“The mysterious leg cramp was obviously psychogenic. Although unable to accept consciously the logic of Webster’s argument, he would willingly have conceded to the fait accompli of physical capture, gratefully submitted to a year’s quarantine at the Parasitological Cleansing Unit at Tampa, and then returned to his career as an architect, chastened but accepting his failure.” (352)
“Ironically, he had gotten exactly what he had asked Rekal, Incorporated for. Adventure, peril, Interplan police at work, a secret and dangerous trip to Mars in which his life was at stake—everything he had wanted as a false memory.” (399)
Both Ballard and Dick, in these passages, and Dick to a larger extent in “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale”, are exploring ideas about desire and wish fulfillment. In “The Cage of Sand” passage, we begin to get the sense that Bridgman is at a bit of an impasse. He has become a bit comfortable being where he is, but he does not want to move on, so he is in a state of limbo, which renders him a bit immobile in responding to situations in which his living arrangements could change. He doesn’t seem to know if he wants to stay inside the reservation or not, and the wardens and Webster’s message to him are forcing him to sort out his feelings sooner than he would like to. Quail has fallen into the “be careful what you wish for” trope, but he is also facing a crisis of desire. He got precisely what he wanted, but by doing that, the experience revealed to him that what he wanted wasn’t really what he wanted. He wanted the romance of going to Mars, of being a secret agent, not the nitty gritty drama of it.