Analyse how the experiences of one or more characters were used for a particular purpose.
Have you ever wondered what life would be like if you had the internet embedded in your brain? If you are constantly overwhelmed by advertisements and stimuluses? MT Anderson’s 2002 novel ‘Feed’ investigates the repercussions of an amplified future where human desire to create new technological advances has superseded fundamental aspects of humanity, placing technology before original thought, consumerism before education and capitalism before health. The author uses experiences of the main character Titus to highlight that consumerism makes people unhappy. Through his experience in the world where technology has advanced to the point where people have the internet wired into their brains, Anderson effectively delivers the idea of consumerism.
The author uses the main character Titus to highlight how destructive consumerism is. Titus, who is fed by consumeristic ideas since his birth, shows clear indications of being a consumerist. At the novel’s outset, Titus and his friends are visiting the moon, a voyage that would be a mere dream for most readers. He enjoys taking luxurious vacations to the moon, getting mal (or high) with his friends, and buying whatever he wants using his feed. They were “this trio, the three of us guys, being like, total guys, which makes people let us in and give us beer.” And yet, instead of being excited by all these new trips and purchases, Titus and his friends seem to be almost constantly bored. The reason for Titus’s apathy—and the crux of Anderson’s insight on the subject—is that real happiness and fulfillment take time and effort to achieve. Titus asserts that the moon “turned out to completely suck.” The slang not only conveys that he is a wealthy and obliviously entitled teenager, but also that the products he buys does not provide the happiness it promises. It is because corporations depend on people like Titus being slightly dissatisfied. Consumers need to be just unhappy enough that they keep buying things-not so unhappy that they give up on consumption-but happy enough to believe that the next purchase could solve their problems. As a result Titus “kept buying these things to be cool, but cool was always flying just ahead of me”. Consumerism society tries to disillusion us into thinking that buying things will make us happier but the thrill of making a new purchase is short lived. Through Titus’ experience, we see the significance of Anderson’s intended message: that consumerism is the enemy of happiness.
Titus’ experience at the mall also highlights the idea of consumerism and the way that this impacts upon human life. When Titus meets Violet at the mall, he observes “for a second we said hello and just laughed about all the stupid things people were buying and then Violet, she pointed out that regarding legs to stand on, I didn’t have very much of one, because I was wheeling around a wheelbarrow full of hot cross bun from Bun is a Barrow” MT Anderson is suggesting here that while Titus can see the ridiculousness of the materialistic society in which he is living, the fact is that he has bought a giant hot cross bun that he has to push around in a wheelbarrow, and cannot even remember buying it. This is a use of satire because the image that it places in the reader’s mind is something that is completely different to what we would expect to see in our society. Corporations manipulate their customers through the use of advertisements. People in the world are constantly bombarded with constant stimuli and advertisements, nudging them into a lifestyle of constant consumption. Feed is only designed to make consumers desire for more products. Because of constant barrage of advertisements, they do not even have time to enjoy the product they buy. Because people are conditioned to expect constant, instant gratification, they will keep buying things and searching for things that can entertain them. The most worrisome effect of advertising is that it works, and all this purchasing could be driving us into debt and unhappiness. People in nowadays society have more materialistic possession than they had in previous generations, but many of them are deeply unhappy. People’s attention span has gotten so short that they are unwilling to lift a finger to entertain themselves. The author highlights how advertisements could lead to people seeking superficial happiness which then makes them unhappy.
Violet’s sickness changes Titus’ attitude towards her. He deletes all Violet’s memories, “I deleted everything she had sent me.” and goes into ‘mal’, “You are such a shithead. You don’t know what happened to me this morning. And the news. Titus—this morning . . I can’t believe in the middle of all this, you went and got malfunctioned. You are such an asshole and a shithead.” Finally, he reveals that he can’t be intimate with Violet because it would be like touching a zombie: he can’t get around the idea that she’ll soon be dead, and that totally grosses him out. “It feels like being felt up by a zombie, okay?” Then, he follows this up by breaking up with her. It shows that despite all his love toward Violet, he is not wanting to help her when she needs him the most. Titus didn’t think about what he had said and he certainly didn’t care about what Violet was feeling. Titus shows himself to be thoughtless about other people’s feelings. It highlights the problems with consumerism. People throw away once they have had enough and not care once they have thrown away. Through Titus, Anderson teaches us how consumerism society can shape people into self-centred, ignorant people. Violet dying away made Titus show his selfish nature and abandon her. When we are preoccupied with consumerism, we become oblivious to the things that really matter, like our relationships. Titus’ break up demonstrates that people in the society cannot have a lasting relationship with others. It is also supported by Titus not having a close relationship with his family. People have abandoned some of the most basic sources of happiness.
In conclusion, MT Anderson’s 2002 ‘Feed’ is a novel centred around the main character Titus which explores the idea of consumerism and happiness. Through Titus’s eyes readers understand the message Anderson is trying to convey: that consumerism is poison to happiness. He hopes to galvanize the reader in the 21st century into changing their own practices of consumption, thereby improving the odds that their own world does not turn into the one described in Anderson’s novel.