Study Guide

Snow Crash Visions of America

By Neal Stephenson

Visions of America

Ah…America the Beautiful…and in the case of Snow Crash, America the Polluted, America the Fragmented, and America the Prejudiced. Neal Stephenson shows us a version of America where issues that are currently kind of messed up become truly messed up: Immigration goes rabid on the Raft; racism becomes institutionalized in skin-color segregated Burbclaves; and Sacrifice Zones are cordoned off as parts of the land that are too contaminated to ever be reclaimed for use. No doubt about it, this is a pretty grim vision of the future of America.

Sure, there's a lot of personal freedom, but there's also a lot of poverty, and a good chance you'll get killed in the fighting between the Mafia and another gang like the Narcolombians (but remember, the Mafia are the good guys). If it's between hiring out as a mercenary or MetaCop or selling your soul to the upright Feds, what's a liberty-loving American to do?

Questions About Visions of America

  1. Which trends in current American society do you see present in Snow Crash's America? Which are absent? 
  2. If you had to join a Burbclave or franchise or gang, which would it be? Why?
  3. Are the rules of Fedland significantly different from the rules of American governmental institutions right now? 
  4. Why does national citizenship matter when there's the Metaverse to inhabit?

Chew on This

Every aspect of America that has been magnified and exaggerated in Snow Crash is a negative portrayal of the country.

Future America prioritizes personal freedom over everything else—which stinks if you're not wealthy enough to afford protection from other people's personal freedoms (the freedom to own guns and be a racist jerk, for example).