The Girl Who Was Plugged In

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The Girl Who Was Plugged In
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Image for The Girl Who Was Plugged In
Author Alice Sheldon (James Tiptree Jr.)
Date Published 1973
Wikipedia Article Girl Who Was Plugged In The Girl Who Was Plugged In

The Girl Who Was Plugged In is a 1973 science fiction novella written by James Tiptree Jr. (a pen name for psychologist Alice Sheldon). It received the Hugo award in 1974.


 Plot Summary

The story is set place in a future world, where everything in society are controlled by corporate interests. These corporations control consumers with embedded marketing through celebrities, know as “gods”. While these may not be the common "gods" referred to by religon, there still is a sense of entitlement that comes. These people are looked up to by the lower sought after people. The story begins with an unseen narrator who, in a bitter and sardonic tone, begins to tell us the story of the seventeen-year-old Philadelphia Burke, a disfigured girl who suffers from pituitary dystrophy. After an encounter with "gods" of some sort, we see our girl attempt to commit suicide in public. She is ultimately unsuccessful, and she awakens in a hospital room.

Public suicide is a major crime in this futuristic world, so she is sure to face harsh judgement. Just when all hope is lost, Burke is visited by a representative of GTX, the megacorp of this world. The representative makes her an offer that would leave her legally dead, but give her a new, "better life" working for the company. She accepts, and undergoes training for this new mysterious occupation. We see P. Burke plugging into a tanning bed-like machine through newly installed plugs in her skin, and a beautiful young girl awakening in the next room. Her responsibility is to remotely control a specially grown perfect body, and subliminally advertise products to the public. In this society advertising is illegal, so companies pay gratuitous amounts of money to have these "gods" implicitly endorse products by using them. P. Burke's new body is named Delphi, and she is introduced to the public through a strategic placement on a documentary.

She becomes wildly popular and gets a spot in a popular soap opera. While there, she comes to the attention of Paul, the son of an extremely high ranking company manager. Due to his status in the company, Paul is able to do whatever he likes, and he and Delphi fall in love and begin spending lots of time together. He becomes convinced that Delphi is actually being controlled by electrical implants that create pain and pleasure in her brain. He doesn't know about the technology that lets people remotely control other bodies directly. In a fit of rage he takes Delphi to the corporation's neuroscience labs and demands that her implants be removed. In the process, he inadvertently kills P. Burke, the girl who was really in love with him the whole time. As the story ends, the now brain dead Delphi is mumbling the last words of Philadelphia Burke. [1]

Character Summary

  • P. Burke A highly malformed girl who attempts suicide in the beginning of the story. When recovering in the hospital, she is given an opportunity by GTX to cast her ugly self and become a "god" in society.
  • Delphi (P. Burke) A Remote that is controlled by P. Burke that becomes a celebrity to the outside world. She is basically the perfect human, genetically modified for the purpose of advertising for company products.
  • Paul The son of high ranking company manager who becomes Delphi's lover later in the story.
  • Joe A man who supervised the technical part of P. Burke's training to control Delphi.
  • Mr Cantle A "fatherly" figure who oversees and controls the actions of Delphi.

Reading Cyberpunk/Being Cyberpunk Discussion

Questions/Prompts & Analysis

Paul is horrified when he discovers that Burke is living vicariously through Delphi. How would his reaction differ had the relationship between Burke and Delphi been forged through means other than technology (e.g. "magic")? Had he been given the chance to undo his actions and remain ignorant as to Delphi's circumstances, should Paul have taken it? Why?

