Ray Bradbury Short Stories
Neglecting Family And Irresponsibility In Ray Bradbury’s ‘The Veldt’
Many psychologists will tell you that family neglect can lead to psychological problems within the children. Set in the future, two parents spoil their kids with mind-blowing technologies instead of spoiling them with their time. The lack of responsibility and family time is demonstrated in Ray Bradbury’s “The Veldt”’ theme that it is important to always have family time or there’ll be disastrous consequences.
In the beginning, George gives everything to his kids, spoiling them beyond belief. As George explains to Lydia, his wife, why he spoils their kids as he does, he says “‘… nothing’s too good for our children.’” George blatantly states that nothing is too good for their kids. He gives them more than they could ever want, or need for that matter. George and Lydia initially buy a house that performs the duties of the parents. “They [George and Lydia] walked down the hall of their soundproofed Happy Life Home… which clothed and fed and rocked them to sleep and played and sang and was good to them.” The Happy Home basically takes care of everyone and replaces the parents in the simple tasks that they should be doing. Instead of spending time with their kids, George and Lydia just leave them to their own devices. George and Lydia give their kids everything and spoil them with technology, but fail to realize the consequences.
Peter and Wendy openly lie to their parents, which causes George and Lydia to acknowledge the fact that they really have no control over their kids. George and Lydia ask Peter and Wendy to explain the African veldt. Peter says, ‘“There’s no Africa in the nursery.’” Confused because George knows what he saw, he responds with “‘Oh, come now, Peter we know better.’” Peter then turns and says to Wendy “‘I don’t remember any Africa, do you?’” Wendy says, “‘No.’” George and Lydia realize that their kids lied to them. They finally start to understand that maybe they do spoil their kids too much and give them too much freedom. As George talks to Lydia he realizes they have allowed their kids to “‘… come and go when they like;’” He understands that Wendy and Peter treat them as if him and Lydia were the kids. It finally dawns on him that “‘They’re [Wendy and Peter] are spoiled and we’re [Lydia and George] are spoiled.’” George finally understands that he and Lydia have spoiled their kids too much. He now realizes that they’ve let them do whatever they want without repercussions. George starts to see the consequences of spoiling their kids with technology instead of with quality family time.
George understands that the house has replaced him and Lydia as parents, so he decides to shut the house off and take his family on a vacation. After observing the nursery David McClean, the psychologists, explains to George that “‘This room and this house replace you and your wife in your children’s affections. This room is their mother and father, more important in their lives than their real parents.’” David explains how George and Lydia have lost the role as parents to the house. He explains to George that the house, specifically the nursery, means more to their kids than they do. Finally understanding what he must do. George and david head to the fusebox where George “… threw the switch that killed the nursery.” This is the climax of the story. This is the point when George irrevocably makes a decision that changes the end of the story. After talking with David, George finally decides that he must shut off the house if he wants his family to be family again.
George notices the mistakes he and Lydia made that led to their children’s hatred for them. Upon finding out that his father was shutting the house off, Peter exclaims “‘Oh, I hate you.’” and “‘I wish you were dead.’” to his father. Peter expresses his hatred towards George. Which shows that Peter has grown attached to the house, almost as if it were his parent. He’s grown emotionally attached to the nursery and the house and emotionally detached from his own parents. George realizes that the house has become something like parents to Wendy and Peter, so he starts to question why he originally brought the house. He comes to the conclusion while talking to Lydia, that what prompted him to buy the house was “‘Pride, money, and foolishness.’” George realizes that instead of buying the house because of family reasons, he bought is just because he could. He bought it to fuel his ego. George understands that because he didn’t put his family first and spend time with his kids, that they now hate him and no longer view him and Lydia as their parents.
George and Lydia finally realize why the screams they had heard earlier had sounded so familiar. After being locked in the nursery by Peter and Wendy, “Mr. and Mrs. Hadley screamed. And then suddenly realized why those other screams had sounded familiar.” Earlier in the story Lydia had remarked on how the screams they heard in the nursery sounded strangely familiar. It’s a perfect portrayal of a story being ironic because, the screams they had heard were their own screams as they were being killed. When Mr. McClean comes to help the family pack he walks into the nursery and “… a shadow flickered over Mr. McCleans hot face. Many shadows flickered.” David McClean finally understands what has happened. Initially, he believe that the nursery couldn’t physically harm anyone. Now, he knows better. He knows that because Peter and Wendy wanted their parents dead, it happened. Basically, what they imagined happening to their parents happened. George and Lydia finally realize that along with losing their family, they also lost their life.
The important message that Bradbury is trying to leave the reader with is that family neglect can harm the child mentally, and having quality family time makes the family stronger. Without that there will be disastrous effects. “The Veldt” has been about the parents overly spoiling their kids with technologies, and have their kids lie to them about what they had changed their nursery veldt to. Which leads to George and Lydia finally understanding that they must shut the house down if they want their family back. This leads to the parents realizing just how much their children hate them. Which ultimately leads to the very ironic ending of the parents death. Having a family is one of the most important things anyone could have. Never take any of it for granted, or there’ll be horrible consequences and you could lose your family.
A Ridiculous Relationship with Technology in the Veldt, a Short Story by Ray Bradbury
In Ray Bradbury’s short story, The Veldt, he invites us to imagine a future wherein a device exists which can recreate any scene directly out of a user’s imagination completely believably. This technology is employed to keep children entertained, in appliances called nurseries.
Like many things in literature, I believe that this is not meant to be taken literally at face value, and instead Bradbury’s intent here is to satirize our relationship with the technology we create. The nursery, which can make real anything you can imagine, is designed to represent our increasing ability to utilize technology for our own ends. I believe the following quote1 gives a good impression of what I mean.
“Don’t let them do it!” wailed Peter at the ceiling, as if he was talking to the house, the nursery. “Don’t let Father kill everything.” He turned to his father. “Oh, I hate you!” “Insults won’t get you anywhere.” “I wish you were dead!” “We were, for a long while. Now we’re going to really start living. Instead of being handled and massaged, we’re going to live.” Wendy was still crying and Peter joined her again. “Just a moment, just one moment, just another moment of nursery,” they wailed. “Oh, George,” said the wife, “it can’t hurt.” “All right – all right, if they’ll just shut up. One minute, mind you, and then off forever.” “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!” sang the children, smiling with wet faces. “And then we’re going on a vacation. David McClean is coming back in half an hour to help us move out and get to the airport. I’m going to dress. You turn the nursery on for a minute, Lydia, just a minute, mind you.”
Peter says “I wish you were dead” and his father thinks little of it, the not atypical outburst of a stubborn and indignant child. Unfortunately for Peter his house is equipped with a device designed to extract and amplify these thought’s directly from Peter’s head and make them real. In “ordinary” life the father would be protected from his child’s deadly impulses by a difference in force. The child is very likely incapable of killing his father. But with the advent of technology, “the nursery” has inadvertently given the child this power.
This is a very important quote in this it work because I believe it reveals the message Bradbury is trying to impart. The child in this story is not meant to be interpreted literally, but as a metaphor for ourselves, and our foolish destructive tendencies. He fears that we may develop powerful technology without understanding or respect for the danger that this power could pose to ourselves.
There is an additional layer here, which is that our supposed better nature, the adults in this metaphor, are unable to resist the temptation to satisfy the children. They give in, “just for a minute” the father says, but it is a minute too late. The foolish children have put their plan in motion, metaphorically our worse nature had got the better of us.
It is interesting to note that this story was published in 1950, as the Cold War began to pick up steam between the US and Russia, and the nuclear question was on everybody’s mind. Perhaps, and I think this is likely, the metaphor here can apply to Bradbury’s thoughts on the situation we found ourselves in at that time. Where our technology had advanced to the point where world powers could totally annihilate each other a thousand times over, but our basic human nature remained comparatively primitive and quick to take impulsive action, or to borrow from Bradbury’s metaphor: childish.
I think this nuclear spectre had an influence on Bradbury, though perhaps he did not intend to relate this story to that issue directly, I think that it had an effect. It is hard for us today to imagine what it would have been like to live under the constant and credible threat of total societal collapse at any moment. To quote the late Carl Sagan, “The nuclear arms race is like two sworn enemies standing waist deep in gasoline, one with three matches, the other with five. And we’re all stuck in the room with them.” Anyone coming of age in such an environment would find it difficult not to be influenced by the fear this would create.
The central take-away should be this: Bradbury wants us to have respect and thoughtfulness for the technologies we create, and to be aware of and trepidation in regard to the power that technology brings us.
Imagery, Metaphor, and Foreshadowing in Bradbury’s “The Veldt”
Nowadays, technology plays an very important place. It makes people able to shop at home, keep connection with our friends easier. Long story short, people now cannot live without technology. The family in the story bought a high-technology nursery infantalized them and kill them all. Through “The Veldet”, written by Ray Brabury, the author uses foreshadowing, imagery, and metaphor to tell readers that technology is useful, but also harmful.
