Assessment of the Concept of Group Value as Depicted in Ray Bradbury’s, Fahrenheit 451
People in general seem to be drawn to entertainment. Whether it is books, movies, television, or video games, these solutions for boredom seem to consume us. With this in mind, it is not hard to see how someone’s idea of the future might involve a society obsessed with mindless soap operas and advertisements. Fahrenheit 451 is a novel about a society where books are forbidden and burned by firemen, one of which being the protagonist Guy Montag who eventually realizes the importance of books. Ray Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 in 1953 when mass culture was just taking off. Bradbury predicted some of the technology of today by satirizing the idea of mass culture through looking at it through the lenses of radio and television.
The first form of media that Bradbury criticises in Fahrenheit 451 is radio. Instead of the bulkier, non portable versions of radio that existed in the 1950s, characters in the novel had seashell radios; completely portable, wireless headphones that fit directly into the wearer’s ear. It was the seashell radios that Mildred, Montag’s wife, wears both when she is awake but also when she is asleep. Montag often describes her frequent use of the seashell radios as an ocean and even goes as far as to comment that “there had been no night in the past two years that Mildred had not swum in that sea” (pg. 12.) Based on the fact that Millie is so obsessed with radio, it’s reasonable to assume that the rest of this dystopian world may be. In the 1950’s radio was extremely popular; they were often used for advertising products. Bradbury reflects this when Montag rides the train and is bombarded by advertisements. Though Montag rebelled by trying not to listen to the radio, the other people on the train were “tapping their feet to the rhythm… the people whose mouths had been faintly twitching the words Dentrifice Dentrifice Dentrifice” (pg. 79.) This shows that people are so used to the advertisements that they’ve accepted them into real life. Similarly, in America today some of these predictions have come true. Wireless headphones, such as Apple’s AirPods, make it possible for someone to go through life casually wearing headphones. Also, people have become so accustom to commercials in their everyday lives that they’ve genuinely started to enjoy them. For example many people will watch the superbowl just for the commercials. What could simply be dismissed as science fiction had real life meaning in Bradbury’s time and continues to in present day.
The next form of media that Bradbury predicts will become more powerful is television. In the 1950’s, television was still relatively new, but many families already had one. These small, black and white boxes were almost nothing like the floor to ceiling wall screens of Fahrenheit 451, however the did have several similarities. For instance, during the 50’s, many women were housewives. After the invention of television, their leisure time was often spent watching daytime television, which was almost specifically meant for them. In the novel, Mildred spends the time that she isn’t listening to her seashell radio watching TV. The full wall screens were extremely immersive to the viewers, even to the point where it was interactive. Montag refers to the parlor wall characters as Millie’s “family” and throughout the book, we see that she cares for them like a family. With this level of attachment to their televisions, the people of this world have gotten less and less social. Montag notices that he and Millie are less close and that there was “a wall between him and Millie… not just one wall but 3” (pg. 44). This line shows not only how Montag feels that television has not only driven a wedge between him and his wife, but also alienated him from society. This prediction came true with people who get together to watch certain TV shows or games. Studies have also shown that people, especially young people, have become less social by opting to stay inside and binge watch shows. These predictions were true in 1953 when the novel was first penned and continue to be to this day.
Though Fahrenheit 451 was written in a time completely and fundamentally different from present day, it continues to be relevant to this day. The novel manages to criticize our dependence on both technology and constant entertainment while still managing to remain nonspecific to any particular time period. Ray Bradbury successfully predicted how the technology of the future would impact culture by reimagining radio and television.
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