Study Guide

Little Brother Identity

By Cory Doctorow


Chapter 1

My name is Marcus Yallow, but back when this story starts, I was going by w1n5t0n. Pronounced "Winston." (1.1)

When in doubt, pronounce numbers like they're letters. Unless they're numbers. Cool kids know the difference.

Chapter 3

Not so our captors. They could have been half­time show cheerleaders on the Super Bowl. They looked American in a way I couldn't exactly define. Good jaw­lines, short, neat haircuts that weren't quite military. They came in white and brown, male and female, and smiled freely at one another […] (3.64)

Trying to figure out who people are is something Marcus does throughout Little Brother. Why would Americans capture a high school kid who was just looking for some help? What makes these people so "American"?

Chapter 4

There's something really liberating about having some corner of your life that's yours, that no one gets to see except you. (4.34)

What parts of their lives should people get to keep private and what parts should be made public? How much of Marcus's identity comes from having things that are private? What changes for him when those things get taken away?

[severe haircut lady] "But from now on, you belong to us. We will be watching you." (4.104)

Just who is in charge of Marcus's identity anyway: the government or himself?

Chapter 5

One reporter claimed to have interviewed an "identity counterfeiter" who'd helped "dozens" of people walk away from their old lives by simply vanishing after the attacks, getting new ID made up, and slipping away from bad marriages, bad debts and bad lives. (5.92)

What would you do with a new identity and a clean start?

Chapter 6

I used the Xnet for almost everything now. I'd set up a fake email address through the Pirate Party, a Swedish political party that hated Internet surveillance and promised to keep their mail accounts a secret from everyone, even the cops. […]My new handle, come up with on the spur of the moment, was M1k3y […] (6.49)

Marcus's new fake identity allows him to be authentic. Oh, the irony.

Chapter 14

I posted it. I could barely type as I wrote it up, describing what I'd seen, adding a note to see if anyone could identify the military man in the video, if anyone knew anything about this.
I hit publish. We watched the video. We watched it again. My email pinged.
> I totally recognize that dude -- you can find his bio on Wikipedia. He's General Claude Geist. He commanded the joint UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti. (14.86-91)

This kind of misidentification is a pattern throughout the book, showing how the government surveillance that's in place is full of errors. What's going on when the government starts turning against itself and its allies?

Chapter 17
Angela Carvelli

[Ange:] "But Marcus, they don't know who you are. Think about that. All those people, money, guns and spies, and you, a seventeen year old high school kid — you're still beating them. They don't know about Barbara. They don't know about Zeb. You've jammed them in the streets of San Francisco and humiliated them before the world. So stop moping, all right? You're winning." (17.113)

Xnet's been compromised by DHS, but Marcus still is unknown. Are Marcus and M1k3y really the same person?

Chapter 20
Marcus Yallow

[Marcus to Van] "Either you succeed or I ­­ or it's the end of Marcus Yallow. Maybe I'll get a new identity, but I don't think so. I think they'll catch me. I guess I've known all along that they'd catch me, some day." (20.140)

Marcus might just do what lots of people did after the Bay Bridge blew up: walk away with a new identity. Or get caught.

You don't know me, but I know you. […]
I infiltrated Xnet on the day it launched. I am in your web of trust. If I wanted to spill my identity, I could send you email from an address you'd trust. Three addresses, actually. I'm totally inside your network as only another 17-year-old can be. Some of the email you've gotten has been carefully chosen misinformation from me and my handlers. (17.42-46)

Masha's just made M1k3y's worst fears come true. There's a spy in their midst.

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