Through the utilize of foreshadowing, the author tells the two parents heard a scream that heard familiar, but till end they did not find out it is their scream. “ ‘ Did you hear that scream?’”(The Veldt 2) ,the wife asks her husband, but did not get an answer for yes. While the story closed to end, before they were eaten by lions, they figured out the scream is actually theirs, the two children image that they are killed by the lions. The lions were supposed to be only 3D or 4D but not be realized, the power of the technology is too strong, that make children’s dream come true, and kill the parents. Technology is not like human, they do not think, behave like a person. It makes us live easier, as in a good way in the story, we can enjoy beautiful views over the world while we do not even leave our house. Like nuclear power, it is able to produce much more electricity than fossil fuel, and it do not pollute environment a lot, however, if we make a nuclear bomb, it can cause genocide.
Also, the author uses imagery to claim the technology can let people fell fake things real, but people will not feel it. It is paralyzing people’s brain. The two parents find a old wallet of the husband, and “He showed it to her. The smell of hot grass and there were blood smears on both sides.” (The Veldt 5). Readers all know that is impossible that it has bloody smell since no one get hurt, that is the nursery make them fell the smell, through paralyzing people’s brain and make illusion. So that we cannot tell what is right and what is wrong. In SAO, an anime, the games allows you do everything, thus some criminal, kills character in the game, and murder the player in the real life so that make him a legend. He thought the game is real life. It an anime though, but if it happened, in real life, who should people blame, the criminal or the technology?
To use metaphor to stand the author’s idea that technology elongated distance between people virtually. According to “That’s just it. I feel like I don’t belong here. The house is wife and mother now, and nursemaid.”(The Veldt 3), which said by the mother, the nursery had done everything that a mother should does, and even batter, faster. That makes the mother no longer belong to this house, to the family, as she have too much time to think, but nothing to do everyday. Therefore, while everything done by technology, distances between people are enlarged. People are not so closed to each like before. For example, we used to walk or ride or whatever to get to a friend’s house to visit them, but now, we have facebook, twitter, skype and of tool can make video call. It is convenient to connect them though, but always not fell as warm as people talk face to face.
By using foreshadowing, imagery, and metaphor in the short story when parents find the scream belong to them, the wallet is bloody but no one get hurt, and nursery is a better mother, the author tries to tell us like Sword of Damocles (Damocles think as with a great man of power and prestige, dithyrambs dionysius, really lucky. Dithyrambs dionysius, proposed the identity of the exchange with him one day, that he could try to head’s fate. The dinner in the evening, Damocles very enjoys the feeling of becoming king. When the end of the dinner, he looked up and did not notice the throne above only with a horsehair hanging sword. He immediately lost interest in food and handsome, and request tyrant and administrative him, he didn’t want to get so lucky. The sword of Damocles is usually used to symbolize the legend, the representative has a strong strength is very unsafe), that technology make peace, and help, but also bring war and die. So that people have to be much more careful when we have high-technology tools, as a miss, can cause serious problem.
Fahrenheit 451 Reading Notes for Part 1 “The Hearth and the Salamander”
Guy Montag is one of many firemen in charge of burning books in a future version of the United States where books are illegal. The novel starts off with a concise description of the joy he experiences while on the job of burning books. In the book, he is described as wearing a helmet with the number 451 (the heat at which paper burns, thus giving the reason for the name of the book), a dark black suit with a salamander on the arm, and a “phoenix disc” on his torso.
Coming home from his work at the fire station, he feels a sense of nervousness. He gets a sense that somebody is around him or watching him in the shadows. This is when he meets a new neighbor. A very unusual 17-year-old by the name of Clarisse McClellan. She instantly sees that Montag is a fireman and seems very interested in him and his suit. Clarisse tells Montag that she is considered “crazy” and proceeds to tell Montag that she thinks the original job of firemen was to douse and extinguish fires instead of lighting them.
She intrigues him with her strange “left-field” questions, unusual lifestyle, and “incredible power of identification.” She asks him if he is content with his life and then Clarisse walks into her house without hearing Montag’s response. Inquiring the imbecilic question, Montag says he is a little bit concerned because normally he doesn’t talk about his personal life with strangers.
When he returns to his house, he realizes that he is not happy with his life. Montag keeps feeling uneasy when he gets to bed. He sees his wife Mildred listening to her favorite radio show “Seashells”. Montag accidentally kicks over an empty bottle of sleeping pills, realizing his wife had overdosed on the pills, and he calls an ambulance. Just as he does this, a squad of jet bombers drops bombs and shakes the house immensely. The ambulance arrives, and two very cynical workers show up with a snake-like machine to pump Mildred’s stomach. Montag ponders upon the question he was asked by Clarisse and all the events that had happened. He feels terribly dazed as he takes a sleeping pill and dozes off.
The next day, Montag tries to talk to Mildred about her attempted overdose the night before. Mildred says she has no memory of her attempted suicide. When Montag asks about it he gets completely shot down by his wife. Instead, she insists on talking about the plot of the television programs that she watches. As he is not interested in the conversation, Montag leaves for work.
When he gets outside, he sees Clarisse having fun in the rain. She runs a dandelion across her chin and explains to Montag that if any pollen rubs off she is in love. Then, she rubs the dandelion on Montag’s chin but to his embarrassment, no pollen rubs off at all. After this, Clarisse asks Montag why he chose to become a fireman in the first place. Clarisse says that he is not like any of the other firemen she has met before. Montag tells Clarisse that she should go to her therapist that she was assigned by the authorities because of her “lack of sociability”, and for her apparently dangerous motive towards independent thought.
Once Montag reaches his work at the fire station, he reaches into pet a mechanical hound, but, to his surprise, it growls at him and threatens him. Montag immediately reports this phenomenon to his captain, Captain Beatty. He is concerned it could be a murder plot because the exact same event has happened twice before in this month. After this, the other firemen tease him and say that a fireman in Seattle had committed suicide by setting the trigger for the mechanical hound to his own chemical complex. Beatty tells Montag that the hound will be checked out and assures him that the problem won’t happen again.
Over the next week, Montag sees Clarisse outside of his house going to and coming from work every day. Clarisse asks Montag why he never had children of his own with his wife and she also explains why she decided to stop going to school. On the eighth day, he did not see Clarisse outside of his house and when he got to the fire station, he asks captain Beatty what happened to the man whose library they burned down. Beatty then says how the man was sent to an asylum for the clinically insane. Montag then asks if the firemen were ever deployed to extinguish fires. The other firemen show him a handbook where they were established in the 1790’s to burn English-influenced books. Then, the alarm is sounded, and they head off to an old rickety house owned by an old woman. The old woman has pushed aside so they can get to the books. One book falls into Montag’s hand and he decides to quickly hide it under his coat. Even after they drench the books with kerosene, the woman stands her ground and doesn’t leave. Beatty begins to flame up the house, but Montag stops to try and help the old woman leave quietly. She insists on refusing, and as Montag leaves, she lights the fire herself burning her and the house down. All the firemen are very quiet on the drive home to the station.
Montag goes home and hides the book he has under his pillow. Montag tells Mildred that he has not seen Clarisse for about four days. He asks Mildred if she knows anything about her recent disappearance, and Mildred says she believes that she was killed in a car crash.
Montag wakes up very sick, he smells kerosene and he throws up. Montag tells Mildred about the old woman’s house the night before and asks her if its okay if he gave up his job for a while. He tries to explain to Mildred that he is guilty of burning all the books and the old lady’s house, but Mildred does not want to listen. He attempts to talk with Mildred about how it really bothers him and asks her when she was last bothered by something. The argument ends when they see Captain Beatty coming up the front walk.
Captain Beatty comes by to check on Montag, saying that he guessed Montag would be calling in sick that day. He tells Montag that every fireman runs into the “problem” he has been experiencing sooner or later, and he relates to him the history of their profession. Beatty’s monologue borders on the hysterical, and his tendency to jump from one thing to another without explaining the connection makes his history very hard to follow. Part of the story is that photography, film, and television made it possible to present information in a quickly digestible, visual form, which made the slower, more reflective practice of reading books less popular. Another strand of his argument is that the spread of literacy, and the gigantic increase in the number of published materials, created pressure for books to be more like one another and easier to read (like Reader’s Digest condensed books). Finally, Beatty says that “minorities” and special-interest groups found so many things in books objectionable that people finally abandoned debate and started burning books.
Mildred’s attention falters while Beatty is talking, and she gets up and begins absentmindedly straightening the room. In doing so, she finds the book behind Montag’s pillow and tries to call attention to it, but Montag screams at her to sit down. Beatty pretends not to notice and goes on talking. He explains that eventually the public’s demand for uncontroversial, easy pleasure caused printed matter to be diluted to the point that only comic books, trade journals, and sex magazines remained. Beatty explains that after all houses were fireproofed, the firemen’s job changed from its old purpose of preventing fires to its new mission of burning the books that could allow one person to excel intellectually, spiritually, and practically over others and so make everyone else feel inferior. Montag asks how someone like Clarisse could exist, and Beatty says the firemen have been keeping an eye on her family because they worked against the schools’ system of homogenization. Beatty reveals that he has had a file on the McClellan’s families’ odd behaviors for years and says that Clarisse is better off dead.
