Everyday of our lives, we spend countless hours under the grip of technology. In Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, technology and media are evidently integrated into the lives of the characters in the novel. In this fictional, futuristic world, firemen start fires to burn books rather than stop fires. In this society, books are considered bad because they inspire free-thought. Many of the aspects of the society in Fahrenheit 451 are quite extreme. The TV parlour walls, laws against walking, and the stretched out billboards for high speed cars are all examples of this. Its exaggerated themes, however, create an effective satire of how today’s society functions. Fahrenheit 451 reveals how the dynamics of today’s society are altered by the influence of technology and media.
Fahrenheit 451 presents a society where technology and media creates a virtual world far from reality. Mildred, the wife of our protagonist Montag, is an exaggerated example of the typical technology addicted human being in today’s society. She spends her day staring at the three TV’s on the parlour walls of her home. She is submerged into a false reality where she thinks the people on TV are her family. As a result, she cares about this “family” more than she does about her actual family: “She shoved the valise in the waiting beetle, climbed in, and sat mumbling, “Poor family, poor family, oh everything gone, everything, everything gone now ….”” (p. 52). Rather than keeping quiet about Montag’s possession of books, she decides to report him in fear that she would lose her TV “family”. This is a clear example of how media has immersed Mildred into an unhealthy state of mind so far from reality that she considers the nonexistent characters on TV to be her “family”. She would do anything to save that “family” rather than save her real family, which is Montag. Montag later realizes that he would not be sad if his wife, Mildred, died because their marriage is solely a title without any meaning. Our society hasn’t come so far to be on the level of Mildred’s addiction to media, but there is some truth in how we value our precious technology over the human connection with our friends and family. Often we find ourselves placing the importance of technology over the importance of meaningful relationships. We would rather spend our meals communicating with someone else through text, than having a conversation with the person in front of us. David Brooks describes the technologically addicted Wireless Man and Wireless Woman in his article ‘Time to do Everything Except Think’. These characters are a satirical exaggeration of how technology is unhealthily integrated into almost every aspect in our lives. As Brooks says in his article: “if you are consumed by the same information loop as everyone else, you don’t have anything to stimulate you into thinking differently.” He explains how today’s society is caught up in the virtual world rather than the real world. In Fahrenheit 451, the people are addicted to technology and media, but they are oblivious to it because it is considered the norm. Today, we are in similar situation where we don’t realize our addiction to technology and do not consider it an issue due to its widespread nature.
Fahrenheit 451 presents a technologically addicted society distracted from their real problems. All of the technology and media in Montag’s world creates a setting where people don’t have time to think and are too distracted to think. They don’t realize the issues of their society: “The bombers crossed the sky and crossed the sky over the house, gasping, murmuring, whistling like an immense, invisible fan, circling in emptiness.” (p. 33). There is constant war going on in Montag’s world but no one seems to care. People, like Mildred, are too absorbed by their TVs and their superficial obsessions that they don’t realize how they are being “controlled” by the government. Technology seems to be distracting and desensitizing them from violence and its effects. The people don’t realize the consequences of war, and children try to run over Montag in a car without feeling any sort of remorse or guilt. Donald Glover’s music video for his song, ‘This is America’, gives effective insight into today’s obsession with media and technology. Watching the video, we are so distracted by his dancing that we don’t realize all the horrible things occuring in the background, such as the man being thrown off the balcony. Similarly, society is too distracted by media and superficial happiness, that we don’t notice the real issues going on in our world. Glover also sings about how people film incidents with our cell phones rather than involving ourselves in aiding the situation. People are too concerned about capturing events that they don’t realize the substantiality of what is occurring in front of their eyes. Fahrenheit 451 reveals societies obsession with technology distracting us from reality.
Fahrenheit 451 illustrates how society’s obsession with technology can have severe negative effects. All of the bright flashing screens and stimulants in Montag’s world have the people distracted from their obvious problems. Because of Mildred’s fixation with the characters displayed on her TV parlour walls, she is immersed in a virtual world that conceals her true emotions. She is revealed to be in severe pain and depression as she subconsciously tries to end her life by overdosing on sleeping pills. The stimulating effects of all the technology and media around her, creates a distraction from her real issues involving mental health. Similarly, Beatty, confident in his belief of giving people whatever makes them temporarily happy, is also revealed to be subconsciously facing suicidal thoughts due to the lack of a meaningful life. Beatty intentionally taunts Montag to the point where Montag kills him, Beatty subconsciously knowing that would be the result. Technology and media is revealed to be the factor that causes these mental health issues to occur. Montag initially lived his life burning books mindlessly, not knowing its negative effects because of how thinking is controlled in this society. Clarisse later makes him notice the world around him and its beauty, along with its problems as well. He later understands that reading books provide a way to learn about the past in order to understand the present. He also learns that reading books allow people time to think and reflect to further develop understanding, an ideology forbidden from his community. His heroic journey reveals to us how a technologically fast-paced society is not sustainable for a healthy meaningful life.
People generally treat technology as a tool that helps us progress as a society. Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 reveals to us that technology has the ability to not only negatively alter the way society functions, but also hinder our ability to express emotion. Fahrenheit 451 exhibits the negative effects of technology and where our society could one day end up. The exaggerated satirical features of Montag’s society in Fahrenheit 451, helps readers further comprehend the problems with technology and media that Bradbury is trying to address. The issues presented by Bradbury in his novel will hopefully help us as a society realize the similar issues that we face.