Fahrenheit 451 and In Time
6.8 billion cell phones have been sold. We only have 7 billion people in the world. Of those people, the average adult spends 11 hours interacting with some sort of technology.
People sleep for 8 hours, on average, so that leaves 5 hours that the average person is thinking for themselves, without the influence of technology. However, that 5 hours is interrupted, because the average American checks their phone every 10 minutes. Of those 5 hours, what time are we given to learn? How are you to divide up 5 hours to include free time, relaxation, fun and work? As a whole, our society is extremely dependent on technology. Ray Bradbury’s novel, Fahrenheit 451 expands on society’s dependence on technology, creating a world where technology has more power than people, and where people’s knowledge is restricted. In Fahrenheit 451, Montag, a fireman, spends his days burning books. That’s his job. Their government has taken censorship to a new level. In the movie In Time, Andrew Niccol presents us to Will. Will lives in a society where people stop aging at the age of 25, but then their clock starts counting. When the clock reaches 0, they have run out of time, and they die. Time is money. To eat, they must pay with time, and when they work, they recieve time. Will is living in the poorest area and is lucky if he has a day on his clock at any given time. In the higher districts, the rich live with hundreds and even billions of years, not having to worry about death. Though both Fahrenheit 451 and In Time discuss technology, one is much more convincing than the other in conveying the warning that when given control, technology forms a parasitic relationship with society.
In capturing the character differences between Mildred and Montag by using characterization, Bradbury is able to illustrate the parasitic relationship that technology plays within their society since they have given the technology the power to control them. Mildred and Montag live in a society where books are burned. Technology is their entire world. Mildred, Montag’s wife, has the parlour walls playing a fictional depiction of characters which she terms as her family. She’s watching her family, but she is not closely paying attention to them. Montag, who is not feeling well, wants Mildred to turn off the parlour walls. Mildred responds, That’s my family (Bradbury 48). This quote tells a great deal about the society in which the two live. Mildred refuses to turn off the parlour walls because her ‘family’ is on it, she prefers to listen to the technology over her husband. This shows that their versions of reality and fiction are blurred. Mildred genuinely believes that her family is what is on the screen. Bradbury uses characterization with this quote to tell us more about Mildred’s lack of personal connection to real people like Montag, and her connection instead to technology. Mildred sits and absorbs whatever is on the TV, but she doesn’t question or know how to think for herself. In this section, we can also see that Montag is a direct contrast to Mildred. Rather than just listening to the parlor walls and going along with it, he’s become self-aware enough to know that he needs quiet to think. Diction also plays a role in understanding this quote. Each time Montag speaks, Bradbury states that he ‘asks’ or ‘called’. Mildred simply ‘said’ things. This presents Montag as a much more complex character than Mildred, one who can question and think, versus Mildred, who only passively states the most basic thoughts. This diction, combined with the characterization are key to supporting the theme that society has a draining relationship with technology when we give it the power to control us.
In another section, Montag vents to Mildred about his day. He is upset about the fact that he was forced to kill a woman. Montag begins to lose his temper and Mildred snaps to be left alone. Montag was bothered by the woman’s death, and he sees that Mildred is not. He yells, We need not to be let alone. We need to be bothered once in a while (Bradbury 52). This quote presents their society as one where bad things happen while the people don’t notice or seem to care. Montag’s response is significant to how Bradbury develops the major theme that technology can overpower man. This quote helps us to learn more about the power of technology in their society and how independent thinking and speaking out are qualities that have been lost. Montag originally lost his temper because of Mildred’s quick avoidance of the topic. Bradbury uses characterization in this quote to tell us more about Montag and Mildred. Mildred is just like every other person in their society. She has no realization of anyone else’s feelings and gets no personal reward from interactions with other people. Her TV is the only thing that makes her happy. The technology in her life drains the joy out of every other real relationship. In this quote, she is totally oblivious to the fact that Montag is trying to get a point across. Montag’s quick response also helps us to learn more about his character. We can see how deeply Montag is thinking based on the questions and comments he makes in the text. He states his belief that we need to be bothered every once in a while. They are living in a society where they just go about their day to day lives with no interruptions, no differences, and not noticing anything. This is the first time that he has noticed being bothered by something and is upset that Mildred doesn’t understand and can’t connect with what he is saying. Montag understands the importance of human relations, rather than just surviving on technology. Bradbury uses diction as well in this quote which can be seen when comparing Montag’s lines to Mildreds. Mildred has basic lines. They are rarely more than one line in length. Montag’s quotes are much longer, contain a variation of vocabulary, and seem to be more thought out. By showing Montag’s contrast to Mildred through characterization and diction, Bradbury warns that technology has a parasitic relationship with society, allowing it to control us, and drain us of our true ‘life’.
