Fahrenheit 451: How Technology Replaced Humanity
As years pass by, scientists work tirelessly to make more advanced technology to make everyone’s lives more comfortable and automated. In society, this is seen as a gift, since it allows the world to work less for the things wanted, but nothing can be perfect. Sadly, technology has lowered the intelligence level of humans, not only with knowledge but also with social intelligence. This can be found in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, where it is normal in society to not be intelligent. Throughout the book, there are multiple examples where people in the 451 world become too attached to their technology that they no longer want intelligence nor do they want to interact with other humans. These people live in a society where it has become the norm to value technology over learning. The people’s views towards learning, the way people interact with others and the people’s addiction/reliance towards technology show how intelligence is decreasing due to technology.
In the 451 world, the reader gets a heavy sense that people in that society hate intellectuals which leads them to get rid of books and overall, learning. In the book, Bradbury introduces the reader to a world where people revolve around technology. The main protagonist is Montag. His opponent in this book is Beatty and the society. Beatty is a fellow firefighter who works with Montag. He likes the world how it is, even though he knows the real reason why it has become a book-free world. During a conversation between Beatty and Montag, Beatty says, “Out of the nursery into the college and back to the nursery; there’s your intellectual pattern for the past five centuries or more.” He explains that as people grow up, you normally learn more, but in this society, you learn less and, “‘The mind drinks less and less.”
Not only people dislike the idea of learning, they also hate people who are smart. An example of people who hate smart people is Beatty, who says, “…the word ‘intellectuals’, of course, became the swear word it deserved to be. You always dread the unfamiliar.” This shows that in this society, being intelligent is abnormal and is often hated upon. This clearly the society’s distaste for learning and intellectuals. As they started gravitating towards entertainment and “happiness” they also got farther from information and knowledge. In an effort to make people not feel absolutely dumb, schools “cram them full of noncombustible data, chock them so damned full of ‘facts’ they feel stuffed, but absolutely ‘brilliant’ with information. Then they’ll feel they’re thinking, they’ll get a sense of motion without moving.” It is important to notice the emphasis on “brilliant”, putting the quotation marks on them gives off a sense of sarcasm in the way that they are not actually learning anything. Another thing is that they only get the feeling of thinking, without really doing it. In an effort to satisfy their hatred of knowledge, the 451 people got rid of books and became less intelligent with the help of technology.
Through the social interactions between the character, you can see that the people in 451 do not have a lot of experience nor information about the field of social intelligence. When Montag meets Clarisse, “Clarisse, a seventeen-year-old ‘oddball’ neighbor, likes to talk about the world around her.” (NFS), he immediately knew that she was different than others. When Clarisse talks about school, she says, “I’m antisocial, they say. I don’t mix. It’s so strange. I’m very social indeed. It all depends on what you mean by social, doesn’t it? Social to me means talking to you about things like this.” Of course, she is actually social, but not in the way that the people actually want her to be. They want her to talk about things people normally talk about. She describes their conversation as, “People don’t talk about anything… No, not anything. They name a lot of cars or clothes or swimming pools mostly and say how swell! But they all say the same things and nobody says anything different from anyone else.” They always talk about the same thing since it is simpler and easier to talk about. They also already know what to say if they always talk about the same thing.
Mildred, Montag’s wife, is an example of the society in one person. She doesn’t like socializing with people that she isn’t really familiar with. For example, “Shut the ‘relatives’ up,” said Beatty, looking around at everything except Montag and his wife. This time, Mildred ran. The yammering voices stopped yelling in the parlor.” Mildred never listens to Montag when he asks her to turn off the TV, but when Beatty says it, she turned it off immediately like she was afraid he would do something if she didn’t. Another example of Mildred not being able to socialize is when she invited her friends over, but, “Mrs. Phelps was crying… ‘Clara, what’s wrong?’. . . ‘don’t know, don’t know, I just don’t know, oh, oh…’. . . ‘Clara, now, Clara,’ begged Mildred, pulling her arm. ‘Come on, let’s be cheery, you turn the ‘family’ on, now, Go ahead. Let’s laugh and be happy, now, stop crying, we’ll have a party!” This shows that she never really learned what to do in a difficult situation with a person. In the end, she begged her to stop crying and turned to technology to cheer her up.
Mildred isn’t the only one who can’t socialize. Everyone in the society is not familiar with the idea of socializing. When Montag said, “Let’s talk,” to the women Mildred invited over. They were appalled by the idea to talk to each other. They have never done it before, so when asked to do so, they froze up due to not knowing what to do. Montag describes his relationship with Mildred as, “Well, wasn’t there a wall between him and Mildred, when you came down to it? Literally not just one wall but, so far, three! And expensive, too! And the uncles, the aunts, the cousins, the nieces, the nephews, that lived in those walls, the beggaring pack of tree-apes that said nothing, nothing, nothing and said it loud, loud, loud.” Their relationship is falling apart because of technology. It has become an obstacle that Montag has to go through to get to Mildred. Montag says that his problem is that, “‘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.” In the end, Montag just wanted people, especially Mildred, to listen to what he says. Everyone is constantly looking at their TV that they don’t listen to others. This proves that technology not only lowered the general intelligence of people, but also the social intelligence of the 451 people. The characters in 451 depend on and love their technology. So much, that they prioritize it over many things like people and learning.
During an incident that needed medical attention, engineers came over and said, “We get these cases nine or ten a night. Got so many, starting a few years ago, we had the special machines built. With the optical lens, of course, that was new; the rest is ancient. You don’t need an M. D, case like this; all you need is two handymen, clean up the problem in half an hour,” when questioned by Montag. People have developed a technology where they no longer need actual qualified people to control it. It happens so often that people often rely on the machines to revive them. When Beatty teaches Montag about school over the years, he says, “School is shortened, discipline relaxed, philosophies, histories, language dropped, English and spelling gradually neglected, finally, almost completely ignored… Why learn anything save pressing buttons, pulling switches, fitting nuts and bolts?” People are learning less because they know that technology is able to do everything already.
People in society don’t feel the need to learn. They are also addicted to the technology since it supports them so much. An example of this is when Montag asked, “Will you turn the parlor off?’ He asked. ‘That’s my family.’ ‘Will you turn it off for a sick man?’ ‘I’ll turn it down.” Mildred is so addicted to the TV that she is prioritizing it over Montag, who was sick at the time. “Millie argues that the books have no meaning – they aren’t ‘people,’ as the characters in her television programs are.” (NFS). She even considers the TV family to be her actual family. Everything in her life revolves around the TV. “All Mildred needs to make her life complete is a fourth TV wall, so that she can, by the characters she watches and interacts with every day in her living room.” (NFS). Out of everything in the world, the only thing she really wants is a full TV. It really shows how they rank what is important in their life.
People in this society no longer need to learn nor have time to learn due to technology. Bradbury’s tale of a futuristic world seems like a place that is far from our reach, but if you look closely enough, we are actually not too far away from it. Our culture and daily life already rely on technology and sooner or later, our world might become just like the world in Fahrenheit 451. Bradbury may have written this to use to warn us about the dangers of technology and what it can do to our society. Boiling our lives down to a piece of wire, seems very scary, but in Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 people have become less intelligent both socially and mentally due to technology.
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