Study Guide

Little Brother Fear

By Cory Doctorow


Chapter 4

I was being taken off America's shores to somewhere else, and who the hell knew where that was? I'd been scared before, but this thought terrified me, left me paralyzed and wordless with fear. (4.4)

Well, wouldn't you be scared if you were a high school senior who was hooded, shackled, and didn't know where you were going?

Chapter 5

Paranoid Linux is an operating system that assumes that its operator is under assault from the government (it was intended for use by Chinese and Syrian dissidents), and it does everything it can to keep your communications and documents a secret. (5.133)

Trying to keep your internet activity on the downlow? Stick with dissident technology. Because those people in China and Syria really don't want to get caught.

I got up and got moving. I felt the eyes watching me from all directions. (5.62)

Marcus's constantly looking around him to see who's watching him. Is he paranoid?

Chapter 7

[Police officer Booger (we don't know his real name):] "You know what, maybe we should arrest you. You can spend a day or two in jail while your lawyer looks for you. A lot can happen in that time. A lot. How'd you like that?" (7.30)

Yeah, this is not the kind of guy you want patrolling your neighborhood.

Chapter 8
Marcus Yallow

[Marcus:] "Dad, it's ridiculous. They're not catching any terrorists, are they? It's just making people scared."

[Dad:] "They may not have caught any terrorists yet, but they're sure getting a lot of scumbags off the streets." (8.14-15)

It's street-cleaning time, courtesy of the Department of Homeland Security. Because nothing catches terrorists like picking up bags of scum. Right?

Chapter 10

[Jolu] turned to me. "No man, I don't get scared. I'm always scared. I've been scared since the minute the explosions happened. I'm so scared sometimes, I don't want to get out of bed." (10.61)

Jolu and Marcus are trying to fix a system that's bigger than they are. This idea captures what many of the people on the Xnet are feeling; they're scared but they're still trying to fight losing their rights, freedom, and privacy.

Chapter 15

All the crap they've done, none of it would stop the bridge from being blown up again. Tracing us around the city? Taking away our freedom? Making us suspicious of each other, turning us against each other? Calling dissenters traitors? The point of terrorism is to terrify us. The DHS terrifies me. (15.43)

Marcus gets to the heart of the book here, answering a question during his online press conference. The connection of terrorism and protection quickly becomes unclear and complex, just like in real life. For Marcus it seems pretty clear that "protection" and "terrorism" overlap, which is why he continues to resist the DHS.

Chapter 17

I leapt off the bed and paced back and forth. My heart thudded and my blood sang in a cruel parody of the way I'd felt when we got home. This wasn't sexual excitement, it was raw terror. (17.63)

Marcus reacts to the email from Masha, a spy for the DHS inside the web of trust. He's just had sex for the first time and is on an emotional high. Fear and desire continue to connect for Marcus through the very last pages of the book. How about for the other characters?

Marcus Yallow

"I am so sick of being scared," I said. "Let's take this to Barbara and have her publish it all. Put it all on the net. Let them take me away. At least I'll know what's going to happen then. At least then I'll have a little certainty in my life." (17.111)

Why does Marcus feel this way? What would change for him if the DHS took him away? How would you feel in his place at this point?

Chapter 20

"Do you know what waterboarding is, M1k3y?" Her voice reeled me in. […]
I tried to go away. I'd heard of waterboarding. This was it, real torture. And this was just the beginning.
I couldn't go away. (20.194-196)

Because what's an almost final scene without some controversial torture (ahem, enhanced interrogation techniques)?

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