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The feed is a satirical novel set in a dystopian future where MT Anderson offers a thought-provoking and scathing indictment that may prod readers to examine the more sinister possibilities of corporate and media-dominated culture. Anderson draws parallels between our society and that of the Feeds to bring light to recklessness and warn readers of what must be improved if humanity is to survive. He achieves this by juxtaposing the two main characters in the novel, Titus and Violet, and exploring key issues such as the destruction of the environment, rampant consumerism, and technological advancement in an imagined future that veers unnervingly close to modern society.
The destruction of the environment is a central theme explored in the novel which foreshadows the impacts of consumerism in modern society. The unchecked growth of technology and corporate expansion has led to the decline of the natural world. Anderson describes how the environment was ravaged through the characterization of Violet. While informing Titus on the way to Quendy’s party about artificial jungles made of cables she says, “the natural world is so adaptable …So adaptable you wonder what’s natural.
” (page 191) Anderson uses repetition of ‘natural’ and ‘adaptable’ to emphasize and draw the attention of readers that individuals in the novel are living in an illusion of a perfect utopian world. Titus and his family utilize the feed to modify temperature and weather conditions rendering oblivious to the existence of the natural world. However, in reality, corporations are cutting down forests to create oxygen factories.
When Titus’s father and Violet discuss over dinner about Jefferson Park he says that “Do you know how inefficient trees are next to an air factory?” (page 125). The purpose of this rhetorical question is to vex readers at his absurdity and signify the extent to which he is indoctrinated by the corporations. This is a darkly ironic way of suggesting that while the corporations are engaging in small efforts to conceal the massive amounts of pollution they produce however they cannot restore the permanent damage they inflict on the environment. Anderson hopes to educate readers of the 21st century into changing their own practices towards consumerism to improve the odds of their world transforming into the one described by Anderson.
In the novel the sway of corporations over individuals mirrors the threats of advanced technology in modern society. Throughout the novel Titus, his parents and friends are manipulated to believe that the feed is ideal by constant advertisements and broadcasts through the feed. While Titus was dreaming he felt someone was interfering, so they told him they were the police, but Titus was not convinced so: “They said here is the lizard you have always been wanting. We took the liberty of giving it a nice new collar.” (page 93) Anderson uses personification as the lizard is given the human quality of liberty. This is done to connect with readers and question the authentic nature of Feed. The ‘lizard’ is associated with humans who have been provided with a ‘nice new collar’. In this context symbolizes the feed as corporations can monitor all those who have the Feed installed. Thus, by providing them with this innovative technology the corporations have absolute control over individuals to the point of intercepting Titus’s dreams. They have also taken over the education system now call School^TM which is viewed as an “investment in tomorrow” by training young people to be their eager, loyal consumers. Individuals are identified as investments rather than human beings which is the distressing reality, Titus is unable to recognize. Technology is a major threat to human liberations against corporations in a media-dominated dystopian world. Anderson reveals how consumerism can take over individual lives and strip characters of their individuality therefore encouraging readers to reflect on the dangerous consequences of sophisticated technology.
Anderson skillfully creates characters that compel readers to contemplate about how the decline in the quality of language leads to the overall decline of society. The juxtaposition between Titus and Violet’s use of language illustrates the contrast between them. Titus frequently uses colloquial language whereas Violet has developed a strong grasp of metaphor as a result of her father’s passion to save the dying vernacular. When Violet opens up to Titus about her personal life she makes a remark about her father “What strikes me as a good idea is leaving him in a basement wrapped in a cocoon of pink insulation” (page). While Feed is mostly characterized by the harsh jargon of the future there are few moments of rare beauty in the form of Titus’s metaphors. When Titus shows Violet the broken greenhouse in the hospital on the moon, he describes it to her as: “It’s like the squid in love with the sky,” and she responds, “You’re the only one of them that uses the metaphor” (page 63). While Titus appears to be the victim of the feed, this is one of the few moments where he concretely distinguishes himself from his friends. Metaphor is the mechanism through which the human mind is able to express and grasp intangibles and abstract concepts. Violet’s surprise at this quality shows that metaphor has mostly fallen out of use. In the world of the Feed, society has plunged so far that it is past rescuing. If readers can recognize that the collapse of language eventually leads to the collapse of society, perhaps humanity will guard both their language and society more cautiously.
Anderson presents a powerful novel in which the world is on the verge of calamity so that readers cannot ignore its significance. He flawlessly displayed his message through the themes of mass consumerism, destruction of the natural world, and loss of sophisticated language due to technological advancement. By applying elements already existing in society today and enhancing them to the point of disaster with the hope that if society can recognize them now they can be altered before it is too late. In an attempt to influence young adults to develop as an individual and build natural intelligence in order to escape the consumerism state of mind that most characters fall into when succumbed by the Feed. Therefore, it is imperative to think more critically about contemporary issues in the world that reflect those mentioned in the Feed and adopt measures to prevent it.
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