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Feed by M.T. Anderson (Review 4)
The Hand That Feeds
. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Candlewick Press, 2002.
In his novel, Feed, M.T. Anderson effectively presents the reader with a futuristic version of reality that seems uncomfortably plausible. His satire of over indulgent consumerism and dependence on technology creates a believable world in which people have internet connections, feeds, implanted in their brains. In the novel, seventy percent of the American population has a feed that not only controls their thoughts, but also their bodily functions. The feeds are controlled by large corporations that basically serve as the new government.
Early in the novel, Anderson alludes to the idea that people may have a sense that they are being taken advantage of, but no one cares enough to want to leave the comfort of normalcy. The author uses Titus, the narrator, to explain his society’s general apathy toward the overwhelming power that these corporations have over the society when he says, “I mean, it’s not great, because who knows what evil shit they’re up to? Everyone feels bad about that. But they’re the only way to get all this stuff, and it’s no good getting pissy about it, because they’re still going to control everything whether you like it or not.” (48) They have let the feed control too much of their lives and now they are slaves to it. It keeps their minds so cluttered with media and advertisements that no one has time to stop and think.
The characters are forced to live life at a frenzied pace. Titus realizes that his brand new upcar isn't the kind his friends would ride in, he says, "It was like I kept buying these things to be cool, but cool was always flying just ahead of me, and I could never exactly catch up to it." (279) A virus called "nostalgia" freezes a couple of his friends in their tracks Titus says, “We were real worried about them for a day or so.” (278) These characters are so busy trying to keep up with the present that they don't have time to remember the past or think about consequences of their actions.
Instant gratification seems like all there is, but
Violet knows that there is more.
Violet is uniquely affected by the feed because she remembers what is was like living without one. Most characters had their feeds implanted at birth, but Violet did not get the feed until she was about seven years old. Violet
questions the effects that the feed has had on the mind. “Because of the feed, we’re raising a nation of idiots. Ignorant, self-centered idiots, ” Violet screams at Titus. (113) For a moment, this statement forces Titus to question his intelligence; but, his worries about whether or not he is able to think for himself are quickly shoved aside when his parents buy him an upcar to make him feel better. After hearing about his new gift he says, "Suddenly, I didn't feel so stupid anymore." (118)
Violet is the only character interested in preserving her past because, unlike the others, she is forced to face death. Violet expresses her concern when she says, "I think death is shallower now. It used to be a hole you fell into and kept falling. Now, it's just a blank." (145) She is afraid of being discarded and she copes with this feeling by trying to keep her memories alive. In a fast paced world where the past consists only of things that are no longer useful and the past is easily forgotten, Violet feels the need to preserve her legacy (Questions for Discussion). In her final days, however, Titus validates Violet when he tells her her story and promises never to forget.
Although Feed takes place in an impersonal world full of unlikable characters, the author creates two main characters, Titus and Violet, in an attempt to personalize the dilemma of the feed and evoke a sense of sympathy from the reader. It is a satirical prediction of today’s future, but it should also serve as a warning to all gluttons of technology as it stresses the instrinsical value of human thought.
Recommendations for Teachers
Due to the language and some of the potentially controversial thematic elements of the novel, it would perhaps be more at home in an upper-level English class than an early high-school or middle school classroom. Some teachers may want to issue some sort of disclaimer warning their students about the harsh language and heavy themes.
A a teacher you may wish to ask your students to examine the social commentary found within the novel. Perhaps
would do well in a unit about social commentary and satire. Encourage them to observe the culture depicted within the novel. In what ways is the culture of Titus' time similar to today's youth, in what ways do they differ? How do the students react to the news and media? In what ways are the media alike/different from our media? And what about the corporations? Ask your students if they think M.T. Anderson's depiction of the future is realistic, or if it's too pessimistic. Hopefully you'll find that upon finishing the novel there is much conversation just waiting to happen.
About M.T. Anderson
M.T. Anderson is an award winning author of several books for young adults and children. He was born in 1968 in Stow, Massachusetts. He attended Harvard, the University of Cambridge, and Syracuse. He has worked for Candlewick Press, as a professor at Vermont College, and as a music critic. He has published a handful of picture book as well as a handful of young adult novels. His novels are:
The Game of Sunken Places
Whales on Stilts
The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume 1: The Pox Party
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves
Anderson now lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts and serves as a board member of the National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance. He says of being a children's author: "
People write for children for two reasons: Either they have children, or they are children. I’m in the latter category. I loved my childhood, and I write for children so that I can recall it."
"Matthew Tobin Anderson."
. 2 February, 2009.
Multimedia (Video or Audio)
This was an idea and a link from a youtube post by IHeartsMyInternets on 11-02-08 (
). In her video, she said that reading the book made her feel the way she did when she watched this Daft Punk video; it is an interesting comparison. It may not be directly related, but it could be a fun introduction to a futuristic, or maybe not too futuristic, novel.
This is a book review posted by MPGallon on 7-19-08:
. It is a general report on the book.
This is an original representation of Feed put on by a group of high school students posted by Lachadin on 5-1-08,
Feed for Thought
- This is an article with quotes from the author regarding
. I am not sure how to site this article, but the link will take you there.
Audio by M.T. Anderson
- This is an audio clip featuring M.T. Anderson and his ideas for improved technolgy in the White House (regarding the building itself). It is not directly related to Feed, but it is interesting to hear his opinions.
M.T. Anderson Interview
- This is an interview with M.T. Anderson done by the Library of Congress in November 2007. In the interview, Anderson discusses his novels as well as being an author and advice for aspiring student authors.
Tomes for Teens
- An article about M.T. Anderson written by Bob Thompson of the Washington Post in November 2008. The article discusses his novel
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation
as well as his awards and the novel
Themes, Ideas, and Message to Today's Generation of Technology
- This is a good site that addresses questions raised in the novel about consumerism and such, also leaves an area for student response.
Feed by M.T. Anderson Book Review
- A review by All Readers for the novel Feed. Features a plot review and select book details.
- Descriptions, release dates, and book covers for all of M.T. Anderson's picture books and novels. It is a good site for quick descriptions and information regarding Anderson.
Article on M.T. Anderson
- Article written by boston.com on M.T. Anderson and his works. The article specifically discusses the character study of Anderson and his characters.
Names of Reviewers
(and links to your other reviews).
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