Beatty urges Montag not to overlook how important he and his fellow firemen are to the happiness of the world. He tells him that every fireman sooner or later becomes curious about books; because he has read some himself, he can assert that they are useless and contradictory. Montag asks what would happen if a fireman accidentally took a book home with him, and Beatty says that he would be allowed to keep it for twenty-four or forty-eight hours, but that the other firemen would then come to burn it if he had not already done so himself. Beatty gets up to leave and asks if Montag will come into work later. Montag tells him that he may, but he secretly resolves never to go again.
After Beatty leaves, Montag tells Mildred that he no longer wants to work at the fire station and shows her a secret stock of about twenty books he has been hiding in the ventilator. In a panic, she tries to burn them, but he stops her. He wants to look at them at least once, and he needs her help. He searches for a reason for his unhappiness in the books, which he has apparently been stealing for some time. Mildred is frightened of them, but Montag is determined to involve her in his search, and he asks for forty-eight hours of support from her to look through the books in hopes of finding something valuable that they can share with others. Someone comes to the door, but they do not answer, and he goes away. (Later it is revealed that the Mechanical Hound was the second visitor.) Montag picks up a copy of Gulliver’s Travels and begins reading.
The Tone and Mood of Self-reflection in “Fahrenheit 451” Movie Trailer
Everything within the trailer depicts the overall tone and mood of self reflection. The movie trailer for Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, begins with a full shot of a major explosion, and then cuts to the scene of an advanced society all at eye level. This scene is included to draw in the audience’s attention, as it helps bring curiosity to the events leading up to the explosion. This tone of curiosity is included in the first scene to get the audience thinking, which is crucial for the next scene as it is referring to the daily lives of people in this society. Through the use of both full and mid shots along with high angle and eye level, you can visualize the aspects of their society that are similar to our own society along with aspects that show, how we ultimately have the potential of becoming like them if we stay on a blinded course. This idea makes the scene more relatable, therefore further engaging the audience at a greater extent. The scenes of lifestyle are shown in a negative way intentionally in order to develop a disgraceful tone. The scene following depicts Montag is emerging as an enlightened being.
The brief scene following depicts Clarisse, through through the use of mid shots and eye level angle with Clarisse being in front on the camera. This is meant to show how Clarisse is more enlightened than Montag, as well as showing how Montag is enlightened by Clarisse. Beatty is depicted in this scene as he is crucial to the book. He is shown when the audience sees someone burning a house down whereas the house represents Montag’s house burning which is a symbol of essentially the “death” of fireman Montag and the man being Beatty. This scene also includes the moment just before Montag jumps in the water and looks over it. This scene in connection with the biblical reference made in the book and ultimately symbolizes purity and rebirth. These scenes were chosen as they all allude to the idea of a new beginning, and the opportunity to a have a second chance at life, which allows to convey a tone of rebirth. The following scene conveys the obstacles he had to overcome during his early enlightenment phase. This scene depicts Faber through showing his lessons, while a train is driving away from the city. This train represents the scene where Montag is trying to understand the bible, but isn’t grasping the message of the book. Also, this scene includes where he is running away, and trying to get away from the city.
The use of high and eye levels angles in conjunction with mid and close shots, the center of attention is able to be placed on Montag, and shows him as someone who is looking down upon and he is going against the culture of the society. These scenes were chosen as they display key milestones in Montag’s development as an intellectual which are important to understand the story and Montag’s evolution in society. The scenes of Montag trying to break free from the influence of society conveys a tone of rebellious or mutinous. Also following is another explosion. The purpose of this explosion however, is meant to show the ultimate consequence of the society’s actions. Lastly, Montag and his group return to the destroyed city, shown by the truck driving towards the city on fire to start a new society. This is to show Montag new beginning with his group of intellectuals. The tone of this scene is meant to be hopeful, intense and optimistic as they essentially now have a second chance at life.
The Themes of the Advancement of Technology and Its Effects on the Psychosocial Health of People in the Veldt, a Short Story by Ray Bradbury
Ray Bradbury is an award-winning author widely known for his descriptive style of writing in American literature. Branded by careful construction of ordinary details and use of figurative language he has demonstrated a great deal of success in using symbolism in his works (New World Encyclopedia contributors).‘The Veldt’by Ray Bradbury, is a short science fiction story published in 1951. It is one among a collection of eighteen other similar short stories in the book ‘The Illustrated Man’. The story is particularly stimulating the writer uses an array of themes to address the problems that comes with overdependence of technology.
Bradbury writes about a family that lives in a technology-enhanced house. George Hadley and Lydia Hadley are Wendy and Peter’s parents. Their automated house accomplishes supernormal things like feeding and clothing its inhabitants. The troubling story begins when Lydia asks his husband whether he has noticed something unusual with the nursery. Apparently, the nursery is one of the most exclusive and exciting rooms in the entire house. Its glass walls are able to recreate scenes and sounds that are invoked by its occupants’ thoughts. When the couple visits the room, they find themselves in the middle of an African veldt and can hear the papery rustle of vultures and sound of lions savoring their prey. The sounds and images are shockingly believable that they are compelled to run out of the room.
While George wants to believe that their children are not passionate about violence and blood, Lydia is worried they could be. In any case, the room was designed to allow the kids exercise their minds with unusual fantasies and in turn provide this information to their parents. George contemplates to shut down all the electronics and lead a simple life; an idea Lydia welcomes with open arms. For a while, she felt like the house had taken up all her wifely duties.
When George goes back to the nursery a second time and tries to alter the situation, nothing changes. He is now inclined to think that his children have overridden the nursery’s response. Concerns over whether they were psychologically healthy begin to creep his mind and decides to ask them about the nursery when they arrive home from a carnival. After the kids refute knowledge of the veldt and Wendy goes into the nursery, she comes back with information that the scenery has changed.
The apparent secrecy and disobedience displayed by the two children compel George to invite a psychologist to come and establish the problem. It is established that the veldt suggests the hostile attitude the children have towards their parents. This is eventually demonstrated at the end of the story where the children lock up their parents to be eaten by the lions.
In ‘The Veldt’, family is substituted with technology. George and Lydia want the best for their children. They spend a fortune to acquire “Happylife Home”, a home meant to make the life of their children worthwhile. Indeed the house achieved the purpose for which it was meant. But it does this so well that their parents start getting the feeling that they are being phased out by technology. This is seen when David McClean says “…This room is their mother and father, far more important in their lives than their real parents…” (Bradbury 15). In a typical family setting, such problems would be easily rectified but the Hadley’s children would rather kill their parents that have the nursery shut down. Peter is seen shouting at his father to the top of his voice “I hate you!” when George shuts down the nursery (Bradbury 16).
It could be argued that George and Lydia are not great parents. One could also argue that technology is powerful enough to cause an addiction. Bradbury’s tale very well describes todays’ culture where we see members of the family texting using their phones over dinner. We would rather be distracted by technology than a fellow family member. According to the author of this story, the supremacy of technology spells an end to familial relationships.
Bradbury successfully manages to demonstrate how technology leads to conflict of identity in the family setup. In several instances we find George and Lydia struggling to establish their identity as parents while at the same time fighting for their personal identity. As a confession to her husband, Lydia says “I don’t know – I don’t know…Maybe I don’t have enough to do…” (Bradbury 8). Everything including giving a bath to the children is done by the house. Similarly, George feels like he has been stripped off his parenting duties and cannot establish a proper communication platform with his children. This is evidenced when George tells Lydia how their children threw tantrums upon being given slight punishments (Bradbury 8). We can deduce that he is afraid he does not have the right to punish them for any wrong doings. Their worry to find relevance underscores the natural human desire to find importance in day to day tasks and the need to feel that one is making positive impact to the society. According to Bradbury, even with advances in technology, such a basic urge does not cease.
In his story, Bradbury does a good job at using metaphors to capture the imagination of his audience. He uses his characters to describe implied conditions using metaphors. For instance, George is used to describe the virtual sun in African veldt to be “like a hot paw” (Bradbury 8). This comment is meant to spark the memory that there exist lions in African Sahara. Another instance is when George describes the lions’ eye to be “like the yellow of an exquisite French tapestry” (Bradbury 6). This remark reminds of the scenic view of lions and their beauty. In any case, the lions in this context are artificial just like tapestries. The author conveniently uses metaphors to heighten his descriptive passages and provide clear mental images that underscore the theme of danger.
The choice of words used to describe how the automated house accomplishes various tasks is important in understanding Bradbury’s use of personification in relation to his overriding theme of technology. At the onset of the story, we see the narrator words that “His wife paused in the middle of the kitchen and watched the stove busy humming to itself, making supper for four” (Bradbury 5) and “This house which clothed and fed and rocked them to sleep and played and sang and was good to them” (Bradbury 5). He is interested in showing how actions expected to be done by human assumed by technology.
The artistic element of evident throughout the story is that of point of view. The story is told from a third-person point of view. This would mean that he or she does not actively take part in the in the story. It is important to note however that the narrator is very closely aligned with the character of George Hadley. It can be seen that he does follow George in all scenes and does not depart to go and report anything happening away from George. This pattern only breaks upon George and Lydia’s demise. The narrator goes ahead to deliver the scene involving David McClean, Peter and Wendy. The author fails at in making the reader aware of each character’s thoughts and feelings as the narrator is biased. To the end of the story, the audience cannot understand what thoughts Hadley’s children have other than those voiced and captured by the nursery.
