A book is like a loaded gun because it makes people not equal. Each bullet contains knowledge, and knowledge is one of the most powerful things to hold. In Ray Bradbury’s dystopian novel, Fahrenheit 451, the growth of technology and the neglect of books brings about destruction and conflict in society. People are often too distracted with technology to slow down and process life. The Government controls the mass society, and censorship has engrossed the population. People are too distracted by their TV’s that cover whole walls and little radios called “seashells” that are constantly in their ears, to make real human connections and relationships. Ray Bradbury’s novel shows insight to the human condition and how technologies role in society is slowly stripping humans of their humanity.
Throughout the novel, Montag, who is the protagonist, is presented with conflict between knowledge and ignorance. Mildred, Montag’s wife, and Clarisse, Montag’s curious and innocent neighbour is a prime example of this theme. At the beginning of the novel, Montag finds Mildred laying in her bed with her seashells in her ears, overdosed on sleeping pills. Montag calls the emergency technicians who come pump her stomach, and give her a blood transfusion. The next morning when Montag asks her about her overdose Mildred says she doesn’t recall anything from the previous night. When Montag explains to her that she overdosed on sleeping pills Mildred responds by saying, “I wouldn’t do anything like that. Why would I do a thing like that?” (Page 17) Mildred’s ignorance shows when she plugs herself into the seashell radio every night. She’s unaware about her overdose of pills or her mindless fascination about the programs on her TV. Montag struggles to understands Mildred’s ignorant world, which is immersed in electronics. After meeting Clarisse, he starts to questions his relationship with Mildred and whether he is truly happy. At the beginning of the novel Clarisse introduces Montag to the worlds potential beauty and meaning. She also triggers Montag to move closer to the threshold of no return in the Heroic Journey. The first night after Montag meets Clarisse he compares her face to the “dial of a small clock seen faintly in a dark room in the middle of the night… all certainty and knowing what it has to tell of the night passing swiftly on toward further darkness, but moving also toward a new sun.” (Page 8) This quote revealing Clarisse’s lasting impression on Montag. Like the clock, Clarisse is guiding Montag through to a new future, however, Montag doesn’t know what his future is going to look like: “passing swiftly toward further darkness” (Page 8) He reflects on her knowledge of the world and deep thought to bring him “toward a new sun” suggesting he is becoming aware of the ignorant world he lives in, and is slowly changing. In contrast to Mildred’s ignorance, Clarisse represents knowledge. Montag also faces conflict between knowledge and ignorance at his work as a fireman. It is Montag’s duty to destroy and burn books in order to equalize society and promote sameness. However, by doing so Montag is destroying knowledge within the books and promoting ignorance in his society. In brief, Mildred and Clarisse both represent the knowledge verse ignorance theme in the book. Mildred by immersing herself in the ignorance of technology and Clarisse by revealing deep thought and curiosity to Montag. Montag also faces this theme at work by promoting ignorance by burning books, books which symbolize knowledge. The ignorance is reflected in society where the government controls the mass media.
In Fahrenheit 451 the government controls society. Bradbury highlights how everyday mindless consumption of the media leads to humans losing their freedom and individual thoughts, eventually become homogenized. Unlike Montag, Mildred becomes addicted to mindless television shows and the constant radio plugged into her ear. She becomes so accustom to constantly being entertained by the media, she starts to not think for herself. This illustrates how the government uses the consumption of mass media to manipulate the population. They control what people consume, which ultimately influences the way society thinks, and homogenizes the publics thoughts. Moreover, Bradbury illustrates how mass media interferes with the characters ability to think deeply about their lives and societal issues. Captain Beatty, the head fireman at Montag’s work reveals how their society developed into a homogenized culture: “More sports for everyone, group spirit, fun, and you don’t have to think… More pictures. The mind drinks less and less. Impatience. Highways full of crowds going somewhere, somewhere, somewhere, nowhere.” (Page 54) This quote is significant to the society today because the media and its influence on human culture has grown exponentially with the advance of technology. People put their trust on the media as an authority to give them news, entertainment and education. However people in power use this to only expose certain things which influence certain views the population has. Similar to how the government controls the community in Fahrenheit 451. In summary, the government uses mass media to influence the people’s thoughts thus being shown through Mildred’s addiction to technology ultimately resulting in her homogenized thoughts about books. This can be connected to the society today through the mass media and advanced technology of our culture as humans.
A significant aspect of Fahrenheit 451 is technology. Bradbury illustrates how societies obsession with technology can effect someone in a negative way. People use mindless technology to distract them from their problems. Mildred’s obsession with technology causes problems in her and Montag’s marriage she is oblivious to. Montag feels that Mildred is irresponsible as she does not think rationally when asking Montag to buy another television for their parlour wall: “It’s only two thousand dollars” Which furthermore reveals to be true when he replies “That’s one-third of my yearly pay” (Page 18) Technology also shows to have negative side effects on Montag’s and Mildred’s emotional connection when he tells his friend “We have everything we need to be happy but we aren’t happy.” (Page 59) revealing how him and Mildred should be happy in societies views, because they have all this stuff, but on contrast the technology is making him depressed because it is stripping away his emotional connection with his wife. Mildred’s fixation with the characters on her television she calls her “family” portrays how she uses technology to distract her from her real emotions, as she is really depressed and tries to end her life by overdosing on sleeping pills.
Technology has advanced greatly over the years. Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451
reveals how technology can be used to influence society. The growth of technology and the neglect of books brings about destruction and conflict in society. People are often too distracted with technology to slow down and process life. Government controls the mass society, and censorship has the ability to engrossed the population in a life filled with depression and no true human connection. Although exaggerated, the people in Bradbury’s fictional society show similarities to the society today. If we don’t be careful we soon too can be immersed in a brainwashed, and depressed society like Montag’s.
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