Little Brother by Bruce Holland Rogers
In Little Brother by Bruce Holland Rogers we have the theme of longing, struggle, control, consumerism, materialism and innocence. Narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator the reader realizes from the beginning of the story that Rogers may be exploring the theme of longing. For as long as he can remember Peter has wanted a little brother. He thinks his mother has gotten one for him at Christmas but Little Brother is a sophisticated machine or robot. This is something that dawns on Peter when he realizes he can switch Little Brother off. Much to his mother’s annoyance. What is also interesting about the story is the fact that Peter does not really understand that his little brother is a machine. This may be significant as it highlights just how innocent Peter is. However the twist in the story is that Peter himself has an off button and he too is a machine.
He is just like Little Brother and when his mother gets really annoyed with Peter she attempts to turn him off. This might be important as it suggests that Peter’s mother has no control over her ‘son.’ It may also be a case that Rogers is highlighting just how progressive (or regressive) society can be. Rather than having children of her own Peter’s mother has decided on having robots as children. If anything this leaves the reader suspecting that Peter’s mother is allowing for an easy life. She does not want the bother that comes with having real children. They have to be monitored all the time, particularly if they are as young as Little Brother. Peter also tries to control Little Brother and finds that the only way he will do so is if he turns Little Brother off.
There may be some symbolism in the story which might be important. The fact that Little Brother is trademarked (TM at the end of his name) suggests that Rogers is letting the reader into the secret that Little Brother is a machine or robot. The fire engine also acts as foreshadowing. One would expect to see a fire engine when there is a time of danger, like a fire. For Peter the time of danger comes when Little Brother breaks the fire engine. The colour of the fire engine, red, is important too. Often in literature a writer will use the colour red to highlight danger. The switching off of Little Brother and Peter being that point of danger.
The end of the story is important for two reasons. Firstly the twist and the fact that Peter is a robot too and secondly for what is not said. When Peter is turned back on it may come to his knowledge that he is not human that like Little Brother he is a robot too. This will be catastrophic to Peter as he is no more than a commodity for his mother. He is not special nor is he loved endlessly. If anything he is a convenience for a woman who does not want to have real children. Which may be the point that Rogers is making. He may be suggesting that consumerism and materialism are more important to some people than humanity. Peter and Little Brother are no more than products made to satisfy the desires of humans.