If P. Burke controlled Delphi through another mean besides technology, Paul's reaction would be the same. It makes no difference how Burke is controlling Delphi, she is still not Delphi, and that is all that makes the difference. If Paul had the opportunity to undo his knowledge and remain ignorant, he should have. If he truly never found out that Delphi is not real, then he would be happy, and have no responsibility of knowing that his love was not real, so there is no reason why he should not be with Delphi. Burke replacing her identity is a much more extreme case of today's Facebook or instant messaging situations, but is comparable. People can hide behind a wall on the internet and pretend to be someone they are not, which can lead to someone really liking their virtual person, only to find out in real life, they are not the same person. This is one of the huge problems that can be caused by these advancing technologies. Alternatively, Paul's reaction may have not been the same. There is something inherently wrong about technology that exists in our society. Paul's reaction could have been based more on the uncanny valley effect of finding out Delphi is simply a shell. If magic were controlling Delphi it would resemble more of a fairy tale, where an evil witch was controlling Paul's true love. There is something cold, hard and factual about a technological basis for something that is seemingly the root of Paul's disgust.

If the relationship between Burke and Delphi had been via some other means of technology (e.g. "magic"), Paul would probably be less horrified as it is not something in his control that he can change. When he found out that GTX had done things to Burke/Delphi, he had a right to overreact as he is able to disagree with the idea because he is able to influence it in some way or another (i.e. it is tangible). If the relationship between Burke and Delphi was via some sort of "magic", Paul would not be able to influence things as easily, if at all, and also does not have that personal connection he has being the son of a powerful GTX executive.

The way in which GTX blindly uses technology for its own economic purposes seems to raise ethical questions about who should control the progression of technology. Should businesses be allowed to develop and exploit advancements in technology for their own gain? Whose responsibility should it be to oversee them to prevent abuses?

Companies should be allowed to develop and market new technology for their own gain.  Profit is a very strong incentive for continuing research in areas that could potentially benefit society.  However, their implementation of the technology should be closely monitored by a third party.  Without rules and regulation, companies would only consider consequences that affected themselves.  Dr. Tesla tells Delphi that "our economy, our society, would be cruelly destroyed" when explaining why she has to "advertise" the products indirectly even though advertising is illegal.  He represents the company that has access to advanced technology and is exploiting the power.  The quote shows that he is only considering ramifications from an economic standpoint whereas a healthy society is comprised of many other elements aside from an economy.  A third party should be involved to regulate companies' actions and consider their actions on the overall well-being of society.

One of the foundations of the society we currently live in is the free market, and by limiting the technology that businesses can create, one would limit the extent of the free market. Of course, business must not be allowed to take advantage of the free market in a way that it harms individuals, but by limiting business in a way that it does not affect society, one limits the freedom of the people. Businesses only function because there is a demand for what they sell, and regardless of how large a company is, it can be toppled if the demand for their product stops. In this way, people's choices of products help to shape the direction of the economy and the direction of business. By limiting business, one limits the people's freedom to create a society that they subconsciously need and create through their purchases of products.

Businesses should be allowed to develop technology, but not for their own gain but for the gain of the society. It is understandable that they are going to gain something out of it in order keep developing technology. It needs to help the company somehow. But someone or something has to control this new technology so it won’t hurt other companies or consumers in any manner. I’m not saying harm in a physical way but in maybe creating an addiction, mentally changing them or their personalities. The technology has to be beneficial for everyone.

Companies should be allowed to create and market new technology for personal gains. This concept is a part of our society and people today need to do this in order to make a living and companies need to do this order to stay around. When a company creates something new they are benefiting from its success while society gains from its uses. The only reason a company makes something should not only be to make money but it should also have to have an impact on society and the gains that society is receiving from the new technology. If a limit were placed on businesses and what they could do it would create a society in which people would not have the choice to make things. Our free market is based on things that are a success and failure and some companies may receive gains from a product that is a failure but that is just part of our society and that product wont produce gains for a long time.

The community portrayed in this short story is one that is under the complete control of corporations and their drive for financial gain and power. Despite the fact that advertisement has been deemed illegal through a form of embedded marketing, the corporations are able to control consumers. In many ways the community is shaped by the technology. Everything consumers get is decided and created by companies like GTX. They invented this new technology to create these “gods” who are celebrities that are used to basically tell everyone what they should buy.

