with totalitarian and imperialistic rule. The Man in the High Castle contains no distinct plot line, as several intersect and the point of view rapidly shifts from person to person. The characters are fully and intricately developed, which allows the reader to view the fictional world within the novel from various perspectives.

He creates characters that we cannot help but sympathize with; even the flawed characters draw empathy from readers’ hearts. From a judo instructor with a secretly Jewish husband to a bitter, racist shop owner to a captain in the Germany military, Dick truly creates a rich experience by exposing the inner thoughts and emotions of people who are so vastly different but are effected by the same situation.

Truth as a theme

One of the central themes of The Man in the High Castle is the interpretation of truth versus fallacy. For example, one character sells American antiques. The majority of the items in his shop are counterfeit items and he is very much aware of this. Indeed, he becomes consumed by the fear that all of his merchandise might be counterfeit. In reality, the people purchasing his items have no idea whether or not the items they are buying are real. They do not even particularly care if they are, as long as the items are functionally real. When another character has a shootout, he uses a very distinguished .44 caliber Colt Army 1860 revolver. No one besides an expert armorer recognized the gun for its rarity or uniqueness, as the average person does not know the difference between a real, genuine antique item and an excellent counterfeit of the real thing. This theme of disillusionment about reality and fallacy is woven into every person’s storyline throughout the book.

Historical context of The Man in the High Castle

The novel within the novel is called The Grasshopper Lies Heavy and is a book that many characters in The Man in the High Castle have read. In this story, Roosevelt decides not to go for reelection after his assassination attempt and a man named Rexford Tugwell becomes president. Tugwell removes the United States from Pearl Harbor, preventing the devastation of the attack from the Japanese, meaning that upon entering the war, the United States navy was well-equipped. Not only does the U.S. prosper in this alternate universe, but Britain is successful, too. Both empires regress and become terribly racist, with the United States getting rid of Jim Crow laws. The racial tensions inspire a Cold War for domination between the United States and Britain. The end of the book is never described in the book, though one character says that Britain defeats the United States and becomes the only superpower left in the world. 

Dick was reportedly inspired for the book by the war itself, the I Ching, and Ward Moore’s Bring the Jubilee, an alternate history to the Civil War. Within the book is the construction of a novella with an alternate history to the original alternate history, in which the Axis Powers were defeated by the Allied Powers, though is played out differently than the actual historical event. The Man in the High Castle was awarded the 1963 Science Fiction Achievement Award. Since its original release, the book has been translated into many languages and has recently been approved for a television series.

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