Ray Bradbury style can be described, finally as one that depends on figurative and highly descriptive language in his fictional works. The stylistic effects succeed in helping the readers construct mental images of his fictional work throughout the story. The main theme that is the advancement in technology and how it interferes with the psychological health of people is well captured. While the demise of George and Lydia might have been sad, the real pain is left for the children to fell. The lessons that be drawn from this story are relevant to the current society.
The Idea of Bravery in the Literature
The concept of bravery can mean many things, to many people. To some, being brave means standing up to injustice and fighting for change, while others being brave means aiding those who are fighting for change for everyone’s well-being. But what most people do not know about bravery is that, they must be brave enough to be the change they want to see in their society and government. If individuals are not changing themselves for the better and are criticizing others for doing the same, they have no right to preach about the need for change. In order to better the future of the greater good, individuals must seek change within themselves before they demand change from their society and government, because everyone needs to be okay with doing what needs to be done for the greater good, fighting temptation, and relying on strangers, to instill these changes.
Nothing comes easy to a leader because they must carry the weight/burden of the hard decisions that have to be made, so the people they are fighting for do not have too. And leaders must be brave enough to stand up and fight for the change they want to see, to ensure the safety of the greater good. The fictional character Clarke Griffin from the book and television series, The 100 by Jason Rothenberg, she too has to continually make difficult decisions that revolve around her people’s safety and she swears she will never let them carry the weight of things that have been done in order to ensure their safety, “I bear it so they don’t have too” (Rothenberg). Although the pressure of having to make the hard decisions is weighing down on Clarke heavily, she would not dare to ask anyone to help her solver her problem because she cares too much for her people. She cares so much about their well-being and mental/emotional state of mind she is willing to completely willing to disregard her own, and that is why Clarke Griffin is a great leader; she is brave enough to tarnish her soul so her people’s will stay pure. When enticing a revolution that will ultimately better the future of everyone (no matter race, sexual orientation, or class), tough calls and hard decisions have to be made (such as deciding who is worth saving, who is dispensable, who’s a liability, etc.). Without someone to take lead and deal with the hardships that come with life, there will be no order and all of humanity will be lost.
Breaking the law and doing things that may seem wrong, but will ultimately make society a better place, should not be seen as crimes. If it ensures the safety and well-being of society and future generations then so be it. Guy Montag (who is also hero that stands up and fights for change) from the book Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury too has had to do unspeakable things so the people of the future are never harmed by the people he has terminated. Guy killed another character (along with multiple others) named Beatty who tried to stop Guy’s plan to restore books into people’s lives again. Guy killing Beatty can be seen as multiple things: a mercy killing, a vengeful killing, etc., but at the end of the day Montag killed Beatty so he could not hurt anyone else. Beatty, the Hound, and the rest of Guy’s fire-squad (along with his house) all had to go because they signified the old ways of life and Montag could not let them continue to be a reminder of what is keeping them from prospering as a people again, “Beatty, he thought, you’re not a problem now. You always said, don’t face a problem, burn it. Well now I’ve done both” (Bradbury 115). Guy will forever feel guilty about killing everyone and for the “mess” he had made, but he knew what he had done was for the greater good, and needed to be done.
Being true to oneself and morals that have been set is crucial to anyone who is trying to change themselves for the greater good and fight for change. Values keep people grounded and sane, without them there would be no order within society. Individuals may be surrounded by people who are too scared or do not care enough to stand up for what they know is right, but that should not deter the individuals from doing the right thing. When individuals feel something that is going on around them is not right, it is their duty to bring it to other’s attention and try to change things for the better. In the article “Like No One Is Watching” by Beverly Flaxington, she explains what being a good person means and what they do when faced with injustice, even if others are not supportive, “Sometimes doing the right thing may bring about criticism from other people, including those whose perspective matters to you. However, you need to remember that no one else lives your life… At the end of the day, the only person who must deal with your conscience is you alone” (psychologytoday.com). The only person that has to deal with decisions they have made is that said person, so if others do not approve of things that person does should not worry them at all. They have to live their lives for themselves.
Guy also struggles with being true to who he really is and figuring out what he values in life. When he is considering whether or not he should pursue his knowledge and understandings of books it is a key example of values, and what they mean to people. Guy started valuing books [long before the reader was aware of it] even though it was against the law. He knew one day it would be up to him to gather the books he collected over time and find out the meaning of each so he could one day share the knowledge to those who are ignorant as well, “Nobody listens any more. I can’t talk to the walls because they’re yelling at me. I can’t talk to my wife; she listens to the walls. I just want someone to hear what I have to say. And maybe if I talk long enough, it’ll make sense. And I want you to teach me to understand what I read” (Bradbury 78). Guy is pleading with Faber to teach the meaning of books because he knows (deep inside) that there’s something to books that changes them in a way that makes themselves and everyone around them more pleasant. And those are the types changes needed for a prosperous society and government filled with honest people who value integrity.
When people are just driven by temptation and idiotic fixes that ultimately end up harming the individual and everyone around them, there is no structure and people start living dangerous selfish lives. Having integrity is crucial when wanting to demand change to help better society’s lives, because it shows you are in the right state of mind and are in no need of development to help you prepare for the change that is sure to come. If a person does not have integrity, and is shouting for change within their society and government, nothing will ever improve. Improvement will never happen because that person has to be willing to see that change needs to happen within themselves before they can change anything else. Not having values that are important and meaningful sets everyone up for failure, because they have nothing to live for. In the article “What Matters Most In Life?” by Dennis Prager, he explains how people can never change and improve if they do not have anything meaningful to live for, “Almost everything that is wrong with the world comes from people either not having higher moral values, or not living by them, because they feel they want to something else” (prageru.com). When individuals start to realize that what is wrong with the world may (and most likely) stem from them, the world will ultimately be a better place because everyone will be more aware of their actions.
Acts of rage further proves the point that Guy is the perfect person to lead the “rebellion” and demand change for those around him (and himself) because he is not afraid to speak his mind to people he does know. Hereby meaning he deeply cares about setting things straight once and for all, and saving the people of the city from themselves. As Mildred (Montag’s wife) and her friends are watching television and conversing amongst themselves, Guy becomes really aggravated at what he hears. After hearing enough of their ridiculously selfish conversations he decides to speak up and confront the women on how their absurd behavior. Montag calling the women out on their selfish, frivolous actions really connects to the ideas of having morals that people live by every day in order to change the systems of society and the government perfectly. If everyone lived the way they wanted with no morals and no remorse, society and the government would deteriorate immediately. People need structure and rules to live by, to ensure everyone’s morality, safety, and mental assurance,
Go home, Montag fixed his eyes upon her quietly. Go home and think of your first husband divorced and your second husband killed in a jet and your third husband blowing his brains out, go home and think of the dozen abortions you’ve had, go home and think of that and your damn Caesarean sections, too, and your children who hate your guts! Go home and think how it all happened and what did you ever do to stop it? (98).
Guy could no longer hide his distaste of the unconcerned women and really opened their eyes to the reality Guy has been recently introduced to. Every now and then, people need to be reminded of morality and values in order to change both their lives and themselves for the better. Montag needed to hear those women speak and chastise them for their horrible actions, to show him the brutal truth of how life really is for them and to further motivate him to do what needs to be done. He just needs the help of an old, wise, retired English teacher to point him in the right direction (figuratively and literally).
Anonymity is one of the main reasons people talk to strangers. There is a sense of safety that comes with telling secrets to strangers, because in the end the stranger cannot use your secret against you because they do not know you. When individuals turn to strangers to talk about important things that have happened to them or in their lives, it normally means those individuals are too afraid or are unwilling to share what has happened to them to close friends or family members. The individuals may not be able to trust or feel comfortable with those who which they share “intimacy”, so they confide in strangers who are not able to judge them because the stranger does not know the individual personally. Individuals may also need to speak to someone they know will give them good advice. In the article “Why Don’t We Confide in the People Closest to Us? by Bella DePaulo Ph.D, she provides statistics as to why people confide in strangers rather than individuals they are familiar with, “20% of the time, participants said they looked for someone with particular expertise or insight. Those included doctors, therapists, spiritual guides, and personal advisors, including financial advisors” (psychology.com). When speaking freely to someone trustworthy (who is also not going to judge you) can be very liberating. It could be the right amount of motivation and/or inspiration an individual needs to go out and change the world for the better. But no one can change the world on their own; others must be willing to change within themselves as well.
If everyone talked to one another about their issues and had a little faith, they would be able to save themselves from the injustice they are enduring every day. Guy expressing his (and everyone else’s) discontent with life to Faber portrayed a sense of self-discovery that he has never experienced before. He needed someone to sit and listen to all of the despair that has plagued their world, so they can come to some sort of resolution, “We have everything we need to be happy, but we aren’t happy. Something’s missing. I looked around. The only thing I positively knew was gone was the books I burned in ten or twelve years. So I thought books might help” (Bradbury 78). Confessing that the lives they live are not as pleasing as everyone makes them seem is very important to Guy’s development because it shows that he is changing to be the person he needs to be, in order to change everyone else so they can finally start living their lives as well. Seeing the misery that surrounds him is what pushes him to go out and try to change things before it is too late.
