Study Guide

Little Brother Power

By Cory Doctorow

Power

Chapter 2

Ever since the truancy moblog went live, our world is full of nosy shopkeepers and pecksniffs who take it upon themselves to snap our piccies and put them on the net where they can be perused by school administrators. (2.42)

In 2008, people didn't have smartphones. But there were camera phones and moblogs, which let people do things like post pictures of potential truant high schoolers online.

Chapter 4

[severe haircut lady:] "Good. You will never speak of what happened here to anyone, ever. This is a matter of national security. Do you know that the death penalty still holds for treason in time of war?"

"Yes," I mumbled.

"Good boy," she purred. "We have some papers here for you to sign." She pushed the stack of papers across the table to me. Little post­its with SIGN HERE printed on them had been stuck throughout them. A guard undid my cuffs.

I paged through the papers and my eyes watered and my head swam. I couldn't make sense of them. I tried to decipher the legalese. It seemed that I was signing a declaration that I had been voluntarily held and submitted to voluntary questioning, of my own free will.

"What happens if I don't sign this?" I said.

She snatched the papers back and made that flicking gesture again. The guards jerked me to my feet.

"Wait!" I cried. "Please! I'll sign them!" They dragged me to the door. All I could see was that door, all I could think of was it closing behind me. (4.106-112)

This whole scene shows how much power Marcus has lost since being captured. He can't refuse to sign these papers if he wants to be free, but signing them gives the DHS complete power of him. What other scenes happen like this in the novel?

Chapter 5

The sensation of giving orders, of controlling my destiny, was the most amazing thing I'd ever felt. (5.15)

You too can feel in control by ordering food at restaurant after being released from a mysterious prison.

Chapter 6

So we spent the rest of the hour talking about suffragists and the new lobbying strategies they'd devised for getting four women into every congresscritter's office to lean on him and let him know what it would mean for his political future if he kept on denying women the vote. It was normally the kind of thing I really liked—little guys making the big and powerful be honest. (6.38)

Women didn't get the right to vote in the United States until 1920 with the passing of the 19th Amendment.

Chapter 10
Jose-Luis "Jolu" Torrez

[Jolu:] "I hate to say it, but you're white. I'm not. White people get caught with cocaine and do a little rehab time. Brown people get caught with crack and go to prison for twenty years. White people see cops on the street and feel safer. Brown people see cops on the street and wonder if they're about to get searched. The way the DHS is treating you? The law in this country has always been like that for us." (10.79)

The power of skin color when faced with law enforcement isn't always equal.

Chapter 12

[Trudy Doo:] "It's our goddamned city! It's our goddamned country. No terrorist can take it from us for so long as we're free. Once we're not free, the terrorists win! Take it back! Take it back! You're young enough and stupid enough not to know that you can't possibly win, so you're the only ones who can lead us to victory! Take it back!" (12.106)

Here it seems like ignorance is also a kind of power. Do you have to be stupid to fight for freedom? What is Trudy even talking about here?

Chapter 14

We crawled the Xnet blogs, looking for more accounts of the DHS searching people, tackling people, invading them. This was a familiar task, the same thing I'd done with all the footage and accounts from the riots in the park. I started a new category on my blog for this, AbusesOfAuthority, and filed them away. (14.94)

Publishing things online is a great way to get people talking, whether it's naked pictures of celebrities or secret government documents. Why are these examples "abuses of authority" for Marcus and Ange?

Chapter 16
Barbara Stratford

[Barbara:] "This could be the most important story of the War on Terror. This could be the story that topples the government. When you have a story like this, you take it very carefully." (16.156)

The power of the free press is a big deal.

They took my passwords for my USB keys next. Those held some interesting messages I'd downloaded from one online discussion group or another, some chat transcripts, things where people had helped me out with some of the knowledge I needed to do the things I did. There was nothing on there you couldn't find with Google, of course, but I didn't think that would count in my favor. (4.43)

Knowledge is power. 'Nuff said.

If you've never programmed a computer, you should. There's nothing like it in the whole world. When you program a computer, it does exactly what you tell it to do. It's like designing a machine ­­ any machine, like a car, like a faucet, like a gas­hinge for a door ­­ using math and instructions. (7.139)

Are computers robot slaves who will eventually overthrow their masters?

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