M. T. Anderson

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Apathy, Happiness, and Satisfaction Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
Corporations and Consumerism Theme Icon
Apathy, Happiness, and Satisfaction Theme Icon
Resistance Theme Icon
Class and Segregation Theme Icon
The Environment Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Feed, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Apathy, Happiness, and Satisfaction Theme Icon

Apathy is the emotion that corporations aim to produce in their consumers, and as a result it has become the default emotional state of the characters in Feed. Titus and his friends coast through life, spending all their money on obscenely expensive products and exotic vacations. 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’s feed has conditioned him to expect nothing but constant, instant gratification—which ultimately proves not to be all that gratifying.

The reason everyone in Feed is so apathetic is that they’re completely dependent on their feeds for pleasure. In the society described in Anderson’s book, almost nobody knows how to make themselves happy. Since the feed can provide entertainment twenty-four hours a day (people even use their feeds to dream), people have largely abandoned some of the most basic sources of happiness—for example, family. Titus seems utterly apathetic toward his mom, dad, and brother (to whom he always refers as Smell Factor), just as they show apathy toward him. Many families bond by spending time together, arguing, and “growing together.” But for Titus’s family, there’s no such thing as “together”—since even when they’re in the same room, they’re all lost in their own little worlds, watching feedcasts and chatting via feed with their friends. To them, the idea of family time seems dull by comparison.

Even though Titus and his peers rely on their feeds for happiness, the pleasure their feeds provide them isn’t actually satisfying. This is true for three closely related reasons. First, the feeds are unsatisfying because of the constant and inescapable barrage of ads, which means there’s no time to savor the pleasures the feed offers. After Titus buys a flying car, for example, he seems to get little, if any, pleasure from his purchase, because he’s too busy thinking about his next purchases. Even when he’s driving his new car, he’s shopping for jerseys and sweater vests. Buying a car doesn’t satisfy him, it just staves off dissatisfaction until he buys something else. Second, because of the sheer quantity of pleasure the feed offers, Titus and his peers become numb to this pleasure. They have access to almost unlimited cash, so they can indulge in luxury vacations and shopping sprees whenever they want. The result is that even a trip to the moon—an incredibly exciting activity, one would think—isn’t enough to jolt Titus out of his apathy. Third, the feeds are designed to leave its users unsatisfied, because it keeps them coming back for more. In the future, ads and entertainment have become virtually indistinguishable. As Violet Durn explains, songs have become jingles, and feedcasts (i.e., television and movies) have become feature-length commercials. This has enormous consequences for the consumer: instead of providing satisfaction and closure, feed entertainment is only designed to generate more desire for products. In all, Titus and his friends don’t have the imagination to have fun on their own, and their feeds are calibrated to be not quite fun enough. Titus is trapped in an endless cycle of feeling apathetic, using his feed to stave off apathy, feeling unsatisfied, and feeling apathetic once again.

Through writing about his characters’ apathy and discontentment, however, Anderson implicitly suggests what real happiness might look like. First and foremost, real happiness takes time and effort—two things that are utterly foreign to Titus and his friends. The book shows that people tend to enjoy things most when they have to expend some amount of energy to achieve them. Throughout the book, Titus is never happier than when he is pursuing different forms of pleasure, and never more restless than when he uses his feed to achieve instant pleasure. Even when they’re trapped in the hospital without access to the feed, Titus and Violet find ways of entertaining themselves, first by inventing games and later by going for walks, talking about their families, and kissing. He savors his time with Violet instead of thinking ahead to what his next source of pleasure will be. By foregoing instant gratification in this way, Titus ends up having what he describes as one of the most fulfilling days of his life. Anderson leaves the ending of Feed ambiguous, but he suggests that Titus may be ready to abandon his apathy and his addiction to instant gratification for good. In either case, the novel paints a disturbing picture of a society in which people’s attention spans have gotten so short that they’re unwilling to lift a finger to entertain themselves, and as a result have become almost completely incapable of feeling true happiness or satisfaction.

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Apathy, Happiness, and Satisfaction Quotes in Feed

Below you will find the important quotes in Feed related to the theme of Apathy, Happiness, and Satisfaction.
Part 1: Your Face is Not An Organ Quotes

We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck.

Related Characters: Titus (speaker)
Related Symbols: The moon
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 2: The Garden Quotes

She rubbed my head, and she went, "You're the only one of them that uses metaphor."
She was staring at me, and I was staring at her, and I moved toward her, and we kissed.