Leading individuals relying on those who they rarely know to help aid them in fighting for justice is crucial when trying to fight for change in a community, society and government. This act is crucial because it shows that strangers can come together and fight for the same cause even if they do not know each other, because they know they are fighting for the right thing. In the scholarly journal “Standing Up to Violence” by Craig Sautter, he told the story of young James Darby who asked President Clinton to stop the spread of violence that had plagued his city, a few days before he was killed. Even though James was only nine years old he knew someone had to speak out about the injustice that was going on in his town, which is why his story is so significant to those who also want to make a difference in the world, “I want you to stop the killing in the city… I think someone might kill me. I’m asking you nicely to stop it. I know you can do it” (Phi Delta Kappan). Even though James was unable to save himself from the injustice happening in his town, he was able to save millions that could have been killed later on. After his death, Clinton went on to invest five billion dollars into youth programs that would contribute to the dramatic decline of minor fatalities in his town. James will forever be remembered as a leader who made the ultimate sacrifice to save others in need and conclusively became the changed he wanted to see in the world, just like a character named Clarisse McClellan from Fahrenheit 451.
Small things such as asking questions and simply bringing other’s attention to things that need to be changed can be the right amount of “push” someone needs to start a rebellion or become the change they want to see in their society and government. Clarisse questioned Guy about his life and what it means to him. She interrogating Montag about his job and finally asking him if he was happy with his life is similar to small James’ plea to president Clinton. Clarisse asked about his happiness because she knew that he was not happy with what he was doing and that would open his eyes to seeing the true problem with his line of work and society. Both James and Clarisse pleaded with their “foreign confidants” in hope of change within their worlds, “Then she remembered something and came back to look at him with wonder and curiosity. “’Are you happy?’” she said… Of course I’m happy. What does she think? I’m not? he asked the quiets rooms” (Bradbury 7-8). Clarisse will always be remembered as the person who changed Guy’s heart forever.
Being the one who has to stand against all odds and fight for what is right may not be the easiest thing to do, but things will always get better after the war is won, even if a society has to wait seventy four years for their chance. In the book Mockingjay (third book of The Hunger Games series), Katniss Everdeen decides to become the Mockingjay after she realizes how evil her tyrant (President Snow) is and how much suffering he has caused. When he sent fighter jets to burn a hospital filled with injured war victims that was near Katniss to “send a message”, she knew she needed to officially stand up for her people and demand change, “President Snow says he’s sending a message? Well, I have one for him. You can torture us and bomb us and burn our districts to the ground, but do you see that? Fire is catching! And if we burn, you burn with us!” (Collins 99-100). After realizing President Snow will stop at nothing to prove that everyone within the districts are just little pieces of a game they call life and he is in control, she knows she must fight with all she has to eliminate him so people can live their lives the way they want to live them.
Guy witnessing the woman being treated so poorly and ultimately being left to burn by the firemen when they came to burn her books and house, was essential to him because that was when his hatred and distaste for how they lived life and treated one another developed, “You weren’t there, you didn’t see… There must be something in books, things we can’t imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there. You don’t stay for nothing” (Bradbury 48). Montag seeing the woman’s devotion to her books really made him question what was so great about them. Never in his life has he seen someone willing to burn for their books and what they believe in, and this just made him all the more curious about the things that have been forbidden for so long. He knew there had to be a misconception about books because no one is willing to burn for something that is not crucially important.
Despite the fact that the entire society lost their freedom to take control of their lives, they seemed quite happy with their mundane lives. Before Guy met and Mildred overdosed, he never even questioned his line of work and way of life. That was because he (along with everyone else) was ignorant to the way things really were. This goes to show that ignorance truly is bliss. If everyone followed the rules and did not think about why things were the way they were, they would have continued being happy. They would have continued living their average American lives by constantly being entertained and occupied. Being oblivious to the bad things that happen in the world keeps individuals happy and focused on their own lives, and how great they are. After all, happiness is the key to living an admirable life.
Realizing that not everything is what it seems within their world (community, society or government) is the first step individuals need to take when trying to better the future of the greater good. When individuals seek change within their “worlds” they must first become the change they want to see in order to demand change from others. No one will support a hypocrite that does not even practice what they preach. Once that is done, it is up to them to then fight the systems to achieve the change that will help better everyone’s future. Anything can fall if there are enough people willing to fight and see it through. They just have to be brave enough to seize the opportunity once it is present.
The Destructive Power of the Technological Progress in Novels by R. Bradbury
Imagine if all those fortune tellers and palm readers are right and their “predictions” hold meaning. Think of how much that would change our world today. Everyone would be given an opportunity to change the negative aspects of their futures. Through his writing, Ray Bradbury can be seen as a fortune teller. When reading his stories, the reader gets a sense that Bradbury is issuing a warning about the future and technology. In Rocket Summer, There Will Come Soft Rains, and Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury warns against technology’s effect on the environment, its destructive power and its control over society. Bradbury’s writing forewarns the reader of the consequences that come with the unheeded development of technology.
Bradbury warns the reader of the negative effects technology has on the environment. In Rocket Summer, Bradbury takes a winter scene and changes it to summer in a blink of the eye: “The rocket stood in the cold winter morning, making summer with every breath of its mighty exhausts. The rocket made climates, and summer lay for a brief moment upon the land.” (Bradbury 1). Bradbury made the dramatic change from winter to summer to emphasize the rockets effect on the environment. The change in weather warns to not forget about the environment as technology develops, or else the technology will change it completely. The rocket destroyed its surroundings, changed the season, its landscape, and therefore man: “The failure of man to live in harmony with nature is the failure of man.” (Eller 1). By neglecting nature man has forgotten that the earth is essential in providing basic human needs such as food and water. By disregarding these necessities, man fails to provide for themselves and will suffer both the short and long-term consequences of the rocket’s environmental impact. Bradbury creates a drastic environmental change to warn about neglecting the environment. In Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury takes a different approach to technology’s destructive potential on nature; he ignores nature completely. Bradbury creates a world that is so filled with technology that it distracts not only the reader from nature, but the characters as well: “Bet I know something else you don’t. There’s dew on the grass in the morning. He suddenly couldn’t remember if he had known this or not, and it made him quite irritable.” (Bradbury 50). Montag lives in a world so overwhelmed by technology that he is distracted from nature that is all around him. Bradbury explores the idea of being trapped in a world of overwhelming interference from technology to demonstrate man’s neglect of the environment. Bradbury uses the dramatic change in weather and the disregard of nature to warn against the negative effects technology has on the natural world.
Bradbury uses fire to warn the reader of technology’s destructive power. He includes a great deal of fire imagery because fire – like technology – can easily become out of control. The amount of destruction fire causes in Fahrenheit 451, obviously has some meaning. The fire destroys not only books, but entire houses and people. Throughout the novel, the enabling of fire’s destruction is done by technology: “With the brass nozzle of the flame-gun in his fists, with this great python spitting its venomous kerosene upon the world, his hands were the hands of some amazing conductor playing all the symphonies of blazing and burning” (Bradbury 3) The flame-gun enables the firemen to burn books and houses, the salamander (the fire truck) enables them to get to the books. The flame-gun enables Montag to kill the woman and Beatty. Technology is so developed in Fahrenheit 451 that it makes things that normally should be impossible to comprehend (burning an innocent woman alive) easy. Technology essentially lessens the consequences of the crime. Without consequences there is no incentive to stop, leading to continual destruction. In There Will Come Soft Rains, Bradbury further expands on fire and technology’s power to destroy through its inevitable destruction of itself: “Bradbury’s themes are structured around fire and death as though it is necessary to forewarn the coming of an America bent on destroying itself.” (Zipes 11). When fire burns out of control it burns everything around it, and eventually it runs out of things to burn. Without anything to burn the fire dies. In There Will Come Soft Rains, technology does the same. Every aspect of the house is run by technology and there is no need for human control: “The house was an altar with ten thousand attendants, big, small, servicing, attending, in choirs. But the gods had gone away, and the ritual of the religion continued senselessly, uselessly.” (Bradbury 3). It is no surprise that after the house ran out of people to use it, food to make, dishes to clean, and dogs to pick up after, it went up in flames: “Cleaning solvent, bottled, shattered over the stove. The room was ablaze in an instant!” (Bradbury 4). Bradbury warns that technology enables endless destruction due to lack of consequences and it’s inevitable destruction of itself.