By featuring costume and action similarities and differences between Will and the richer members of society, the director of In Time, Niccol, is able to convey the ability of technology to control and take things from everyone in a society and not discriminate against one group of people. Everyone in Will’s society had been genetically engineered. Humans stop aging after 25, but then they have a limited amount of time to live. Time is a currency. Will, who lives in the ghetto, the poorest area, rarely even has a day on his clock and lives with the possibility of death every day, while in the richer districts, people have hundreds and even billions of years on their clocks. Will introduces us to his society, narrating for a brief time, explaining the genetic engineering that caused the clocks to be a part of their reality. Will acquired enough time to pay admission to New Greenwich, the richest part of society. People have hundreds of years and live in the lap of luxury. Will gets out of the car and begins running. He’s not in a rush, but it’s a hard habit to break. After a few seconds, he realizes that no one else is running. People around him are walking slowly, not in a rush to get to their destination. (In Time) Where Will came from, they didn’t have the time to walk places. If they wanted to get somewhere before timing out, they had to run. This contrast in their societies shows the different ways that technology controls society. People in New Greenwich quite literally have all the time in the world, but in the ghetto, they never have enough so have to do everything at a faster pace in order to stay alive. In New Greenwich, they fear death just as those in the ghetto do, but they aren’t afraid of running out of time, they are afraid of getting it stolen. They can’t be reckless or have fun for the fear of having their time stolen.
Neither people in the ghetto, nor people in New Greenwich truly ??live??. They are both controlled by the technology that has been implanted into them. In the start of the film, when we are introduced to Will and his mother, we can see their basic clothing, a mark of their social status. Will wears his work uniform, a dull grey item with no other details. His mother wears a simple dress. Another important difference between the rich and the poor is how they keep themselves. We can see Will has shaved his head, and though the women have long hair, it is unstyled and left down. Neither Will??s mother, nor any of the women in the bar wear much, if any, makeup. When Will goes to New Greenwich, everything changes. Just to do basic activities, the women wear fancy dresses and carry satin clutches. Throughout the course of the first day, Sylvia, a high class woman from New Greenwich, changes dresses 3 times. The women in the casinos wear cocktail dresses with more ornate decoration than in the ghetto. Sylvia wears sparkling earrings and a lot of makeup, significantly more than in the poor sections. Her hair is also left down, but cropped above her shoulders and in bangs, in a way that was never seen in Will’s home section. The men dress in suits and ties. (In Time) The commonality between both Will and Sylvia’s family is that all of them have a clock on their forearm, a clock which marks the amount of life that they have left. This clock controls both classes. The rich don’t feel that they can do anything foolish since they have so much to lose, and the poor do foolish things daily since they have nothing to lose. Technology controls both because without their clocks, they would be free to do whatever they please. Since they have the clocks though, they are constantly aware of what their actions are risking. Neither the poor nor the rich can relax, for fear of losing their time. Though the rich wear significantly fancier clothing and don’t feel the need to run, they are at the mercy of the same system.
Fahrenheit 451 and In Time both warn that when technology is given control, it forms a parasitic relationship with society, but one is much more convincing in doing so. In Time is better at conveying the warning that technology has a parasitic relationship with society when it is given control.
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