Businesses today already exploit the idea of creating new technologies for their gain, much like GTX does in "The Girl Who Was Plugged In". The corporations of the world already creating machines and products that keep consumers hooked. This practice is completely ethical because it keeps the competition in business alive and healthy. Unlike the society in the short story, our society will always be capable of knowing when we are being manipulated by firms. In addition, our government will always regulate corporations at some level, ensuring that its people are safe.

Businesses should be allowed to develop and "exploit" advancements of technology for their own gain, but as long as a governing organization ensures that they're doing is not abused. Several organizations today kind of do tiny parts to ensure that technology/resources are not abused, such as the FDA and the FCC. If abuses do come up, then usually those who have problems with it take it to a third-party governing source, usually the government, that can assist with resolving the abuses and perhaps preventing them in the future.

In the story, we see advertisement and businesses play similar, yet more "extreme" versions, of the roles they play in our own society. For example, celebrities often endorse products in marketing campaigns in order to urge consumers to purchase a given product. To say these campaigns are the sole reason why we consumers purchase products is a stretch, but it definitely has a significant influence. The technology developed by businesses is usually for the benefit of the consumer, yet oftentimes it only benefits the company's "books" (it is a profit-driven development). The society in the story was completely driven by the advertisements, whereas our society is usually knowledgeable of the ad's profit-hungry scheme.

One point that is obvious to understand from the story is that technology should be controlled or regulated by some third party. The technology of the story's future is used in many was for apparently negative purposes, such as the Remote Doll technology and the holocamera technology. It is also important to note, however, that these same technologies also are used in positive ways at the same time. The Remote Doll technology is used to give Delphi (Burkes) a life she had never known before and allowed her to feel happy for the first time (according to the perspective of the reader.) The holocamera entertainment, while used as a medium for product placement advertising, was also doing exactly what others had said in the story. The holocameras allowed consumers to become aware of the existence of products, theoretically preventing the destruction of their economy. So while the story indicates that technology needs to be controlled or regulated, it doesn't necessarily imply that all uses of these technologies are negative and in fact implies that the same technologies can be used for positive outcomes.

The way in which GTX blindly uses technology for its own economic purposes seems to raise ethical questions about who should control the progression of technology. Should businesses be allowed to develop and exploit advancements in technology for their own gain? Whose responsibility should it be to oversee them to prevent abuses?

The global community depicted in "The Girl Who Was Plugged In" is one driven by economic forces directed by large corporations. These companies, like GTX, are using various semi-legal techniques for the purpose of influencing society to profit the company. For instance, the god-celebrities sponsored by businesses are adored the world throughout. In the beginning of the story, a scene is described as several "gods" are leaving a store; not only is it indicated that a raving crowd has formed to watch them, but security guards and holocam equipment were also involved. GTX and other entities do this as a marketing scheme: if an individual is admired, then the products they use are seen as desirable. Accordingly, then, the financial objectives of large corporations are altering the tastes and desires of the global community. Society plays into the economic schemes of companies like GTX with little hesitation. Ironically GTX is technicaWhat sort of global community is depicted in "Girl Who Was Plugged In?" What forces have shaped this community? lly advertising by using these "god" figures. The story emphasizes that advertising is illegal, but that is essentially what the company is doing. It is like a monopoly because it controls everyone. The people have no judgment of their own, so they rely solely on what the "gods" deem to be desirable. If they see a celebrity using a certain product, that product will be in high demand because everyone else would want to have it. For instance, the narrator mentions, " day a couple of pop-gods show up wearing nose filters like big purple bats.By the end of the week the world market is screaming for purple bats." As this shows, the styles and trends of society are completely at the whim of their idols, who are directed by GTX and others.

How does technology transform P. Burke's position in her community? What might this be trying to say about how we create and enforce social positions?

