The world we live in now has us divided on views on technology and its effects. In many instances, it is used for us to distract ourselves from the reality around us. The matter in which technology is distracting us has been brought to our attention through various media and various styles, such as novels and videos. An example of a novel is Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. Fahrenheit 451 is a fictional story about a future society fully immersed in technology, were the main protagonist, Guy Montag questions everything he knows. In the book, we are introduced to characters that have a different perspective when it comes to their society. Mildred, the main protagonist’s wife, accepts the status quo of the society without question. And to contrast her we have Clarisse, a neighbor of Montag and questions everything about their way of life. It is a satire that shows how much we are so dependent and obsessive with entertainment, without looking out for the harsh side effects it may bring us later in life. This society’s status quo is more enforced by their own government, punishing others who do not follow. They manipulate the masses to keep everyone ‘happy’ so no one opposes or questions. This novel has many relevant themes that can be easily recognized in today’s society.
The novel is mainly focused on how submerged the society is with their technology. Characters such as Mildred is a prime example of how much the society is blinded by the outside world caused by the futuristic machinery. She is so distracted that she is almost robotic herself and zombified. Mildred isolates herself in her own world not being aware of anything around her, even her own husband! She has a better relationship with her technology than Montag. When the idea of reading to gain knowledge was brought to her she felt it felt as though she was disgusted by the idea. Almost as though she knows that there is nothing to gain from reading them. Mildred declared that “Books aren’t people. You read and I look all around, but there isn’t anybody!” (Bradbury, pg. 69). She is so disgusted by the idea of a book because it is not a way of their society. She can not accept the books and she refers to them as people, irrelevant people to her. Yet she considers her parlor walls as ‘family’. Both items are inanimate, but to her, since society influenced the use of technology, Mildred hates the idea. She is like everyone else in that she is so dependent on technology. Mildred may think that she has everything she will ever need with constant entertainment. Her parlor walls are just a big distraction. She has a lot of issues that are from all the technology and she is not even aware or knows it. Like how in the beginning she overdoses. She was brainwashed by her walls and her seashells that she might have overdosed on accident. Ultimately, she is subconsciously unhappy and lonely. Constantly wanting more entertainment for her to cope. Just like how in now teens and the younger generation is distracted by handheld devices affecting us in a similar fashion. Teen’s and younger adults suffer all the time to depression and loneliness due to the exposure of over extensive technology use. Those that are used to long contact with technology now tend to affect their brains mentally. Humans change and adapt due to our environment, so if technology plays a big role then one would need to adapt to it, whether for the best or worst. Today, no direct contact has to be made to interact or communicate with everyone. That creates heightened stress, loneliness, rage and feelings of being alone (Toxic Tech.). Mildred in the book hides this when it is evident that the technology affects her negatively. This is one perspective from our two societies that are similar.
Clarisse is an example of the odd duck in their dystopian society. She questions the world she lives in constantly and always picks up on the smaller details in life. She is innocent, like most younger kids not exposed to the technology nowadays. One should really open their eyes to see the world and reality around them. Clarisse and many others such as Faber, Granger and soon even Montag realized that what is happening is not the way it should be. This society still has a handful of people doubting the current state of the status quo. For those people, they are considered the ‘enemy’ or ‘evil’ in the novel because of knowledge. People like Mildred are unaware of their consequences that the technology is making. And people like Clarisse are deep thinkers. In Fahrenheit 451, Clarisse is suppressed by the society. In our world, it is the same. People are always looked at differently for being different or somewhat not like the others. Everyone’s normal is different. Clarisse is different in that she rejects the views of the society in which she lives in. Many groups of people now always feel differently about different subjects now. ‘This is America’ by Donald Glover is a song that focuses on America’s various problems on society. The music video shows many examples of the problem with the current society with distractions and looking One of the themes in the music video that is implied is the view towards the African Americans. Much like in Fahrenheit, people are treated differently because of how different they are from everyone else. Clarisse questioning society is similar to Donald Glover’s message, in that there is a bigger picture if one just opened our eyes.
The government plays a big role in the society in Fahrenheit. They promote all the use of technology and entertainment systems. As well punish those who have books. The government manipulation is so blatantly obvious. Everyone is a consumer in the novel and the government used that as an advantage to manipulate everyone. An example of what the society does is burn books. They use fear to be able to control the people. No one really knows why the books are getting burned, they are just scared of the idea of a punishment. Otherwise, they would end up like Clarisse. Captain Beatty further supports how strong the government is. He stated, “Any man’s insane who thinks they can fool the government and us” (Bradbury pg.31). The government also uses advertisements to control the masses. It is like they are planting seeds in their head. In the novel, an example was Denham’s Dentifrice Not too far with our reality at all. The people of Fahrenheit were always surrounded by media and entertainment that it distracted them from bigger issues. Like the war, no one knows it is going on except maybe the government to keep the public from going crazy. Basically, a form propaganda to keep everyone contained and to prevent people like Clarisse from emerging. Similarly, today, we fall to corporate manipulation and advertisements. As consumers, we have a high demand for such advanced technology that we lose sight of bigger issues happening around us. Like the various issues with gun laws, racial diversity, and rights. Ray Bradbury’s views and satirical predictions were not too far off.
Fahrenheit 451 has a lot of relevant themes that still come back to today’s world. That we are so immersed in our own creations, that we do not care for our own selves. The questioning and realization that our society had problems that should be taken care of. Both Fahrenheit and now both have ways in which higher powers manipulate the people. Themes are connected. Fahrenheit 451 has a strong message about the future and a warning about what is to come.
Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451. Simon & Schuster, 2013.
Glover, Donald, This is America, 2018
Todd, D. (Ed.). (2001). Surviving Toxic Technology