Published in 1953, Ray Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451 focuses on a dystopian world. In which is his prediction of the 21st century, where the government controls society through technology and the burning of books. In this alternate reality technology tends to have control of the population. Similarly, The Matrix is a film directed by the Wachowski’s brothers is a science fiction movie, also set in a dystopian world in which a war is being fought against a control system known as the matrix. In this the world’s population is controlled through a powerhouse for the control system. Although there is different representations and perspectives between the two texts, both societies would be unable to function without the concept of control.
In Fahrenheit 451 and The Matrix, the populace is controlled trough government enforcement with technology. This technology punishes the characters who are defying the laws and control by the government. In Fahrenheit 451, mechanical hounds are programmed to sense out and attack the wrong doers. This is evident when a hound appears at Montag’s house, when the reader initially discovers that Montag is stealing books from houses he has burned. “It does not think anything we don’t want it to think” (p.39), indicates that hounds are technology of the government which are controlled to keep order and enforce laws. In The Matrix, sentinels are robots that roam through the sewers and intercept hovercrafts managed by human resistance. As seen in scene 182 the sentinels attacking the hovercraft, this threatens Neo’s life as he is inside the matrix. “On the hologram radar, he sees the sentinels…You can't use that until Neo is out!” (scene 182) this scene represents how technology is used in the form of sentinels, in attempt to eliminate rebels. Both texts offer a method in which control is enforced through technology to abolish resistance against the system.
The texts also govern the experience in which the population receives by technology. Thus, almost brainwashing the population to think that what is happening is normal and right. Wall sized televisions are used in Fahrenheit 451 to play reality like shows in which Mildred and her friends are seen to be addicted to. This is apparent when Mildred and her friends are talking about the shows as if they are almost living inside the television. “‘Will you turn the parlour off?’ he asked. ‘That's my family.’” (p 65) also demonstrates that the televisions take over the life of viewers and creates control of each individual. Similarly, The Matrix uses a coding system that creates what happens within and around the population in the matrix system. The scene where Neo sees the girl in the red dress is evidence of this as cypher creates this character to intrigue Neo and that is exactly what happened. Although this was not in the Matrix it is a representation of what occurs within the matrix. The coding in the matrix also control things such as taste the quote “You know, I know that this steak doesn't exist. I know when I put it in my mouth, the Matrix is telling my brain that it is juicy and delicious.” (scene A71) displays how the system controls what is tasted, and the messages being sent to the brain. These texts use experiences in which the government regulates using technology to maintain control within the populace.
Fahrenheit 451 uses technology to scare the people into abiding by the law and control by the government. This is also achieved by the wall sized televisions playing live broadcasts of news that is frightening. This happens when Montag is in pursuit with the mechanical hounds after he escaped from his burning house. The televisions are persuading the viewers that Montag is dangerous and needs to be killed. Although Montag escapes and survives the televisions show someone else getting killed to enforce the control within the population.
'Thank God for that. You can shut them, say, ‘Hold on a moment.’ You play God to it. But who has ever torn himself from the claw that encloses you when you drop a seed in a TV parlour? It grows you any shape it wishes! It is an environment as real as the world. It becomes and is the truth. Books can be beaten down with reason. But with all my knowledge and scepticism, I have never been able to argue with a one-hundred-piece symphony orchestra, full colour, three dimensions, and I being in and part of those incredible parlours.' (p 109) this quotation displays how appealing the televisions are to the population and how it becomes as real as the world, to compel the viewers to comply with what the government wants. This text traps the populace into the control through technology.
In both Fahrenheit 451 and The Matrix, personal devices are used to create control. This strongly encourages the populace to continue to follow the control of the government. In Fahrenheit 451 headphones known as seashells are used, this similar to a radio in which music, talking and sound play inside the ear. These seashells are used by Mildred, which makes her often disconnected to the world and tied to an alternate reality in which the government can encourage her thoughts. The quotation “And in her ears the little Seashells, the thimble radios tamped tight, and an electronic ocean of sound, of music and talk and music and talk coming in, coming in on the shore of her unsleeping mind. The room was indeed empty. Every night the waves came in and bore her off on their great tides of sound, floating her, wide-eyed, toward morning. There had been no night in the last two years that Mildred had not swum that sea, had not gladly gone down in it for the third time.” (p 20) displays that they are so tied up within the control of the government that Mildred doesn’t even realise that she isn’t happy. Using a similar concept, The Matrix uses a fibre optic device that tracks the person in which it has been inserted to, this is used when the agents kidnap Neo.
“Smith nods and the other two rip open his shirt. From a case taken out of his suit coat, Smith removes a long, fibre-optic wiretap. Neo struggles helplessly as Smith dangles the wire over his exposed abdomen. Horrified, he watches as the electronic device animates, becoming an organic creature that resembles a hybrid of an insect and a fluke worm.
Thin, whisker-like tendrils reach out and probe into Neo's navel. He bucks wildly as Smith drops the creature which looks for a moment like an uncut umbilical cord -- before it begins to burrow, its tail thrashing as it worms its way inside.” (scene 20) this displays the control through tracking of Neo actions and location.
Technology as a means of control was utilised within both Fahrenheit 451 and The Matrix to display the extent to which the government enforces power and control over a populace. As Montag realises in Fahrenheit 451 there are many methods of technological control presented within the texts such as mechanical hounds, wall sized televisions and seashells that manipulate and create values within the populace. This enables the government to create and maintain control. In The Matrix, sentinels, coding systems and fibre-optic wiretap are used as aspects of control. In both texts different representations and perspectives have been used to represent the concept of control through technology, although Fahrenheit 451 uses it in a larger aspect.
- Bradbury, R., n.d. Fahrenheit 451. 56th ed. Crydon: CPI Group (UK), pp.20, 39, 65, 109.
- The Matrix. 1999. [DVD] Directed by L. Wachowski. Sydney, Australia: Warner Bros.