Burke's position in her community is radically transformed through technology. Specifically, she goes from an undesirable nobody to an idol for the masses. When Burke collapsed in the park at the beginning of "The Girl Who Was Plugged In," only a "tepid commotion ensued," illustrating that even an event as grave as her death did little to startle her peers. On the other hand, Delphi's exploits were followed religiously through holo-entertainment, to the point where a dress she wore rapidly sold "half a million copies" simply because she -- a god -- wore it.  Social positions, therefore, are not immune to the relentless force of technology, and are largely determined by superficial qualities. Because technology allowed Burke to so easily and seamlessly jump from the bottom of the social ladder to the top, it is implied that social positions are not a characteristic inseparable from a personality, but merely a construct of society. To the masses, Delphi looked worthy of worship, had wealth worthy of worship, and associated with those worthy of worship. By default, then, society worshiped her, even though the mind behind Delphi was someone who previously evoked no admiration from her community at all. She was about to commit suicide due to her life being so horrible, but now she can be whatever she wants, and live a much more comfortable life.

It can also be argued that Burke's position in her community was not transformed at all through technology, rather that the way she felt about herself changed. Burke at the conclusion of the short story is in the same position as she was at the beginning, sad and alone. What we see as her story runs its course is her transformation into a consumed individual, absorbed by her new purpose. Unfortunately for Burke, in taking the job as Delphi did nothing to elevate herself in the eyes of society and everything to turn herself into a glorified tool.

P. Burke/Delphi is a curious character in this story, as the author seems to use her as an ideal, someone who is exploring more of himself or herself through the use of technology. The author mocks us, claiming we are mindless, controlled by the society around us, and implies that Delphi is therefore more real than the average person even though she is living a double life through technology. This is a dangerous claim, however, as technology through any medium does not necessarily allow users to reflect their true colors either. The internet, for example, is a volatile place. Many write this off as users being able to hide behind a "mask of anonymity", that they are not held accountable for the things they say and do online. This statement is wrong to an extent, as most locales on the internet require at least a username, and do not allow anonymous use of the system or anonymous posting of comments. Sure, the internet is fairly lawless, but a person's actions and comments can still be traced back to them, even if it's simply through a username. A better reason why people are often so wildly different over the internet would be because technology removes the direct human element, in that users are not face-to-face with their "opponents", and are therefore unable to see the reactions of the person they are interacting with. A lack of empathy between the two parties often results in the intense, vulgar arguments we see on the internet over what are often very trivial things. As a result, I feel the author has a point, but that point should be taken with a grain of salt. While it is important that we do not allow ourselves to be blindly defined by those around us, we do not need to approach the other extreme and wildly rebel. Rather, we should take the time to decide what we feel is important and appropriate to us, and what aspects of our personality reflect our "true self".

P. Burke goes from a downcast to a top of the line woman just through a physical transformation, she was “suddenly smothered in two bodies, electrodes jerking in her flesh.” She uses her new beauty to elevate herself to a new social class. Technology gave P. Burke a second chance to live a life she never had: a better social life style.

Through technology, Burke gets to live a life that many people including her would dream to have. However simultaneously, living the life technology is offering leads to a slow withdrawal from society. As she agreed to undertake the job, Burke loses the "right" or the indication of being alive. Burke as far as records go is dead from then on and is referred to "Delphi" to the world. Burke as Delphi performs the tasks she is provided flawlessly and innocently without knowing what is really happening until meeting Paul, who serves like a reality check to Burke. Although Burke is rewarded the "ideal life," she is really only given a facade reward where she's living a life she cannot really have. Burke as herself already couldn't obtain what she had desired and as Delphi they're even closer -- possibly within her grasp -- but only in the extent of how far Delphi's reality goes. Burke can never have Paul for Paul was in love with Delphi. Sure true love would have probably led to Paul finding Delphi as Burke and he'd get over Burke's external appearances. Then again was their (Delphi and Paul) love true or was Paul more in love with the idea of being the man in shining armor trying to save Delphi? 

