This passage is an extract from M.T. Anderson’s dystopian novel of consumerism and corporate America. The passage is a dialogue between two key characters, Titus and Violet, who each represent contrasting views of the cyber mentality and advertising control. Unlike the passage the novel depicts humanities descent into a decaying society which has no redemption. This passage opens with a short, sharp dialogue between two characters, no names are mentioned and we really don’t know who they are. Yet we sense there must be a bond between them because of the acquiescence of the second character (eg. “I did”, “I listened”). We realise that the “chat” (Anderson, 2002, pp. 96-97) is between the two key characters, Titus and Violet, on their visit to a mall.
Clearly the narrator is also the protagonist, Titus, teenager from an upper middle class family, who for the most part is content with his consumer lifestyle. In this conversation Violet is forcing him to question and “resist the feed” (Anderson, 2002, pp. 96-97) but he is clearly too entrenched within the program to resist. Although he helps her create wild consumer profiles while at the mall, his background helps him resist her strong push to break away from “those” (Anderson, 2002, pp. 96-97) people.
Titus is brainwashed to accept the trademark marketing of the feed because he was “chipped” as an infant. Although he appears compliant in this passage, it is obvious that he is only doing it to please Violet, “alright…ok” (Anderson, 2002, pp. 96-97). Just like in the rest of the novel Titus is blind to Violet’s urgency in escaping the feed. It is clear he is unaware of the environmental disasters that are happening around him globally and as the passage suggests he is prepared to accept the status quo and conform because in his words “that’s the feed so what” (Anderson, 2002, pp. 96-97).
He is so oblivious of the dangers around him, he doesn’t even realise that her resistance is causing her slow death. The “she” in the passage, is obviously Violet. She is the one directing and controlling the dialog between the two teenagers. It is clear that she has a sense of desperation and perhaps paranoia, because she recognizes that they are watching us “right now” (Anderson, 2002, pp. 96-97). Her ramblings sound ridiculous to Titus despite the fact that he does exactly as she says. Violet’s plan in this passage is to resist the feed by tricking them into thinking that she has a wide and random assortment of interests in advertising.
The reader is reminded that Violet is not a mainstream teenager, she has been raised by an eccentric parent and was home schooled. Making her different to Titus and his friends, who got their implant at infancy she received hers at the age of seven. Violet views the feed negatively, different from Titus and his friends, perhaps because she comes from a lower middle class background. Anderson creates her to challenge the system she is living under, as she says in the passage “they tried to figure out who you are…make you conform…it’s like a spiral” (Anderson, 2002, pp. 96-97).
Her disgust and her rebellion against this social norm that everybody else accepts will eventually shut down her body parts and because her father cannot afford repairs, her body will go into malfunction and she will eventually die. In fact the book ends with Violet dying and the feed saying “everything must go” (Anderson, 2002). This death creates a voice from Anderson suggesting a society of apathy and hopelessness. The narrative of this passage positions the reader to take sides. It is unclear just how contrasting the belief of the two characters is. The narrator is clearly submissive and the reader is eager to find out why. Why does he do as she asks?
Why does he listen as she asks? One is keen to find out the reason behind her pushiness. The passage opens with “she said” (Anderson, 2002, pp. 96-97) and in the first two lines, he “looks around” (Anderson, 2002, pp. 96-97) as she tells him to, he “listens” (Anderson, 2002, pp. 96-97) as she instructs him, but it is clear at the end of the passage that he does not necessarily agree, as he says “so what?” (Anderson, 2002, pp. 96-97). The mall is used symbolically and metaphorically to represent the social demographic of these two teenager’s lives and it is here that Violet is trying to convince Titus to distance himself from the tentacles of the cyber octopus that is the feed.
In fact, the telepathic closeness that this feednet creates between people is obvious in the first couple of lines of this passage, where one character agrees with the suggestions of the other. The passage is structured with a combination of sentence lengths, it opens and closes with very short sharp phrases, almost building up into a vortex of explanation. In the middle of the passage sentences are longer because there is so much more to explain, making meaning difficult to understand. There is a distinct pattern of alliteration used as a force of reinforcement, “she said” (Anderson, 2002, pp. 96-97) and “wanting, watching, waiting” (Anderson, 2002, pp. 96-97).
The tone of the passage begins with a casual conversation between two teenagers and develops almost into a political rhetoric. The conversation is almost childlike, simple, about “toys” (Anderson, 2002, pp. 96-97), about “things” (Anderson, 2002, pp. 96-97), about “games” (Anderson, 2002, pp. 96-97), hiding a more sinister and psychological message. The passage replicates Anderson’s overall view of society. He uses the language of youth culture, presenting the novel/passage in the first person narrative through Titus who is often unlikeable and unpredictable. In the passage the reader is positioned to accept Violet’s (her) view of the world because we cannot trust Titus’ biased point of view. Nevertheless, Anderson has created authentic adolescent voices, sometimes humorous but always honest.
Titus represents the apathetic accepting team and Violet of course incites the reader’s admiration for her challenge to a society, which is overlooking the dangers of overpowering consumerism. We cannot fail but see Anderson’s satire through Violet’s voice and his criticism of wealth, status, consumerism, corporate America, messaged advertising, conglomerates, and a society falling into a universal disaster of its own making. The passage is short but captures the essence of Anderson’s meaning and criticism of societies obsessed with consumerism.
Courtney from Study Moose
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