Feed is about a society in which people are so carefully classified and sorted according to their consumption habits that they only spend time with people who are more or less exactly like them. The characters in the book aren’t sorted by intelligence, race, gender, or health. Instead, they’re sorted by their taste profiles—which is just another way of saying they’re sorted by their economic class. By depicting a society of this kind, Feed argues that environmental and societal decay are both a cause and an effect of economic inequality.
Because they’re surrounded by wealth and entitlement, Titus and his friends are shockingly oblivious to the way non-wealthy people live. Titus is the son of successful parents (his mom and dad work in “design” and “banking,” respectively) who can afford to send their child on spring break vacations to the moon and buy him flying cars. Titus’s friends are similarly used to a life of indulgence. Titus’s friend Link Arwaker comes from an extraordinarily rich family—Link himself is a clone of Abraham Lincoln, suggesting that his family has both money and influence. Because shopping is such an important part of life in the society of Feed, Titus almost never has occasion to associate with people who aren’t as wealthy as he is, since they couldn’t keep up with his spending habits. In this way, the structure and cultural norms of his society virtually preclude him from meeting people outside his class “bubble.” It’s for this reason that, on the rare occasion when Titus does meet someone from outside the upper class, he can barely understand their way of life. Although Titus meets Violet Durn (the only important character in the book who comes from a background that isn’t recognizably upper-class) in the first few chapters of the book, it takes him a long time to understand that Violet can’t afford some of the things he takes for granted—for example, Violet’s father had to spend a month’s pay just so that Violet could go to the moon.
By the same token, because Titus and his friends live in a class “bubble,” they’re blissfully unaware that working-class people are starving or dying as a direct result of corporate expansion—expansion which their own consumerist habits enable. For example, they seem only dimly aware that pollution from American companies is causing hundreds and thousands of deaths around the globe. But because they are geographically and culturally isolated from the victims of corporate expansion, Titus and his friends have no discernible reason to change their behavior, even though their behavior is directly responsible for other people’s suffering. This is the crux of Anderson’s most important point about economic inequality: it’s a vicious cycle, where the more isolated wealthy people are from the working-class, the more oblivious they become to the consequences of their own actions, which in turn enables them to continue to act with impunity. By the same logic, Titus and his friends’ wild shopping binges cause further environmental degradation and further damage to the working class, further increasing economic inequality. In short, it’s important to understand the role of economic inequality in Feed, because it’s both a primary cause and a major outcome of the global crises to which Anderson alludes throughout the book.
Class and Segregation ThemeTracker
Class and Segregation Quotes in Feed
"You know what he was in?" said my dad. "Remember Virtual Blast? He played the fifth Navy Seal, with the croup. You know, coughing."
"He was in the feature with all the crazy utensils," said my mother. "A few years ago? That one? He was the doorman in the pillbox hat." I had already pulled up a list of his feed-features and I was going over them. None of them got more than two stars.
So he's the genetic clone of Abraham Lincoln.
That’s what I said.
Tell me what he’s doing now.
Eh . . . the limbo. With the coaxial cable.
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.
"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—"
"I'm sick of being told I'm stupid."
"So read it, and you'll know."
"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.