M. T. Anderson

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Brief Biography of M. T. Anderson

Matthew Tobin Anderson was born and raised in Massachusetts, and later attended Harvard University and Cambridge University (in the UK). He published his first novel, Thirsty, a young adult vampire tale, in 1997. Since then, Anderson has written a string of critically acclaimed books for young people, including Feed (2002), The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation: The Pox Party (2006) and its sequel, The Kingdom on the Waves (2008), and Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad (2015). He resides in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he was born, and serves on the board of the National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance.
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Historical Context of Feed

Feed alludes to relatively few historical events—indeed, one of the main points the book makes is that the characters have little to no knowledge of history. Anderson highlights his characters’ ignorance of the past by showing them eagerly buying “Stonewall Clogs” and “WTO riot Windbreakers”—merchandise whose branding refers to some of the most famously violent protests and riots in American history. The WTO riots, for example, took place in 1999, when the World Trade Organization held a meeting in Seattle to discuss globalization, and more than 40,000 people showed up to protest what they saw as the hypocrisy and inherent dangers of a globalized economy. The Seattle Police Department uses tear gas and stun grenades to attack the protesters, injuring hundreds. Despite the characters’ ignorance of the past, the invention and widespread adoption of the Internet is one historical event that looms large in Anderson’s novel. While historians continue to disagree about when, precisely, the Internet was created, it’s generally agreed that in the mid-1970s, scientists working in California, as well as other scientists working at CERN in Switzerland, succeeded in joining together multiple computers in a wireless communication network, creating an “Internet” (a term first used in 1974)—though it wasn’t until 1990 that the World Wide Web was invented. While the Internet’s earliest applications were scientific and governmental, the Internet went mainstream in the late 1990s with the founding of companies like Google and Yahoo. The Internet has been celebrated for its ability to foster the free flow of information, but some people have voiced concern that the Internet encourages the homogenization rather than diversification of culture and ideas, a possibility that Anderson explores in Feed. Others have warned of the possibility of Internet terrorism, or cyberterrorism—another problem that shows up quite a bit in Feed.

Other Books Related to Feed

Feed alludes to many works of fantasy and dystopian science fiction. At one point, Violet’s father mentions the eloi, the fictional race of weak, effete pleasure-seekers in H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine (1985), one of the seminal texts of the genre of science fiction. In Wells’s story, modern day humans have evolved into two distinct species by the year 802,701 AD: the morlocks, who are descendants of working-class human beings, and the eloi, who are descendants of the wealthy. In all, Wells’s vision of the distant future is not too far from the version of the future Anderson describes, in which wealth is distributed so unequally that the rich and the poor exist in completely separate realities. Feed also recalls some other notable science fiction works, especially those of Philip K. Dick. In “The Days of Perky Pat,” one of Dick’s most disturbing short stories, human beings live in a hellish, post-apocalyptic earth where their only amusement comes from playing a childish role-playing game that helps them forget their troubles. Feed also bears some tonal resemblances to the early science fiction novels of Kurt Vonnegut, especially Player Piano (1952), and to Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 (1953), another dystopian satire of America’s consumerist culture. The basic premise of Feed (i.e., a virtual world flourishes while the real world decays) also appears in a variety of science fiction movies, such as The Matrix (1999) and Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report (released the same year as Anderson’s book), the latter of which also features ads targeted to individual consumers with surgical accuracy.
Key Facts about Feed
  • Full Title: Feed
  • When Written: 2001
  • Where Written: Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
  • When Published: Summer 2002
  • Literary Period: Post-internet science fiction
  • Genre: Science fiction, dystopian fiction
  • Setting: United States, sometime in the not-too distant future
  • Climax: Violet’s outburst at Link’s party
  • Antagonist: Corporations, the feed
  • Point of View: First person (Titus)

Extra Credit for Feed

Good research. To prepare for writing Feed, M.T. Anderson spent months reading hundreds of issues of Teen Vogue, Maxim, Seventeen, and other similar magazines, so that he could convincingly write (and parody) a teenaged voice.

Awards. Anderson has won many major awards for young adult literature. He was nominated for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, and in 2006 he won for Part One of Octavian Nothing.