Little Brother, while it is an incredible novel, is also a brilliant argument. The construction of the novel reads like a well planned out, immensely entertaining argumentative essay. Cory Doctorow presents readers with a situation in which privacy is being subordinated, or rather completely ignored, for the “safety” of San Francisco. His argument is very obviously in support of privacy. He does not, however, ignore the other side of the issue. Like an author of a well-written essay would, Doctorow recognizes the stance of the opposition and explains that side through the character of Marcus’ father.
In the beginning of Chapter 9, Marcus’ father has been detained by police officers after having the identity on one of his tracked cards “jammed,” or switched with people who are nowhere near him. At first, he’s absolutely furious, which is great for Marcus, or at least he thinks it is, because his father is finally seeing how awful and invasive the security is. Instead, his father is relieved by the idea that the DHS is putting more officers out on the streets to catch the “saboteurs” who are creating the jump in suspicious activity. Several times throughout the novel, passages are dedicated to the reactions of Marcus’ parents: his dad defending the DHS’s need to protect the city by whatever means necessary, and his mom explaining to Marcus that his father is just scared. Doctorow doesn’t really say that Marcus’s father is a terrible person for acting the way or believing the things he does, he just works hard, through Marcus, to prove why it isn’t the best way to look at the situation.
I found this nod to the opposition highly encouraging in my reading of Little Brother, as I felt as though Doctorow was trying to avoid the kind of blind, all-consuming argument that leads to people discounting what one says. He wasn’t trying to say that privacy is more important than safety, or that the government shouldn’t protect it’s citizens; he was saying that privacy cannot be eclipsed by a need for safety, and that the government needs to protect citizens’ rights as well as citizens themselves. I’m not sure what I was expecting when I first started reading Little Brother, but the intellectual construction and content of the novel far surpassed anything I thought I would find.