Without this beautiful Delphi, P. Burke would get no recognition because in reality, she has no appealing factors that separate her from others in society. She viewed it as being a better way of living, yet unconsciously she was controlled. After a time, she felt one with her new self. “P. Burke can no longer dearly recall that she exists apart from Delphi.”

Because of the technology that allowed a body to be controlled by a remote operator, P. Burke went from living a life in an ugly body with “body parts you’d pay not to see” (548), ignored by others around her and unwanted by the world, to living a life in a perfect body, adored by everyone. Living her life in a surrogate body allowed P. Burke to step outside of the societal constraints which bound her before. As P. Burke, she was looked down upon by society. As Delphi, she was looked up to by society. She was technically still the same person, but in a different body: “And P. Burke isn’t in the cabinet; P. Burke is climbing out of an airvan in a fabulous Colorado beef preserve, and her name is Delphi” (555)—and it was the different body that made all the difference. Her beauty, made possible by the technology of surrogate bodies controlled by remote operators, allowed for P. Burke’s rise in society.

Keeping our class status is a difficult task, especially the farther up we are on the ladder. P. Burke had a difficult time adjusting from her lower class mind with her new upper class body. P. Burke learned by adjusting to her new body and new social class, she became a new person, and her role in society greatly affected how she had to live her life.

Does the short story accurately reflect present-day celebrities and their effect on society?

There are some similarities with today's celebrities. When these celebrities use products we tend to buy them, and the story reflects the same thing. In the story when Mr. Cantle is talking to Delphi, he tells her "You saw Ananga using one so you thought it must be good." They are using celebrities in a way of promoting their products, which is similar to what is done today. The influence of the celebrities is much higher in the story than in real life, but using celebrities is a great way to justify your product. These "celebrities" may have more influence on individuals but they can not affect the population as a whole.

This story accurately reflects celebrities in modern society because it often looks at the as role models when in reality they are far from perfect. A lot of them are addicted to drugs and alcohol and constantly get themselves into rehab; what kind of an example to follow is that? Unfortunately, people do because if celebrities do it, it is deemed as "cool." Technology transforms Burke's position in her community by making her a spendthrift with the intentions of other people following her lead and also buying the products she's buying. In other words, technology transformed her into an ad, since what we use today for 'ads' are illegal in the story and even deemed as a dirty word. Perhaps, by giving her life up to technology and becoming an ad she also becomes 'dirty' in the sense that she is no longer a clean human, because she is living her life through a lie.

This short story accurately reflects our society and celebrities today. For example, when celebrities buy and advertise for products, some people in our society want to be just like them and do the same thing. In the short story, this is evident when Cantle was talking to Delphi about Ananga. The short story depicts how celebrities are use to advertise and sell products. In our present society, you can hardly flip through the channels without seeing a celebrity on TV advertising for a new product in order for people to see.

The celebrities (or "gods") portrayed in "The Girl Who Was Plugged In" are an extreme and exaggerated representation of present-day celebrities.  The role of the "gods" in that society  is advertisement, following the logic that “what gods have, mortals desire” (557).  Today, it is true that celebrities have great power in terms of advertising products and brands, whether through endorsements or even just daily use.  However, the world's adoration of celebrities has not quite reached that of the society portrayed in "The Girl Who Was Plugged In".  

The god-like celebrities of "The Girl Who Was Plugged In" provide an interesting satire of how we view celebrities in today's society. While they still have not reached the level of a "god", there is still a feeling that celebrities are above the typical rules of our society. One example being the often reduced jail sentences that most celebrities seem to receive. However, the advertising through celebrities is one similarity that is shared between our real and the "gods" of "The Girl Who Was Plugged In." While companies are still free to advertise, seeing a celebrity embracing a product just produces a swell of emotion in wanting to be able to imitate that celebrity. I believe the author's point may be that if society is unable to restrain itself, there may come a day when "gods" will walk our streets as well.

What does the dismal ending of this story suggest about technology's role in maintaining a community's status quo? How does this contrast with more recent ideas about "disruptive technology" (including those we saw expressed by Gibson and the AI lab hackers). What do you think?

