Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury uses the genre of science fiction as a paragon for the author’s message, in which an unbridled oppressive government will damage its society by hindering the creativity and freedom of their people. The dystopian sub genre that outlines a futuristic technocratic and totalitarian society that demands order and harmony at the expense of individual rights is a meticulous representation of the novel.
Guy Montag is a fireman, but contrary to popular belief, firemen in Montag’s society are ordered to start fires rather than put them out. In his community, where television reigns supreme and the very existence of literature is about to be eradicated from society, Montag’s job is to destroy the most illegal of commodities, printed novels, along with the houses in which they are hidden away. Montag never questions the cultural destruction and intellectual genocide that his actions leave behind, returning each day to his mediocre life and to his wife, Mildred, who spends the entire day with her false television “family”. When Montag meets an abnormal young neighbor known as Clarisse, who introduces him to a long-forgotten past where people did not live in fear of tyranny and knowledge, where people once viewed the world through the beliefs and ideas in novels instead of the mindless drone of television and other forms of inferior media. When Mildred attempts to take her own life and Clarisse disappears without notice, Montag begins to question everything within his fragile understanding of his corrupt reality.
Technological innovation is the main cause of society’s problems in Fahrenheit 451. Throughout the novel, Bradbury alludes to technology being inherently depraved and destructive. Before the events of the novel take place, technology was a significant factor that weighed into the social decline and ultimate rejection of reading literature by society. As technology improved, it cultivated new forms of media, such as television and in-ear radios. The televisions in Montag’s society take up entire walls, and when installed to form three-dimensional entertainment spaces known as “parlors,” they have an enticing and captivating effect on their users, causing them to be immersed within the garish and false realities that the parlors depict. Despite being more entrancing than books themselves in the opinion of the status quo of Montag’s society, the television programs feature overly simplified and ignorant content meant primarily to entertain the absent-minded masses. Montag eventually realizes that the television programs his wife Mildred watches are pointless and often contain excessive amounts of violence. Whenever Mildred isn’t watching television, she listens to a persistent stream of tasteless music and commercials that play within her in-ear radio. Mildred remains connected within the digital world at all times, and Montag attributes her emotional apathy as a result of her addiction to these forms of technology. The shallow and unsympathetic nature of Montag’s entire society is acquired from its collective addiction to entertainment.
In Fahrenheit 451, the motif of dissatisfaction has close connections to the other concepts of technology and censorship laid throughout the story’s plot. The dystopian society Bradbury depicts in the novel was able to become a jarring reality of vacuous entertainment because of the rise of technological innovation. Technological discovery led to the creation of television, which then led to the shunning and censorship of all written works of literature. As Captain Beatty, the chief fireman of Montag’s division explains to him, the social history that led to the current state of society was making sure that the state could continue to subdue the intellectual facets of the minds of the population by keeping them in a constant state of tedious entertainment. As long as everyone would remain distracted by the cretinous nature of commercial entertainment, they would not be able to think clearly about problems within society and would therefore be satisfied within their current state of living. However, Montag notices that constant entertainment has sewn a deep dissatisfaction among the population. For instance, Mildred can’t live without the unceasing stream of senseless entertainment, as she is always watching television in her “parlor” or listening to her in-ear radio. The only reason she refrains from using these entertainments is to seek purgative release while driving at extremely high speeds. Mildred insists that she’s content with her current existence, yet her attempt to end her life at the beginning of the novel suggests otherwise.
Ray Bradbury seeks to convey sentiment over realism within his writings, as his style of writing reflects a bias towards sentimentality. The prose is enthralling, although the speech can be disorderly at times, but it only seeks to mimic the reality that Montag lives in, being confusing and contradictory when he challenges the status quo and falls victim to the incompetence and lack of judgement of the other people in his world. The very genre of dystopian novels seeks to question our current social conventions and hierarchies, while also analysing the actions and choices of world governments. Bradbury uses the aftermath of World War II to ignite fear relating to authoritarian regimes and the loss of control over one’s mind to the televisual parlours and the in-ear radios engineered by the state and the corporations within Montag’s community. Fahrenheit 451 will be more appealing to readers if they decide to have a more adequate understanding of the history behind this book’s conception, the premise the novel brings forth and the mental attitudes of the characters that relay the idea that dissatisfaction rages just beneath the surface of the brittle and aimless nature of Montag’s society, even for those who are not consciously aware of it.
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