Along with fire, Bradbury uses the setting to further emphasize the destructive power of technology. Bradbury sets up Rocket Summer as a “classic” Ohio winter: “One minute it was Ohio winter, with doors closed, windows locked, the panes blind with frost, icicles fringing every roof, children skiing on slopes, housewives lumbering like great black bears in their furs along the icy streets.” (Bradbury 1). Even though the setting is futuristic, he makes it very easy to visualize. The reader can get such a clear image of winter in Ohio in their mind, making the unexpected change from winter to summer even more startling. This emphasizes the destruction the rocket reeked on the setting when it completely changed the weather. Bradbury does the same thing in There Will Come Soft Rains. However, this time Bradbury uses the setting of a desolate land destroyed by the radiation of an atom bomb: “The sun came out from behind the rain. The house stood alone in a city of rubble and ashes. This was the one house left standing. At night, the ruined city gave off a radioactive glow which could be seen for miles.” (Bradbury 4) The desolate land itself, emphasizes the destruction of technology, specifically nuclear warfare. The setting – once a thriving city – and the in-depth detail of the now lone house, allows the reader to emotionally connect with the story, making the destruction of the atom bomb more impactful. Bradbury uses setting to emphasize technology’s destruction, warning the reader of its potential.
Bradbury explores the idea of materialism to warn the reader of technology’s control over society. In Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury uses futuristic entertainment to demonstrate technology’s control through materialism. “It’s really fun. It’ll be even more fun when we can afford to have the fourth wall installed. How long you figure before we save up and get the fourth wall torn out and a fourth wall-TV put in? It’s only two thousand dollars” (Bradbury 19). Bradbury creates a society that worships technology purely for entertainment. “Bradbury has drawn the sword against materialism, and against society as a producer and consumer equation.” (Kirk 17). Technology’s control lies in consumer spending. The more people spend on technologies they don’t need, the more they begin to rely on it, giving technology control. In There Will Come Soft Rains Bradbury demonstrates technology’s control through a self-sustained house. “In the kitchen, the breakfast stove gave a hissing sigh and ejected from its warm interior eight pieces of perfectly browned toast, eight eggs sunnyside up, sixteen slices of bacon, two coffees, and two cool glasses of milk. “Today is August 4, 2026,” said a second voice from the kitchen ceiling, “in the city of Allendale, California.” It repeated the date three times for memory’s sake. “Today is Mr. Featherstone’s birthday. Today is the anniversary of Talita’s marriage. Insurance is payable, as are the water, gas, and light bills.” (Bradbury 2). Bradbury demonstrates technology’s control over mankind through the house doing everything for the people that live in it. By doing everything for the owner, technology controls everything. Bradbury makes the point that people should not give technology control by depending on it to do something as simple and as necessary as making breakfast.
In Rocket Summer, Bradbury exhibits technology’s control through the citizens of Ohio’s reaction to the rocket’s impact on the weather: “The rocket stood in the cold winter morning, making summer with every breath of its mighty exhausts. The rocket made climates, and summer lay for a brief moment upon the land. (Bradbury 1). Before the rocket, the people did not need to rely on technology to change the weather, Mother Nature did that for them. However, after the rocket destroyed the environment, the people became more materialistic and had to depend heavily on the rocket. Henceforth, technology gained power and control over the citizens of Ohio. Bradbury warns the reader of materialism and demonstrates technology’s control through entertainment, the self sustained house and the rocket.
To warn the reader of technology’s control through fear, Bradbury uses animal imagery. In Fahrenheit 451, animal imagery is used to demonstrate how technology controls us through the fear of what it might become: “The Mechanical hound slept, but did not sleep, lived but did not live in its gently humming, gently vibrating, softly illuminated kennel.” (Bradbury 64). The fear Montag has for the hound effects his actions throughout the novel. Montag is reluctant to go back to the fire station because he knows the hound will be there. In the end, it is the fear of the hound (technology) that he has to overcome in order to escape from the city. The imagery of the hound is used because dogs can be both depicted as vicious and lovable. Montag is not afraid of the hound; he is afraid of what the hound can do to him. Bradbury demonstrates that it is not our fear of technology that controls us, it is our fear of technology’s potential. In There Will Come Soft Rains, Bradbury uses animal imagery to demonstrate how technology controls us through the fear of living without itL “It quivered at each sound, the house did. If a sparrow brushed a window, the shade snapped up. The bird, startled, flew off! No, not even a bird must touch the house!” (Bradbury 2). The house protects itself from other animals out of fear that even if a small bird were to touch it, it would break. Bradbury uses the imagery of a small animal to depict the caretaker’s fear of the house breaking. The owner can’t imagine life without their “do everything” house and this makes even a small bird a threat. Bradbury warns against technology’s control through fear with the mechanical hound and the bird, illustrating our fear of technology’s potential and life without it.
Ray Bradbury is a fortune teller; in his writing, he issues a warning to the reader of technology’s potential negative effects, if it keeps developing without restraint. To warn against technology’s negative effect on the environment, Bradbury creates drastic change and neglects nature completely in his writing. To warn against technology’s destructive capability, Bradbury uses fire to exhibit how technology enables endless destruction and will inevitably destroy itself. Bradbury also warns about technology’s destruction using the setting to allow the reader to visualize and emotionally connect to the destruction. Bradbury uses futuristic entertainment, a self sustained house and the rocket to warn about materialism and emphasize technology’s control over society. He also uses the mechanical hound and a small bird to warn about technology’s control over society through fear. In Rocket Summer, There Will Come Soft Rains and Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury uses a foreboding theme to warn the reader of the consequences that come with too much use of technology.
How People Destroy Themselves and Each Other in Fahrenheit 451
A wife overdoses on medication, much to the distress of her husband; a woman watches as the room in which she stands is doused in kerosene before she takes it upon herself to strike the first match; a Fire Captain hands a flamethrower to one of his subordinates and orders him to aim it at him – at the Captain himself – and pull the trigger. These three suicide attempts –: one successful, one not so, and the other enacted as a murder – embody the theme of self-destruction that runs throughout Ray Bradbury’s ‘Fahrenheit 451’, and each of them represents a different facet of that theme: involuntary self-destruction, voluntary self-destruction, and voluntary self-destruction in order to pre-empt an involuntary self-destruction. Mildred Montag’s overdose implies a dissatisfaction with the world as it is, and a desire to escape into something less real, more passive, an indirect and involuntary kind of self-destruction. The old woman’s voluntary death entails an immense satisfaction with the world that is taken from her, and no desire whatsoever to live a life without some element of that world in it. And Captain Beatty’s death at the hands of Guy Montag represents a combination of both of the above – a man torn between fondness and duty, between an affection for that which he destroys, and for the process of destruction itself.
Mildred’s self-destruction is one common trait of the majority of the citizens in the society depicted in the novel, and hers is a path that Montag risks following – at least until the moment his curiosity gets the better of him and he opens the covers of a book. “I am a cowardly old fool,”, says the English professor Faber, being the placid kind of man that Montag will devolve into if he does not immediately rebel against the system that oppresses him. “Proof of my terrible cowardice: I’ve lived alone so many years, throwing images on walls with my imagination.” Faber is what Montag will become if he allows Mildred to desensitize him. “She was beginning to shriek now,” we are told of Mildred when Montag looks at his wife through new eyes after their argument, “sitting there like a wax doll melting in its own heat.” Mildred’s self-destruction is of the involuntary, passive variety, she does not so much destroy herself as she allows herself to rot away slowly. Her world is a dream-world for which she abandons reality: she is unconscious when we meet her, having overdosed on pills designed to make her sleep and recede into dreams. When she comes to, she is filled with denial and claims she would never have done such a thing, later she has her own name inserted into a television program and so she is literally absorbed into a fictional world. And finally, she replaces her husband with the cartoon White Clowns to the point where Montag asks her: “Does the White Clown love you? …Does your ‘family’ love you, love you with all their heart and soul, Millie?”
The answer, of course, is no, but like so much between Montag and Mildred, it remains unspoken. Indeed, speaking aloud is the means by which Montag very nearly engages in his own self-destruction: he recites a poem to Mildred and her friends, and reduces one of them to tears, which causes the others to turn on him. The anger he provokes results in his downfall. This, however, can hardly come as a surprise to him, and even less so to Faber, who listens to the poetry recital via Montag’s earpiece: “You’ll ruin everything,”, he insists, “Shut up, you fool!” – but Montag persists, the poetry is read aloud, and later, after the women have left his house, they turn to the authorities and point their fingers at him. “It was pretty silly, quoting poetry around free and easy like that,” Beatty warns Montag during their final confrontation. “It was the act of a silly damn snob. Give a man a few lines of verse and he thinks he’s the Lord of all Creation.” Ironic, given that only a few moments later when Montag has a flamethrower trained on him, it is Beatty who quotes poetry: “Why don’t you belch Shakespeare at me, you fumbling snob? ‘There is no terror, Cassius, in your threats, for I am arm’d so strong in honesty that they pass me as an idle wind, which I respect not!’”
This is not the first demonstration of Beatty’s literary knowledge. Earlier, he refers to the myth of Icarus and Daedalus, he quotes Jonathan Swift, and alludes to Biblical passages. Also, he understands a reference to religious persecution made by the aforementioned old woman before she sets herself ablaze. How is it that a man, who leads investigations into houses, in order to burn the illegal and outlawed books they have, knows so much about literature himself? Moreover, how is he still able to display some visible level of affection for literature – one that Montag shares, but which, unlike Beatty, he is not allowed to show to the outside world? With his knowledge of and resentment for literature, Beatty embodies the conflict between both literature’s destruction and its appreciation – and so his actions and his speeches indirectly give voice to the reasons why the burning of literature is self-destructive, even if his actual words dictate why it is a positive thing.