In a sense, the author takes the present society and takes it to the extreme, overplaying the role of technology, making the role of advertising transparent, and explaining the large influence of celebrity on people. Instead of considering how the world might be in the future, the author might have also wanted the reader to use this magnified futuristic society as a means to examine his own society. One method he does for implying this is through the perspective that he does, from a person in the future to a person in the present. The avatar concept presented in the story is, in a way, an exaggeration of the things we already create masks and identities with, like Facebook, video games, and MUD's. Certainly, he emphasizes the overwhelming influence that celebrities have on society, and it appears that he views it in a primarily negative way. Just look at the entire rap/hip-hop music industry with such a focus on "gangster" and "hustler" identities which certainly push chunks of the population in the wrong direction in society. Throughout history it has always been the case that role models have major influences on people, but in our present society, and the technology of the "Information Age," famous peoples' influence is all the more disseminated amongst the population. The author takes the concept of advertising and completely dissects it, showing its weaknesses, its role in society, the danger of its elimination, the positives of its elimination etc. Many in society often overlook the multi-billion dollar industry on which our economy is based on. Tiptree does not take a particular stance on what direction advertising should take going into the future, just that the reader should be cautious of it. To summarize, Tiptree is using the futuristic society in this short story to critique and explore present day society and its dynamics.

This story reveals how the author would like us to view society, as shallow and self-centered.  Shallow because, as a whole, the future society Burke lives in tends to be judgmental based on appearance, which is evidenced through the effects of Burke's transformation, going from life on the streets to stardom only because her appearance changed.  Self-centered because the future government tries to change society through banning advertising.  Advertising is banned because it only promotes the self-interest of the individual companies and is viewed as something that complicates life.  

In what ways does P. Burke being able to replace her identity reflect society today with things like video games which allow you to control an avatar or even being able to simply hide your identity with AIM or Facebook?

There exists similar parallel in "The Girl Who Was Plugged In" and with modern society today. Philadelphia Burke uses Delphi to hide and actually replace her identity in which other people fall for the "mask" and accept her new identity. This is similar of today where people are able to use social network sites such as Facebook to create a new identity. They are able to represent someone they are really not while tricking people to see this false identity. However, at the same time they are hiding themselves such as Burke was by using Delphi, and suffer from accepting their true identity and who they truly are.

There are sites out there now were you can become whoever you want to become. Facebook gives you an opportunity to make a new person with your own unique personality. The fact behind this is that you can put any mask on you to hide the "looks" of your identity but you will never hide the "actuality" of your identity because Identity is not always about how one looks;we are beginning to base identity more so how one acts. With P. Burke and Delphi both having two separate identities, the truth will leak out and their identities will be revealed.

The thin line of technology separates the lives of Burke and Delphi. Technology presently has allowed us to anonymously create new identities and lives online, as Turkle as suggested in the selections. Technology does not only provide anonymity; it hides identities, appearances, and actualities. What a person truly is in real life is likely not the same online. Currently, our society weighs appearances heavily. We form many opinions about a person on their first impression: background, status, and education for example. Climbing the social ladder is easier than in the past, but in order to keep the position we have to conform to a current stereotype. With things like Facebook, social relationships can be formed without ever meeting the person you're having a relationship with in person. Sometimes relationships that are built this way build up until real feelings are involved and if one of the people at the end of the relationship isn't a real person, then feelings get hurt, like Paul's were.

While P. Burke's transformation into Delphi may have a semblance to the new identities offered by in-game avatars and Facebook pages, they don't have a real impact outside of their respective areas. The avatars one sees on the screen represent real people, similar to Delphi being Burke's avatar, but an avatar on screen is limited to its screen. An avatar from World of Warcraft is limited to World of Warcraft; it won't be walking down the street with designer shoes on anytime soon. Once the screen is off, that avatar and person no longer exist to you. But when that avatar you just saw on the television is now walking down the street, there's a severe problem. Having an avatar that can exist and manipulate the real world completely warps reality. If even one celebrity was a doll for somebody, then any celebrity could be a doll and possibly even belong to the same person. The ability to control multiple celebrities would definitely concentrate too much influence into the hands of a select few. Thus, real-life avatars would have much greater consequences than simple game characters.


