Study Guide

Snow Crash Family

By Neal Stephenson


The Deliverator had to borrow some money to pay for it. Had to borrow it from the Mafia, in fact […] it was like being in a family. A really scary, twisted, abusive family. (1.22)

That's…cheery. Each family comes with its own set of problems, though. Why should the Mafia be any different?

Uncle Enzo laughs […]."Tell me, what does your mother think of your career?"

[…] "She's not totally aware of it—or doesn't want to know."

"You're probably wrong," Uncle Enzo says. He says it cheerfully enough, not trying to cut her down or anything. "You might be shocked at how well-informed she is. This is my experience, anyway." (21.45-47)

Y.T. knows that she's deceiving her mom every time she goes out on a dangerous Kourier mission. The question is, how much is Y.T. actually getting away with? According to Uncle Enzo, parents usually know more than they let on.

"Then I remembered my grandmother and realized, my God, the human mind can absorb and process an incredible amount of information—if it comes in the right format." (7.26)

Juanita's respect for her grandmother seems to stem from this incident, when her grandmother intuitively grasped an entire situation just by looking at Juanita's face. Sounds like a good reason for Juanita to idolize her grandmother and put a picture of her in her office at The Black Sun.

"I just saved your f***ing life, Mom," Y.T. says. "You could at least offer me an Oreo." (35.96)

The rift in the mother-daughter relationship is pretty wide at this point. Y.T. thinks she's saving her mom's life by destroying her ability to look at a computer screen that might be carrying a virus; Y.T.'s mom knows none of this and is angry at her crystal-award-slinging daughter.

"But this time, Ninhursag manages to obtain a sample of Enki's semen from Uttu's thighs."

"My God. Talk about your mother-in-law from hell." (33.68-69)

Yep, even the gods have family issues. Like incest. And… just ick.

The only ones left in the city are street people […] immigrants […] Young smart people like Da5id and Hiro, who can take the risk of living in the city because they like stimulation and they know they can handle it. (24.75)

Don't have a family to take care of? Great. You're eligible to live by yourself and take more risks, which will either pay off or kill you. You can thank us later.

Raven says, "Amchitka, 1972. My father got nuked twice by you bastards."

"I understand the depth of your feelings," Hiro says. "But don't you think you've had enough revenge?"

"There's no such thing as enough," Raven says. (66.33-35)

So Raven's psycho-quest to nuke America stems from his family history. Does that mean we should give him some kind of Son of the Year award?

But in her heart, she's already feeling the pangs of conscience. She knows that she cannot kiss and tell on the Mafia. Not because she's afraid of them. Because they trust her. They were nice to her. (22.42)

Families are built on trust. That's one more way the Mafia is like a family (also, few people know how to manipulate you better than your family does). If you can't trust your family, who can you trust? Or, perhaps, family is whomever it is you can trust.

"I spent years and years finding ways to piss him off. Dated black girls. Grew my hair long. Smoked marijuana. But the capstone, my ultimate achievement—even better than having my ear pierced—was volunteering for service in Vietnam." (21.76)

Even Uncle Enzo, patriarch of the Mafia, spent his youth trying to tick off his father. Rebelling against one's parents must be universal.

Hiro would have chalked it all up to class differences, except that her parents lived in a house in Mexicali with a dirt floor, and his father made more money than many college professors. But the class idea still held sway in his mind, because class is more than income—it has to do with knowing where you stand in a web of social relationships. (7.31)

Social class and family are closely related, with factors like income and location affecting how many kids a family might have, how they educate them, and so on. Hiro may feel baffled by his family's lack of defined identity (thanks, Army), but then again, not having a fixed family identity gave Hiro the freedom to become whoever he wanted to be. In this case, a master hacker and rockin' swordsman.