Chapters: a day in the country–fight and flight

Summary: a day in the country

Titus and Violet visit the country and a filet mignon farm with hedges of beef tissue spread along walking paths. Later, they fly over a lake and see an ad covering the bottom of a lake. Violet asks Titus how he would like to die and later, is happy when Titus asks if she’ll be there when he’s old and dies. That night, Titus rests at home and thinks about how his family can turn the sun and stars on in their home’s pod and listen to the feed speak about new trends. He considers how his lesion looks great, how his President promises a bright future, and how there is a sale at Weatherbee & Crotch before drifting to sleep while the feed murmurs “All shall be well.” The chapter ends with feed chatter: A voice states the world has entered a new age and that America is a place that whatever the people wish for, will be theirs.  

Summary: nudging again

Titus has nightmares, but again suspects he is being hacked. He is shown images that include masses of people around the world being fired upon and gassed as they burn American flags. He sees environmental destruction, animals suffering, sweat shops, and violence against a child. Soon, Violet chats him, saying someone has been rooting around her feed, too. But when she asks if Titus has seen the images, he only says he wants to go back to sleep. Violet reports her intrusion to FeedTech Customer Assistance, but just gets an automated intelligence that wants to help her shop. The chapter ends with an ad on the feed for the Swarp XE-11 upcar which claims, “You can take it with you.” 

Summary: the real thing

Titus gathers with Violet and his friends at Marty’s. They all try to work the word “Coke” into their conversations as part of a promotion to get a free six-pack. Violet tries, though can only come up with unpleasant descriptions to describe the sensation of drinking Coke, which irritates the friends, most of which are dressed in riot gear from major twentieth-century uprisings such as Kent State and Stonewall. When Calista shows off her Watts Riot top, Violet asks Calista for information about the event. None of the friends know the history behind their riot clothing, though, and are offended by Violet’s question. Calista and Loga chat about her and make fun of her for using big words. Violet wants to leave the party, but Titus simply tries to ignore the situation. The two eventually leave and then fight.

Summary: fight and flight

Down from Marty’s community, Titus flies Violet home. At first, he flies violently, to hurt her. But then, while flying above the surface’s shantytowns, he decides he can upset her more by flying perfectly. Via chat, Titus then scolds her for using big words, saying she’s showing off. Titus intuits Violet is upset about something larger, though he doesn’t talk to her about it. Eventually, she reveals that her feed has major damage, likely because it was installed at a later age rather than birth. What’s more, because the feed is tied entirely into a person’s brain and biological functions, feed damage like Violet’s can be fatal. Titus thinks he should comfort her, but then doesn’t. Violet then tells Titus she wants to feel vertigo together and asks him to drop the upcar, which makes them feel exhilarated and nauseous. They then fly to Titus’s home while passing over endless waste.

Analysis: Chapters: a day in the country–fight and flight

A “day in the country” shows additional signs that the future in which Titus and Violet live is anything but “normal.” Nature has not only been degraded and monetized, but also twisted: A “farm” that Violet and Titus visit in the “country” turns out to be a filet mignon farm where missteps in genetic coding result in grotesque formations like blinking hearts. And as they fly home, it is clear that even a lake isn’t free from advertising’s reach. Still, it’s the world’s rampant commercialism and consumerism that bring Titus contentment when he’s back home and counts what he considers to be his blessings, including his house in a self-enclosed pod and an endless stream of entertainment and fashion trends on the feed. Life’s good, Titus thinks, and it’s no wonder: He’s also fed a steady stream of propaganda and shown images of the sun shining in foreign countries. If there were any doubt of a bright future, feed chatter furthers a false promise that whatever Americans wish for will be theirs.

Titus’s version of utopia, however, is only illusory. And the illusion is one that corporate entities, driven solely by profits, work hard to maintain so those like Titus will continue to consume. In “nudging again,” Titus is again hacked by the Coalition of Pity and shown disturbing images of environmental destruction and human suffering that contrast sharply with the images his feed fed him earlier. Still, after he’s seen the images, he only wants to go back to sleep. Although Violet has helped Titus begin to view his world through a different prism, the images and what they portend prove to be too much for him to handle. Although Titus has seen the truth, he decides to close his eyes. His decision speaks volumes: Titus no longer simply lives in ignorance. He now lives in willful ignorance, consciously ignoring the reality that his world hangs on a dangerous precipice.

It is as if Titus himself is brought to his own precipice. But just as he is shown the truth that can change the path that he is on, he opts to close his eyes. Similarly, as his connection to Violet approaches potential highpoints, he begins to turn away. In “fight and flight,” Violet finally shares with him what she has been hiding since their stay in the lunar hospital: Her feed has major damage, and her damage can be fatal. Titus knows he should comfort Violet, but he can’t. His aversion to dealing with anything difficult, coupled with his apathy induced by his lifelong connection to the feed, has blocked his ability to show empathy and be human. In this scene, readers not only see how deeply the feed has stunted human emotions, but also how integral individual feeds are to people’s biological functions. As Violet shares her prognosis, it is now clear that people aren’t simply dependent on their feeds, but that their lives can literally depend on them. It is a disturbing and ominous revelation that foreshadows Violet’s fate.

“Nudging again” and “the real thing” include societal and religious references that offer more insight into the characters of feed and the times in which they live. Feed chatter in “nudging again” references the saying “you can’t take it with you,” meaning you can’t take your possessions with you when you die, and a saying from Jesus meant to show that those who prioritize wealth can’t easily enter heaven. In a society that prizes products above all else, though, advertisers quip that people can take the Swarp XE-11 upcar with them when they pass. In “the real thing,” many of Titus’s friends wear riot gear based on past political uprisings, including Kent State in 1970, where students were killed at an anti-war gathering, and Stonewall in 1969, when members of the gay community stood up for their civil rights. None of the friends know the history behind the events, however. Like everything else in their world, the events have been commercialized and corrupted, and their deeper significance lost.