Related Characters: Violet Durn (speaker)
Page Number: 63
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 3: The Others in Mal Quotes

I feel like we're the only two of us who like remember the, like, the thing.

People want to forget.
You can't blame them.

Related Characters: Titus (speaker), Violet Durn (speaker)
Related Symbols: Feed
Page Number: 90
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 3: Lift Quotes

"He was beaten to death at the club. We saw it. The police, remember? They beat him over the head."
She reached out and took my arm.
My father walked toward us across the pavement, waving. The plastic flags were flapping in the artificial wind while Muzak came out of heaven.

I bought the Dodge.

Related Characters: Titus (speaker), Violet Durn (speaker)
Page Number: 123
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 3: Observe the Remarkable Verdure Quotes

He said in a high-pitched voice, like a teensy-weensy kind of voice, "Ooooooh! Observe the remarkable verdure! Little friend, I am master of all I survey."

Related Characters: Titus (speaker), Violet’s father (speaker)
Page Number: 137
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 3: A Day in the Country Quotes

She said she had a theory that everything was better if you delayed it. She had this whole thing about self-control, okay, and the importance of self-control. For example, she said, when she bought something, she wouldn't let herself order it for a long time. Then she would just go to the purchase site and show it to herself. Then she'd let herself get fed the sense-sim, you know, she'd let herself know how it would feel, or what it would smell like. Then she would go away and wouldn't look for a week.

Related Characters: Titus (speaker), Violet Durn (speaker)
Page Number: 143
Explanation and Analysis:

You know, I think death is shallower now. It used to be a hole you fell into and kept falling. Now it's just a blank.

Related Characters: Violet Durn (speaker)
Page Number: 145
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 3: Flat Hope Quotes

The only thing worse than the thought it may all come tumbling down is the thought that we may go on like this forever.

Related Characters: Titus (speaker), Violet Durn
Page Number: 193
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 3: Our Duty to the Party Quotes

Violet was screaming, "Look at us! You don't hate the feed! You are feed! You're feed! You're being eaten! You're raised for food! Look at what you've made yourselves!" She pointed at Quendy, and went, "She’s a monster! A monster!"

Related Characters: Titus (speaker), Violet Durn (speaker), Quendy
Related Symbols: Feed, Lesions
Page Number: 202
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 4: 76.3% Quotes

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.

Related Characters: Violet Durn (speaker), Titus
Related Symbols: Feed
Page Number: 242
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 4: 59.3% Quotes

I went to the kitchen to get a drink of water. I filled a glass. I looked at the window over the sink.
I deleted everything she had sent me.

Related Characters: Titus (speaker), Violet Durn
Related Symbols: Feed
Page Number: 254
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 4: 57.2% Quotes

I didn't want to be called her hero.
I looked at her, and she was smiling like she was broken.
I reached down, and turned up the fan in the climate control.

Related Characters: Titus (speaker), Violet Durn
Page Number: 263
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 4: The Deep Quotes

"It's almost time for foosball. It will be a gala. Go along, little child. Go back and hang with the eloi."
"What are the eloi?"
"It's a reference," he said, snotty. "It's from The Time Machine. H. G. Wells."
I stepped closer to him. "What does it mean?" I asked. "Because I'm sick of—"
"Read it."
"I'm sick of being told I'm stupid."
"So read it, and you'll know."
"Tell me."
"Read it."

Related Characters: Titus (speaker), Violet’s father (speaker)
Page Number: 291
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 4: 4.6% Quotes

"It's about this meg normal guy, who doesn't think about anything until one wacky day, when he meets a dissident with a heart of gold." I said, "Set against the backdrop of America in its final days, it's the high-spirited story of their love together, it's laugh-out-loud funny, really heartwarming, and a visual feast." I picked up her hand and held it to my lips. I whispered to her fingers. "Together, the two crazy kids grow, have madcap escapades, and learn an important lesson about love. They learn to resist the feed. Rated PG-13. For language," I whispered, "and mild sexual situations."
I sat in her room, by her side, and she stared at the ceiling. I held her hand. On a screen, her heart was barely beating.
I could see my face, crying, in her blank eye.

Related Characters: Titus (speaker), Violet Durn
Related Symbols: Feed
Page Number: 297-298
Explanation and Analysis: