Many people have claimed that M.T. Anderson contemplates hypothetical future in his famous novel Feed. Some have argued that this future can become reality if people keep consuming everything: food, clothes, devices, and even ideas.
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Obviously, Anderson’s hypothetical future has already come, to certain extent. The author claims that the novel portrays allegorical present as major trends existing in society are brought to the fore.
The author focuses on one of the major issues which need to be addressed. Consumerism has become something more than a nice topic for scholars to reflect upon. Consumerism has penetrated all spheres of human being.
Anderson makes people think of consumerism as a global and all-embracing phenomenon which shapes the very human nature. Anderson’s novel is especially important and suggestive as it is a part of the larger discourse.
Thus, the novel correlates to works by Freire, Bordo, Foucault and Giroux. All these works make people understand that there is a specific threat.
Anderson depicts the world with ‘feeds’ which can be regarded as ways to establish a total control over people, which, in its turn, is manifested in all spheres of their lives: education, relationships and even the way of thinking.
Anderson manages to reveal the idea with the help of various literary means which make the novel so intimate, involving and inspiring.
Education and Total Control
Anderson depicts the world where people acquire knowledge with the help of specific devices implanted into people’s brain. People are passive receivers of information. Importantly, they hardly choose the information they want to obtain, but some agencies select information sent to people. Only few people try to use their feeds in a more productive way.
For instance, Violet says: “But I want to know what’s going on” (Anderson 111). However, in Anderson’s world the majority of people are satisfied with the information they got. People do not mind huge amounts of rather useless information (e.g. ads) coming into their heads.
They get used to it and think it is normal. Of course, this world can seem rather unreal and dystopian.
The Real World and Scholars’ Ideas
Nonetheless, the work by Freire confirms that the novel is not what may happen in future, but it is about some trends which have already become reality. Freire reveals the concept of banking education.
The author argues that banking education “inhibits and domesticates” creativity as teachers simply deposit certain facts and students are encouraged to accumulate the facts (Freire n.p.).
It is important to note that the scholar touches upon a very important issue. Now students do lack creativity, they are not encouraged to generate ideas as teachers seem to be satisfied if a student simply memorizes the necessary amount of information. Likewise, Giroux claims that many important issues remain “unchallenged by both teachers and students” (19).
The two scholars argue that the major aim of education is still to make young people able to think, rather than acquire specific information. Unfortunately, many educators forget about this.
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It is possible to assume that Anderson’s world is not that unreal after all. Anderson simply reveals his concerns in an allegorical way. He depicts people who rely on somebody else’s vision without trying to work out perspectives of their own. Anderson puts allegorical devices into people’s heads.
However, people already act as if they had those devices. They consume information provided by TV, the Internet, radio, etc. They focus on things rather than on their own development. It is possible to note that there are already a lot of people who have their ‘feeds’.
Anderson rightfully points out that people are becoming plainer as they do not care about really important issues while focusing on some trivial things. The author states that those in power are responsible for many processes that take place in the contemporary world:
It’s like a spiral: They keep making everything more basic so it will appeal to everyone. And gradually, everyone gets used to everything being basic, so we get less and less varied as people, more simple. So the corps make everything even simpler. And it goes on and on. (Anderson 97)
It is easy to find parallels in the contemporary world to understand Anderson’s assertions are precise.
Relations and Total Control
As far as interpersonal relationships are concerned, Anderson is not very optimistic. The writer makes it clear that people’s relations are also shaped by those in power. This control is slightly visible. Nonetheless, feeds help authorities to control people and make sure no one differs from the other one.
Thus, Violet is different as she strives for knowledge and change. However, she has no right to live in the world where everything is controlled. This dangerous individual is ‘removed’ as her feed slowly kills the girl.
Foucault touches the issue of total control and isolation as well. The author argues that authorities have often used their power to establish total control over people during period of extreme danger (like plague).
People were not allowed to leave their houses; they were not allowed to communicate to prevent the spread of the deadly disease (Foucault n.p.).
Anderson depicts the world where authorities use their power to prevent the spread of dangerous ideas which can be seen as certain kind of plague. People are bombarded by various ads and bits of information to distract them from what is really important, proper communication and development.
Thus, Titus communicates with people who share the same ideas, who are satisfied with their lives. However, as soon as Titus meets Violet who understands that people are like puppets, something goes wrong. Titus and Violet have no future as Violet’s ideas are dangerous; she is infected and can infect others. Violet has to die in Anderson’s world.
The story may seem dystopian. It has something in common with dystopias written by Orwell and Huxley. However, it is possible to trace certain similarities with the contemporary world as well. People are often distracted from what is really important. One of Anderson’s character notes that “Americans are interested in the consumption” without paying attention to many other things (290). Unfortunately, this assumption is applicable to the real world, to certain extent.
The Way of Thinking and the Total Control
More so, Anderson notices that the very way of thinking is being shaped. His characters are bombarded by ads, which is also taking place in the contemporary world. People’s perception of beauty, health, efficiency, etc. is shaped by numerous ads. Thus, Bordo argues that men’s beauty is seen differently now (168).
Notably, people are taught to appreciate certain things, they are told to like what is ‘fashionable’. It is even possible to claim that people are deprived of their right to choose as they are only shown what is ‘right’. Of course, there are many thinking people. However, there are too many people who are eager to accept what is told without thinking critically.
Anderson explains this unwillingness or even inability to think critically by the devices implanted. However, it is much more difficult to explain the nature of this unwillingness in the real world. Real people do not have any ‘feeds’ but they tend to follow trends and consume things.
Anderson makes people think of the nature of their ‘feeds’. The novel makes people think of how they act and, more importantly, why they act that way.
Particular Literary Means
People’s Inability to Communicate
Noteworthy, many scholars try to draw people’s attention to the issue of consumerism. However, their assertions could not reach such a wide audience. Only literary works can affect so many people at a time. Only a good literary work can make people stop and think. One of the reasons why literary works have such power over people is that literary works are expressive. Writers can achieve their goals by presenting their ideas with the help of some expressive means.
For instance, Anderson uses bright metaphors to articulate his ideas. The author argues that people cannot communicate anymore. Communication (or rather proper communication) for them is something similar to brain surgery which is unbearably difficult to cope with:
And you have to get exactly the right place, and you’re touching around in the brain but the patient, she keeps jumping and saying, “Ow.” (Anderson 54)
The author does not simply reports that people are unable to communicate as they are overwhelmed by less meaningful things. The author provides the metaphor that speaks to each reader evoking various images. The metaphor used makes the reader think of his/her own relations with others. Everyone tries to understand whether he/she is the unfortunate surgeon.
The Necessity to Start the Discourse
Anderson also makes people understand that it is time to start discussing the problem. The problem should not be discussed by a group of people who are not heard by many. Nations should think of their future. The author states that whispering “makes a narrow place narrower” (151).
This metaphor represents the discourse which can be regarded as whispering as people do not listen to concerns expressed by scholars. Consumerism needs to be considered by every individual as people cannot make their world even narrower than it is now.
Anderson provides the bright metaphor to make people understand that they need to address the issue which can become a serious threat to humanity.
How to Escape Anderson’s Allegorical Present
Thus, Anderson as well as many scholars claims that people need to reconsider their ways. Some may reveal concerns that people have no future as consumerism has reshaped the very nature of human beings. However, there is no need to be that pessimistic.
People still can change for better. They can save themselves from Anderson’s “feeds”. People’s hope lies in the sphere of education. Education is the force that can reshape people’s perceptions.
Giroux points out that education can provide people with the vision of future (14). Of course, it is necessary to improve the sphere to accommodate it to the world that has already changed.
Educators should not simply report some events and provide bits of information. They should encourage young people to think critically, to come up with their own ways and to be creative.
Apart from this, educators should make young people understand that each individual should have particular opinion on everything. Educators should make all people understand that choices people make every day make them humans.
Educators are responsible for development of generations who cherish free will and never try to create the world with “feeds”.
Thus, new generations will reshape the world of consumers. Some may think that he/she can sit back and wait for those new generations to come. However, people living in the contemporary world are those generations which are to make difference.
Anderson’s novel is one of the examples that people are ready to change their world. The fact that the novel has reached people’s hearts is the sign that the changes have already started.
To sum up, Anderson’s novel is a part of the ongoing discourse concerning consumerism. Anderson touches upon issues which have been discussed by many scholars.
However, the novel is one of the most effective writings that has made many people think of their ways. Due to various expressive means, Anderson reaches people’s hearts.
Some may assume that the author is very pessimistic as he draws a really sad picture of the future of humanity. However, it is necessary to note that Anderson just warns people.
More so, people should not think that there is nothing they can do. On the contrary, people can change themselves and the world they live in. Education is the force that will help humanity go on and develop.
Anderson, Matthew Tobin. Feed, Cambridge, MA: Candlewick, 2004. Print.
Bordo, Susan. Beauty (Re)Discovers the Male Body n.d. Web.<http://employees.oneonta.edu/farberas/arth/arth200/Body/bordo_male_beauty.html>.
Foucault, Michael. Discipline & Punish (1975), Panopticism n.d. Web. <https://foucault.info/documents/foucault.disciplineAndPunish.panOpticism/>.
Freire, Paulo. Chapter 2 of Pedagogy of the Oppressed n.d. Web.
Giroux, Henry A. On Critical Pedagogy, New York, NY: Continuum, 2011. Print.