  • The beginning of the story contains several allusions to Greek mythology when it is describing people's reactions to the "gods".
  • "And it hasn't taken Paul long to discover that his father's house has many mansions" (pg 19) is an allusion to the King James Bible, John 14:2. "In my Father's house are many mansions". This is further reinforced by the reference to Green Mansions, a novel whose name derives from the same biblical quote.
  • The head of the operation involving Delphi and P. Burke is named Dr. Tesla. This could be in reference to Nikola Tesla, who was an important contributor to commercial electricity and developments in electromagnetism. Many of his ideas seemed bizarre and radical to other scientists of his time.



This is referring to the cycle between corporations like GTX and the consumers, brought up when discussing whether GTX has the power in this society or if they are bound by what the public wants.

The cycle:

  • GTX looks at what the public wants and/or likes
  • Put out products based on that, injecting these "messages" into the public sphere
  • Consumers see these "messages", in this case idealized people such as Delphi, the Gods, and the products they "sponsor"
  • Consumer feedback and data (along with money) flow back to GTX and, based on the public reaction to their "messages", they send out new ones

As this cycle shows, neither GTX nor the public have all the power (or all the blame for this society's current state of affairs). While GTX has the power to influence what the public sees as desirable, they are in turn a slave to how the public reacts to said products or ideas. An example of this is the recording studios that Delphi visit: the story speaks of the creators having constant feedback from consumers and are constantly altering things to react how the public reacts. It's a feedback loop, essentially.

Personal Identity

In the story, Burke seems to lead two half-lives. The dissonance between her "perfect" Delphi self and her wrecked original body eventually causes her to lose all sense of distinction between the two, as the "Burke" self dies and the "Delphi" self becomes more prominent. P. Burke eventually loses sight of the fact that she Delphi's body is not technically her own, and in her mind, she becomes Delphi. As Burke/Delphi's two identities finally physically meet when Paul breaks into the compound, Burke/Delphi is destroyed. The image of Burke being physically ripped away from the waldo cabinet seems to suggest the author's opinion of the ultimate consequences of leading a split life.


To GTX everything is economics. The law that prevented the use of advertising was also motivated by economics. The public realized that the mass advertising was "harmful" to society, so they rebelled against the corporations that were in power and created the new Huckster Laws. From this companies like GTX have switched to new means of covert advertising to make sure their products are noticed. In the world right now, almost everything is also based on economics; the parallels are somewhat startling. Because of the relationship between the work and real life, it makes the message all the more powerful, it works by amplifying our fears of how the world might work, and makes us feel small in comparison.


The technology that was mainly used in this story it the ability of companies like GTX to "grow" bodies from nothing. This brings issues that are present in today's society. The issue of steam cell research is one that is debated in our society. This issue that is debated is when does a body start to "live." This can be interpret when does a living thing obtains a "soul." Other technology were featured in the story, but each had a less significant role in the story itself compared to the body growing technology.


Communication and the flow of information was a major theme touched on throughout the story. The future depicted by the story shows high restrictions on information and communication, much like 1984. The issue of control and its effects are brought up numerous times and largely viewed as having a negative effect on society. Society is viewed to have a loss of privacy and largely reverted into an ignorant community. Paul tells Delphi that “There's nothing in the news except what they want people to know. Half the country could burn up, and nobody would know it if they didn't want.” By allowing only select bits of information to pass to the public, society is easily controlled.

The flow of information is a significant reason why Delphi could be come a god. GTX has the equivalent of 1984's telescreen, monitoring the audience live and tweaking their puppets to cater to the desires of the audience. This way audiences are easily drawn into a worship following because the god has been custom tailored to their taste. Advertisements are no longer necessary because of this. Companies do not need to advertise visually or acoustically, when they can subtly but effectively convince us psychologically.