“Not everyone [is] born free and equal, as the Constitution says, but everyone [is] made equal,”, Beatty tells Montag in one of many examples of a revisionist history accepted by the society of this world. “Each man is the image of every other, then all are happy, for there are no mountains to make them cower, to judge themselves against.” Therein lies the essence of the evolution of book-burning, as well as the essence of its self-destructive nature. Like Mildred’s involuntary self-destruction, book-burning evolved not from active opposition to literature, but from a passive attraction to other materials. “The world got full of eyes and elbows and mouths,”, Beatty tells Montag. “Films and radios, magazines, books [were] leveled down to a sort of pastepudding norm. …Classics cut to fit fifteen-minute radio shows. …School [was] shortened, discipline relaxed, philosophies, histories, languages dropped, English and spelling gradually neglected, finally almost completely ignored.” Essentially, Beatty details the devolution of literature – indeed, of ‘thinking’ itself and its replacement by graphic intake, films and drawings and photographs. “More cartoons in books. More pictures. The mind drinks less and less. …Books, so the damned snobbish critics said, were dishwater. No wonder books stopped selling, the critics said. …There you have it. It didn’t come from the Government down. There was no dictum, no declaration, no censorship,” Beatty says of the process by which books were banned, before he adds the qualifier: “to start with.”
Those three words – “to start with” – embody everything that is self-destructive about the book-burning of the society depicted in the novel. It is self-destructive because, most conspicuously, Beatty’s assertions with regard to the validity of book-burning do not stand to reason. He claims that society’s individuals lost interest in literature because nothing of value was being produced – books were “dishwater” – but that could not possibly entail a mass abandonment of fiction altogether, particularly when so much of value has already been accumulated by society to begin with – just because no new books of any worth are being produced, there is no reason to abandon hundreds of years of books that do hold some value.
More importantly, however, is that book-burning is self-destructive because it is a violation of individuality and individual rights. Beatty uses this notion to his advantage – “all men made equal” – but here, he fails to add the qualifier that should appear at the end of that statement: “All men made equal, resulting in mass mediocrity, with no man given the opportunity to disrupt or ascend beyond that equality.” That is to say, book-burning is self-destructive because it removes the individual’s choice as to whether or not he or she wishes to indulge in literature. Certainly, even if there were such a world in which society lost interest in fiction and books, there must be some individuals who would still choose to pursue literature for pleasure. These individuals do exist in this world – in the form of Montag, of course, and Beatty to an extent, and most notably in the form of Faber and the group of men Montag meets outside the city – but it is not merely their right to read books that has been taken from them: they have also lost their right to choose to read books. Book-burning, therefore, is self-destructive on both a physical and metaphysical levels: it denies indulgence in physical literature – pages and printed words – but it also denies an individual the right to use his or her metaphysical free will, and in doing so, we realize that it is self-destructive because it nullifies the very thing that makes us truly human in the first place.
However, this is not the extent of its self-destruction, it is only the most visible extent. Worse than this destruction of literature and free will is the destruction of truth. How do we know that the story Beatty tells Montag is real? In fact, we know that Beatty lies on several occasions: “When did it all start, you ask, this job of ours, how did it come about, where, when? Well, I’d say it really got started around a thing called the Civil War.” This is not true, firefighters, as we know, have never been employed to burn books, and such a trend did not arise during the Civil War. Even Beatty disputes this claim, but with another lie: “I’d say it really [started during] the Civil War. Even though our rulebook claims it was founded earlier.” If Beatty disputes one important element of his own code of conduct, how can we be sure that anything in that code is true? Instead, we realize that with the above time frame given for the inception of the firemen, as well as other claims such as that houses have always been fire-proof, the citizens of this story live in a world that has fallen victim to a fictional past, as in the aforementioned revisionist history. The history of this society has been glossed-over, deleted, lost and destroyed, re-built and re-written as propaganda, and almost all actual historical truth has been lost, resulting in a world which very identity is one of dualistic irony: a world that shuns fiction, yet is almost wholly built upon lies. Beatty even let’s slip this inconsistency, perhaps subconsciously: he calls Montag a “fumbling snob” for reciting poetry, and he calls the critics of the past “snobs” for denouncing books. Who, then, does he believe to be the real “snob”: those who love fiction, or those who ridicule it? He inconsistency believes in truth that he works hard to conceal: that he knows, somehow, that the laws he upholds are a facade; that, at the very least, they could not have been founded upon any actual history and are instead a product of fiction dressed up as fact.
Beatty continues to explain how book-burning came about: “You must understand that our civilization is so vast that we can’t have our minorities upset and stirred. …Colored people don’t like ‘Little Black Sambo’. Burn it. White people don’t feel good about ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’. Burn it. …Don’t give them any slippery stuff like philosophy or sociology to tie things up with.” It is due to the sensitivity of minority groups, Beatty says, that book-burning was put in place; the government did not want any disruption on behalf of those groups. This, then, is an ironic example of a more ‘positive’ kind of self-destruction, at least from the point-of-view of Montag and Faber: in its aim to not offend minority groups, the book-burning decree has instigated the creation of a new minority group that eventually overturns it. And, more ironic still, in order to enforce that decree the government has employed the firemen, yet it is one of those same firemen who joins a rebellion against the government and the decree it attempts to uphold.
“At least once in his career, every fireman gets an itch,” says Beatty. “What do the books say, he wonders. Oh, to scratch that itch, eh? Well, Montag, take my word for it, I’ve had to read a few in my time, to know what I was about, and the books say nothing!” Notice that Beatty did not read books to know what they were about but to know what he was about, and the books gave him answers – they gave his life a purpose, even if he does not realize that fact. “[The books say] nothing you can teach or believe,” he insists, yet Beatty continually uses the contents of books throughout the novel to teach Montag; their relationship, until Montag rebels against Beatty, is a teacher-student relationship. Though they do eventually become opponents, Montag finds a thematic counterpart of sorts in Beatty as, on a more personal and less societal level, they engage together in voluntary self-destruction in order to pre-empt their involuntary self-destruction. That is, they each suspect they will follow in the footsteps of Mildred, rotting away with passivity, so they deliberately choose to follow in the footsteps of the old woman instead, to challenge those who demand that they not do certain things – to challenge even the laws they have sworn to uphold – in order to prevent themselves from dissolving into nothingness.
Like Mildred, both Montag and Beatty are slowly decaying. Montag, first, admits to himself that he is unhappy – “I don’t know anything anymore,” he says. And similarly, Beatty’s violent antagonism springs from the frustration he feels with regard to his obvious and paradoxical affection for literature, and for his duty to not only hide that affection but to burn its source. Beatty, for all his long, portentous speeches, consistently reveals more about himself through what he doesn’t say rather than by the actual words he uses: “Who knows who might be the target of the well-read man?” he asks, without openly acknowledging that he himself is a well-read man: “Me? I won’t stomach [a well-read man] for a minute.” Here, he subconsciously indicates his own feelings of self-loathing – the same feelings that ultimately prompt him to order the flamethrower-wielding Montag to “Go ahead now, you second-hand litterateur, pull the trigger.”
Montag obeys him, and only later does he realize that “Beatty wanted to die. …He had just stood there, not really trying to save himself.” With these words, Montag might just as easily be describing Mildred, if only Mildred had taken control of her own decay instead of simply sitting by and allowing it to happen to her. Unlike Mildred, both Beatty and Montag would rather be destroyed than allow themselves to decay. And so, they both openly and unreservedly share literature and literary allusions with other people – even though it is explicitly illegal because, with neither man being able to destroy himself consciously, they are both aware that the consequences of such actions will serve to destroy them instead: essentially, they both flirt with self-destruction by enticing and provoking some reaction or retribution from the world whose rules they are breaking. Just as the old woman insists to them both “I want to stay here” as her house goes up in flames, so too does Beatty recite ‘Julius Caesar’, while Montag recites ‘Dover Beach’: three different actions, each with the same intention of self-destruction. Only two of those individuals, however, succeed in being destroyed, while the last, Montag, survives, and eventually uses the same passion for literature that nearly led to his death to rebuild an entire world that has destroyed itself.
Ultimately, it is this ability to rebuild that sets Montag apart from his contemporaries and his society, and even apart from Faber, for, unlike Faber, Montag is as much against the self-destruction of his society as he is a product of it. He neither completely denounces it nor does he completely accept it; rather, he agrees to carry out Faber’s joking suggestion that they plant books in the houses of firemen in order to ‘solve’ the problem of firemen and book-burning altogether.
“Fire is bright and fire is clean,” says Beatty; his solution is to destroy. “Do your own bit of saving,” says Faber, “and if you drown, at least die knowing you were headed for shore”; his solution is to create something better. Neither of these extremes will work as a ‘solution’ for the problems faced by a society that is founded on a fiction, and that denounces all other fiction. The only solution is to arrive at a compromise, to play by the rules of society in order to break them: “When you’ve got nothing to lose,” says Montag, “you run any risk you want.” This, then, is how he overcomes the obstacles of this book-burning society – he understands both the disease of self-destruction and its cure. And so it is that this self-destructive society is itself destroyed under his watch, and is rebuilt into something altogether more constructive by way of his hands.
