The Imperial Bedroom by Jonathan Franzen is primarily about privacy and how America has reacted to the addition and deduction of privacy. Franzen makes a very convincing case that we were overreacting in a big way to our fears that we would lose our privacy. He uses a mixture of sentence structure which helps to raise your thought on the subject, and then answer the short sentence with an explanation in a longer one. Throughout this essay, we see much of Franzen’s sarcastic ways which helps to give a lightened mood to this very serious topic.
He made it a point to make a statement that seems to be very true and convincing, but he soon after, he would add in a sentence that makes you think much differently about the prior quote or sentence. It helps to go with his implied concept that Americans are easily influenced by their surroundings. I began to question myself on how I felt on the issue and got very indecisive at many points of this essay which helps further Franzen’s implied concept that we are easily influenced. Franzen begins his essay by stating that the panic over privacy is the important thing in everyone’s life for only a few days here or a few days there.
Although people may feel extremely intruded upon at times, nobody ever feels neither the need nor the courage it takes to stand up and state the facts about what they feel and why they feel this way. He begins his argument based on the Clinton/Lewinsky Starr Report. And what he argues is that this most private of information is coming out of the most public of offices (or the most “imperial of bedrooms”). If such private information can be released from what is supposed to be the most private and protected of offices, how much easier should it be that it comes out of his unprotected home?
This gives you a very worrisome feel to the text because Franzen describes a very specific scenario from a very specific place. By describing something so exact, it gives you a mental picture thus giving you strong feelings towards the subject. He refers back to the basic history of America’s privacy as a nation, which he says is a very difficult concept, because whatever someone may call the various forms of invasion of privacy, it often falls into 3 main categories: trespass, insult or theft.
The only thing left once these three categories are filled is emotional distress, which is always an extremely vague concept, and it varies from person to person. As people mature, their idea of privacy changes and alters throughout their lives. This gives you the background information that helps to set up the rest of his essay. By explaining how the history of privacy has worked in America, he helps to show that privacy has not been delegated by the government before, so why should people be so worried all of a sudden now?
He then mentions a call that he received just days before he wrote this essay concerning his credit card company. They had noticed a few recent purchases at a gas station and another at a hardware store, and they wanted to confirm the purchases through Franzen. He states in the essay how he felt both flattered and exposed that someone knew his information and cared enough to call him about it. He explains that this reigns true with many Americans of that day as well. They would feel as if they were violated and their rights were infringed upon, but that was only short-lived because it soon would slip their minds completely.
This relates to many people in the country because once again it explains a specific scenario. Many Americans have felt very infringed upon but never stood up which helped Franzen to sell his idea that privacy must not be very important if nobody ever acts on their emotions towards it. He then states the argument that privacy experts were still complaining in that day that people willingly gave away all kinds of private information to get various things whether it be money, possessions, or just a few minutes in the spotlight.
Lawrence Lessig calls Americans “bovine” or stupid for giving away so much information from their personal lives. But of course privacy means different things to different people. By stating Lawrence Lessig’s quote, he helps to bring in the ideas that are controversial to his, and then he proves why his idea is wrong. When he explains why Lessig’s ideas are wrong, it helps to give the last few points to his argument by showing that the ideas that coincide with his are completely incorrect. The real root of the article though is that people argue there is “less privacy than there used to be. It’s something that most Americans believe because they have heard it so often. Franzen however argues that, for instance in 1890, in a small town, everyone knew each other’s business, from everybody’s parents to friends down to the shopkeepers. In fact, he says, it is more of the publicity that we are in danger of losing. He explains that now, because everybody is so worried about losing their privacy and upset that others might learn their information, nobody is spreading word on what is happening in their lives making publicity begin to become much less.
He instead says that the word everyone should be using is security. The majority of debate on privacy is dealing with computers and worries that people can be “hacked” by others when using public social sites. Therefore Franzen explains that instead the worry is that the security of the websites is not very strong and cannot be trusted. This is one of the final paragraphs of Franzen’s essay, so the feel of the essay begins to change and he begins to reach for the reader’s emotions.
Franzen places the reader in the small town that he is talking about and the feel of how privacy used to work begins to take place in the reader’s mind. In the final paragraph of this essay, Franzen tells us the basics about how city life works. When living in the city, you or your neighbors can look out the window and see everything that one another are doing. He then concludes with the argument that Americans give up their privacy on a regular basis and the majority of the time it doesn’t hurt anyone.
In this final paragraph of the essay, Franzen leaves the reader with a lot of questions about privacy. By ending the essay with this very rapid conclusion, he leaves the picture of Americans giving up their privacy in everyone’s mind who reads this essay. By leaving this mental image in people’s minds, it gives you the final point to ponder on throughout the rest of your day after reading this essay, which is that if American’s do not protect their own privacy, why should the government protect it for us?