Consider Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother in light of the discussions of digital culture and history of technology in this course. Use this blog post as a draft for the paper and select at least one short quote from the novel to analyze here.
There are various ways to unpack a selection of fictional text, but first you need to consider what larger question you’d like to analyze in the novel. No matter what you decide to focus on, whether it’s Marcus and Ange’s relationship, or questions about surveillance tactics or online identity, please be sure to address some aspect of technology or digital culture in your blog post and longer paper.
Here are some ways to approach both the blog post and the paper:
First, this should NOT be a book report where you simply outline the plot! Focus on a question or problem that the novel depicts and use evidence from the text to discuss it. This should be evident in the form of a thesis statement in the beginning of your paper. Your thesis should be a claim that you need to prove using textual evidence. Second, remember: the novel didn’t just write itself. Think about why Doctorow makes the choices he makes and write about your insights. Make some observations: i.e. “Many of the characters seem to have different identities with their family than they do with their friends” or “The teens depicted in this novel use more digital technology to communicate with a peer group that is often anonymous and geographically diverse.” Then, move into analysis of those observations. What conclusions can you make through your analysis of your initial observations?
Look at the language Doctorow uses to paint his fictional world. What repeated themes do you discover? Does he use any neologisms (newly created words) to describe things unique to this moment in technological history?
Describe the characters involved in your selected topic. What personality traits and other qualities do they have? What emotions do his characters experience, particularly Marcus? How are those emotions conveyed? What are some of the main motivations of these characters?
Think about how Marcus Yallow navigates his world: Why does he believe hacking is a positive thing? What larger political and social forces loom in the background of Doctorow’s dystopian, near-future San Francisco? How would you describe the society depicted in the novel? Why do you think Doctorow included a 9-11 style attack in the background of the story?
How does Marcus use technology? How do computers, cell phones, X-net, the BART subway stations or emails work in the text? Think about how these technologies impact the daily lives of Marcus and his friends. Why is the novel so preoccupied with privacy rights and freedom?
Marcus and Ange’s relationship is not described as it might be in a typical teen novel. Think about how Doctorow discusses first love. What makes his approach refreshingly different than other teen romance novels? Also consider how women are depicted in the novel. Ange is self-sufficient and smart; to Marcus, her appearance is of secondary importance to her intelligence. What qualities make Ange stand out as a strong woman? What makes Marcus a positive feminist male role model for teen men?
As you can see, there are a variety of ways to approach this assignment, and I’m open to other topics as long as they are in some way relevant to the issues of the course. Also, if you wish to bring in another reading from earlier in the semester to illuminate your discussions, please do, but be sure to focus mainly on analyzing and unpacking the novel itself.