Ideas of the American Society in Fahrenheit 451
Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 invokes two paradigms of America: the paradigm of America in the 1950s, and the Puritan paradigm of America. This paper will discuss the way these paradigms manifest themselves in the text, the relation between them, and the way the author uses them to postulate his conceptualization of America’s history and future.
The paradigm of America in the 1950s manifests itself predominantly in six different aspects of the novel. First, the book burning in the novel’s dystopian America comments on the American public’s perception of book burning in the 1950s. In the aftermath of the Nazi bonfires that consumed numerous books, and the anti-Semitic burnings of Jewish books in Communist Russia, book burning became the emblem of tyranny in the Western world. The majority of the American public at the time conceptualized the book burner as the evil “other” – the Nazi or the Communist – and accordingly perceived America as the champion of freedom, which struggles incessantly against book burners and what they stand for (Faragher, 809). This notion of Americanness as the opposing force to book burning is destabilized in the novel by the nearly unanimous approbation of book burning by both the fictional American authorities and the fictional American public. Bradbury even directly encourages the reader to draw parallels between the fictional book burning and contemporary events, noting in the Coda: “There is more than one way to burn a book” (Bradbury, 176). Bradbury does not reveal to which events he is referring, but this comment resonates strongly with topical events in America in the early 1950s: protests and lawsuits of religious and parental organizations against what they deemed obscene literature led to the establishment of the Gathings Committee, which demanded that publishers impose restrictions on the content of the paperback novels they intend to publish (Speer, 154-55); simultaneously, two prominent members of the McCarthy administration undertook a campaign to “purge United States Information Agency libraries of more than thirty thousand works by Communists, fellow-travelers and unwitting promoters of the Soviet cause” (Ward, 2).
Second, the character of Faber, the involuntarily retired English professor, may allude to the McCarthy administration’s persecution of academics: five years prior to the publication of the novel, charges of Communist activities were filed against six faculty members of the University of Washington (Schrecker, 93). Third, the predominance of mass culture, and particularly mass media, in the dystopian America of the novel, reflects the rapid ascendancy of mass culture in 1950s America: the fictional American public’s preference of comic books over more complex and ambiguous texts (Bradbury, 57) reflects the substantial increase in the sales of comic books (Faragher, 809) and the simultaneous decline in paperback sales (Speer, 154) in 1950s America; the fictional American public’s obsession with their TV parlours corresponds to the unprecedented popularity of mass media in 1950s America, to such a degree that, according to Maldwyn A. Jones, “television soon took up more American leisure time than any other activity, becoming for most people the preferred form of entertainment as well as the main source of information about what was going on in the world” (Jones, 593-4). Fourth, the incessant subway commercial for Denham’s products (Bradbury, 79) and Mildred’s fierce desire to purchase further components for her TV parlour (Bradbury, 20) manifest the striking increase in American consumerism following World War II (Faragher, 851). Fifth, the alienation that permeates the novel reflects the sense of estrangement that plagued the American middle class in the 1950s (Mills, 182-7). The novel’s different levels of alienation each seem to manifest a certain facet of estrangement in 1950s America: Montag’s alienation from Mildred, due to her obsession with mass media – “‘I can’t talk to my wife; she listens to the walls.’” (Bradbury, 82) – may be construed as Bradbury’s critique of mass media as one of the causes of the high divorce rates in 1950s America (Stevenson, 28); Clarisse’s sense of isolation from her fellow classmates – “‘Oh, they don’t miss me,’ she said. ‘I’m antisocial, they say.’” (Bradbury, 29) – may allude to J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, which was first published in the United States in 1951 and became a milestone in the discussion of the alienation of American youths; finally, the indifference of the fictional American public to the suffering of the people of other countries – “we’re so rich and the rest of the world’s so poor and we just don’t care if they are” (Bradbury, 73) – may reflect the lack of concern of the 1950s American public for the plights of war-devastated Europe (Griffith, 23).
The sixth manifestation of the paradigm of 1950s America in the novel is the atomic bombing of the fictional American city. Following the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Western liberals began to fear that humanity might utterly destroy itself. This fear was exacerbated by the revelation at the end of the 1940s that the Soviet Union had acquired the technology to create nuclear weapons (Hoskinson, 346). The American public was especially frightened by this intelligence, due to the United States’ Cold War with the Soviet Union. Bradbury incorporates this American fear into the novel, by retaining the contextual framework of America as the country that initiated atomic warfare – “‘we’ve started and won two atomic wars since 1990!’” (Bradbury, 73) – and adding a fictional tragic consequence: “Once the bomb release was yanked, it was over” (Bradbury, 158).
Towards the end of the novel, when Montag escapes into the wilderness, the text shifts from manifestations of the paradigm of America in the 1950s to manifestations of the Puritan paradigm of America. Montag’s escape corresponds to the Puritan journey to New England: like the Puritans, Montag exiles himself from a society that persecutes him, crosses a body of water, arrives at the virgin lands of America, and integrates into a new society founded on the very ideals that were the cause of his persecution. Furthermore, the sequence of scenes in which Montag emerges from the river that nearly drowned him and subsequently leads Granger and his companions towards a better future, invokes Moses’ crossing of the Red Sea and his guidance of the Israelites to the Promised Land. This Biblical allusion is consonant with the Puritan paradigm, because the Puritans perceived their journey to New England as a reenactment of the Exodus.
Another manifestation of the Puritan paradigm is Montag’s preservation of the Book of Ecclesiastes and the Book of Revelation in his mind, to the extent that he becomes these texts: “‘Montag… you are the book of Ecclesiastes’” (Bradbury, 151). In this context, Granger’s promise – “We’ll pass the books on to our children” (Bradbury, 152-3) – resonates with John Winthrop’s declaration that the ultimate goal of the Puritan settlement of America is “to encrease the body of christie… that our selves and posterity may be the better preserved” (Winthrop, 14). If we accept the notion that a subject’s words are an extension of his body, then by preserving the words of God and his Son for the purpose of passing them on to future generations, Montag is realizing the Puritan aspiration to augment the body of Christ for posterity. Moreover, Montag’s quotations from the Book of Ecclesiastes and the Book of Revelation – “To everything there is a season… And on either side of the river was there a tree of life” (Bradbury, 165) – manifest the Puritan paradigm by alluding to Puritan captivity narratives, such as Mary Rowlandson’s A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson. These narratives are saturated with Biblical quotations that compare the depicted events, which take place in America, to Biblical scenes, with the express purpose of promoting the Puritan vision of America as the new Promised Land.
Having discussed the manifestations of the two paradigms of America in the novel, I would now like to explore the relationship between them. I suggest that this relationship can be extrapolated from the novel’s invocation of various elements from collective American past: the Mechanical Hound’s pursuit of Montag may be construed as a subtle reference to the hunting of fugitive African American slaves by the dogs of slave owners, which, according to Jon T. Coleman, “helped police human property… intimidated slaves and chased down runaways” (Coleman, 483); Beatty’s claim that book burning “really got started around a thing called the Civil War” (Bradbury, 54) alludes to the American Civil War; the Firemen rulebook refers to a Founding Father of the United States: “First Fireman: Benjamin Franklin” (Bradbury, 34). These intimations of American past indicate that the fictional America of the novel began to deteriorate towards the depicted dystopian state of affairs long before the McCarthy administration or the mass culture of the 1950s. By implicating Benjamin Franklin as the pioneer book burner, the author is suggesting that the very establishment of the United States by the Founding Fathers was a crucial factor in America’s gradual decline. Consequently, the author’s representation of the Puritan paradigm, which preceded the Founding Fathers, as an antithesis to his dystopian America, may be interpreted as an appeal for America to return to its origins. We may therefore conjecture that the author postulates the Puritan paradigm as the last prelapsarian vision of America, whereas the paradigm of America in the 1950s is a late stage in the country’s downfall.
The novel culminates with the fulfillment of John Winthrop’s warning that “if wee shall deale falsely… wee shall shame the faces of many of god’s worthy servants, and cause theire prayers to be turned into Cursses upon us till wee be consumed out of the good land whether wee are goeing” (Winthrop, 15). The people of the dystopian America indeed deal falsely both towards themselves and towards others, and we may surmise that they are cursed by their destitute neighbors, who wage war on them. Finally, they are in fact consumed by flames. Bradbury cremates the manifestations of the paradigm of America in the 1950s, in order to rekindle the Puritan paradigm of America. He takes America back to square zero, and entrusts the task of resettling it to Montag and his companions, who will be the new American pioneers. The novel concludes with their procession towards the city, thereby echoing the Puritan dream of America as “a Citty upon a Hill” (Winthrop, 15). Bradbury leaves the narrative open-ended, with the suggestion that perhaps the rebuilt city will be more faithful to the original vision. Readers can only hope that this time around, Montag and his descendants will create a new and better America.
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