Technology in Fahrenheit 451
In the book, Fahrenheit 451, the main character, Guy Montag, is a fireman who starts fires rather than extinguish them. In this futuristic world, owning books is illegal, and if they are found in a house, firemen are sent over to burn it to the ground. Because books are forbidden, the people of this society don’t know how to understand complex ideas, or anything, that is even a little bit difficult. Once Guy meets his neighbor, Clarisse, and starts stealing books himself, he realizes that books hold more than just words; that they actually hold lessons and meanings that you can only get if your read them.
A common theme that appears in this book written by Ray Bradbury, is that society and constant technology distracts us from learning, and retaining knowledge.
One part from the book that supports this theme is when the sand and the sieve are talked about. Guy has a memory of being at the beach as a kid, trying to fill a sieve full of sand.
No matter how fast he tried to fill it, the sand sifted out through the cracks and the sieve ended up being empty. This relates to the theme because the sand is information and the sieve is people. There can be two types of information: sand, that represents the easy, basic information and pebbles, that represent the more complex information. Because of how technology packed society is, most of the information people take in is fast and easy to understand because it is so simple, but it isn’t useful to them so they don’t learn anything from it or retain it. It falls right through their cracks as if it were sand in a sieve. Now, think of the things written in books, or the information we have to search for to know. That is the kind of knowledge that can be represented by pebbles. To get complex information, people actually have to read, or spend time thinking about it. Because people work for that information, they remember it and learn from it. That is like pebbles being dropped into a sieve, they are to big to fall through the holes. This concept can be seen in multiple other places in the book, like how to billboards have to stretch extra long because people are going to fast to process them at a normal size, or how the ad for Denham’s Dentifrice is really short and simple so people can remember it easily.
This can compare to the real world because nowadays people are always focused on their phones and the instant gratification and entertainment that they get from them. Most people don’t like to take time to read stories for entertainment, or they don’t like to read a book and gain information. Most people just want to be able to get on their phones and look and social media or watch a movie that entertains them right away. An article that envelops this idea really well is one by ‘A Research Guide for Students.’ In this article the author talks about how most people now want instant sources of entertainment that don’t involve much thinking. A quote from the article says, ‘As we have sources of easy food that quickly makes us feel fed (e.g. hot dogs and hamburgers), we have the same sources of emotions. We can watch a soap opera to cry and rejoice, or a toilet humor comedy to have an easy fun. Classical literature, on the contrary, mostly invokes heavy thinking and controversial emotions’. This backs up the fact that most people now throw books on the back burner and rely on technology to learn things and entertain themselves. When things get difficult, evoke emotions or they don’t make sense, peoples brains want to shut down because they aren’t used to thinking hard. They are used to having things simplified for them so they do as little work as possible. Another quote from the article states, ‘But in modern life we are too often exhausted to the extent that our brain wants to go into power saving mode. Our brains are hardwired to be lazy, because in the wild nature it’s too energy-consuming to think too much.’ This further supports the theme that technology and society distracts us from learning.
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