This story raises many ethical questions about advertising. In this story we can see clearly just how powerful advertising can be. As suggested in the story, advertising helps sell products, which in turn provides the people who make them with sufficient income. However, they are also used to manipulate people, as seen by the masses swooning over the "gods." Tiptree presents both of these opposing viewpoints, so there does not seem to be a correct answer regarding whether advertising should be allowed. However, he suggests that even if advertising were banned as it is in the story, it would still exist, only in more subtle ways.

Class Discussion

  • Technology is embedded inside of social structures.
  • In current society, businesses directly influence people, while in the novel, they are more of an indirect influence.
  • There are connections between the power and prestige of the celebrities in the novel and those of modern day society.
    - Example: Oprah. The most powerful woman in the world. Anything she promotes becomes famous, such as her infamous book club, where every book she endorses becomes a NY times best seller.

  • What is the story trying to say about social, ads, companies, and the role of technology?
    -Advertising is viewed as bad, its banned by politicians, which caused an underground illegal advertisement scheme. Maybe there's no real solution? Is it futile to fight advertisers and advertising?
    -If a company is "good", why would they have to break the law to sell their items? Is the company bad or is the law bad?
    -Usually laws benefit the popular and rich. What does this say about the power of politicians?
    -Whether or not its legal , people do as they will. Companies feels as if it needed to advertise, so they find a way around the law.
    -Author tried to show, with big business, immoral activity. When they tried kill Burke, they didn’t care, because it was a financial decision and keeping her alive wasn't' in their interest.
    -At the end, when they wants to kill her, we hear “oh the investment” , that was the driving force to think twice about the action, not the immorality of it. This leads back to it being all about money.
    -All the characters have certain motivations. Where do they come from?
    -What made Burke the perfect candidate, was it that she was so overtly pathetic, or GTX talking about how gods go out of control, but they have leverage on Burke. Shes indebted to them. They're playing on her desire. Also, she is motivated to be accepted in society unlike before when she was cast out and was considered appauling to most people. She can now have a chance to socialize and talk to other powerful figures.

  • Are GTX in control, or at the whim of the populous?
    - They are able to create idols, so they can change perspectives and desires in community. They can pluck the heartstrings of the people. They have power. They create the physical flawless girl, its about appearance, we see Paul holding on to Delphi, he relates to her physical appearance.
    - GTX doesn't have power, they are completely caught off guard by how attractive Delphi is. They are surprised. They cant really control her because when she runs off with Paul they cant stop her. Because they have trouble controlling Burke, they have trouble controlling desire. However, they do implant the seeds of desire into the people. They push the idea in, and then society pushes back. This brings in the idea of a social cycle.
              GTX puts products into the market, and they get feedback from the public.
              This is a feedback loop, example of "Cybernetics" “gunner and target” analogy.
              Money is a form of feedback from the public.
             GTX puts out: Messages
             Gets back: Ratings, Money

  • Why did Berke want to be Delphi?
    -Story hints at her being deformed in the face, hunched back, GTX finds her when she tries to escape(death), and she found an escape without death (through Delphi).
    -No living person can ever attain the looks of these celebrities. “unobtainable”

  • This reminds of the movie Gamer
    -If you have seen the movie Gamer than you know what I'm talking about. In the movie people can live vicariously through other people's bodies like in The Girl Who Was Plugged In. I think that this movie probably got its idea from the text itself. Thought it was a cool way of how this book's ideas has actually had an effect on people.

Historical Influences

Mr. Cantle mentioned that people in history overreacted and passed stupid laws. From U.S. history, we can recall some "stupid laws" were passed. An example was in World War II, when it was mandatory for Japaneses Americans to live into concentration camps.[2]


  1. Tiptree, James. Girl Who was Plugged In. ,1973.
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