external image feed.jpgFeed

by Gabe Smith

Table of Contents
Author
Characters
Plot Summary
Themes & Analysis
Feed vs. Mortal Engines
References

Author

M.T. Anderson was born in Stow, Massachusetts, on December 31st, 1967. He has since moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts. (4) Anderson's writing has won him several prizes, including the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the 2006 National Book Award for Young People's Literature. (1) He enjoys the harpsichord. (5)

Characters

Titus - The main character. Popular, attractive, and has a car. Probably the perfect teen.
Titus' clique - Quendy, Link, Marty and Calista. All are completely content with a consumerist lifestyle, and are similarly shallow.
Violet - Titus' love interest. She and her father seem to be the only people concerned with the consequences of the general population's way of life. She was home-schooled, and is not as wealthy as Titus or his friends.

Plot Summary

Feed, a novel by M.T. Anderson, begins with what is possibly the best opening sentence ever written: "We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck." This statement embodies the attitudes of the great majority of the characters in Feed; they are essentially hedonists, completely oblivious to any sort of consequences of their actions and also to the world around them. They are preoccupied with TV and clothes, and care little for the world outside of their immediate vicinity.
The main character of Feed, Titus, is similarly shallow. However, while on the moon (which completely sucks, of course), he meets a girl named Violet who doesn't act like everyone else. She is genuinely concerned about the status-quo, believing correctly that their way of life is very near collapsing. They begin dating, and she tries to introduce Titus to a world he was previously unaware of.
Also while on the moon, Titus and his friends are attacked by a man who is a member of a rebel group. This attack seems to be the catalyst for the gradual decay of Violet's feed, which is more vulnerable since it was installed later than is recommended and is a cheaper model. Because the feed is hardwired into the brain of an individual, the destruction of the feed is basically brain-death for the person.
As her condition gradually declines, Titus begins to push Violet away, unwilling to face her inevitable death. The book ends with on a pessimistic note, with her being completely abandoned by Titus.

Themes & Analysis

All of the themes explored in Feed are present in today's world as well as that of the novel. With perhaps a couple exceptions, all of the main characters are hedonists, concerned only with enjoying themselves and ignorant of any possible consequences. The depictions of teenage life are disturbingly realistic; one could easily imagine today's teenagers acting similarly to Titus and his friends, if they were to trade places. In fact, many of the things said by the characters are snippets of real-life conversation heard overheard by the author.(2) The Feed seems to provide roughly the same services as a modern computer; the largest difference is its constant availability and privacy.
The political and social environment of the Feed world seems to have been completely taken over by big business, conspicuously trademarking such things as "clouds" and "school". Since almost none of the characters are politically informed at all, it is hard to ascertain the exact nature of the United States government. However, I get the impression that the president is probably just a figurehead.
The School(tm) appears to provide mostly a babysitting service. Titus and his friends barely know how to read; in the minds of the general populace, the Feed has made learning obsolete. Why waste time studying for a test when the Feed can tell you the answers while you take it? Why bother to learn about anything when you could just look it up any time you need to?
As well as social degradation, the environment of Feed is severely damaged. As a result of overpopulation, forests are cut down in order to create air factories. Thanks to irresponsible disposal of waste, the sea is so toxic that one cannot visit the beach without a hazmat suit.
The characters of Feed live in a world driven by a sort of consumer-capitalism-on-steroids. The Feed constantly bombards its user with advertisements and promotions. In their world, the only purpose of a person is to buy products, and to make money for the huge corporations that control the country.
Perhaps the most disquieting aspect of Feed is the plausibility of it all. While the technology is obviously quite advanced, the way that the characters act and the things they do all seem very realistic. I get the impression that, if presented with the Feednet and all its accouterments, many of today's teens would act the same way that Titus' and his friends act.

Feed vs Mortal Engines

The themes present in Feed have been compared to Mortal Engines, a book by English author Philip Reeve. Both books seem to push the respective ills of each society (American and British) to their conclusions. In Feed, consumer capitalism has run its course and spit out a nation where a person is valued only if they can spend. In Mortal Engines, imperialism and globalism have led to a world ruled by Municipal Darwinism; that is, a world characterized by mobile cities that literally must eat one another to survive. (3)

References

1. Anderson, Matthew Tobin. "M.T. Anderson: Eats Broccoli, Paces and Hums." Interview with Melody Joy Kramer. NPR. 17 Mar. 2009 <http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6525913>.

2. Blasingame, James. "An interview with M.T. (Tobin) Anderson." Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 47.1 (2003): 98(2). Academic OneFile. Gale. 27 Feb. 2009 <http://infotrac.galegroup.com/itweb/?db=AONE>.

3. Bullen, Elizabeth, and Elizabeth Parsons. "Dystopian Visions of Global Capitalism: Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines and M.T Anderson’s Feed." Children's Literature in Education 38.2 (2007): 127-139. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. 27 Feb. 2009 <http://search.ebscohost.com/>.

4. "Matthew Tobin Anderson." Answers.com. 27 Feb. 2009 <http://www.answers.com/M.T.%20Anderson>

5. Thompson, Bob. Washington Post 29 Nov. 2008. 22 Apr. 2009
<http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/28/ AR2008112802766_pf.html>.