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– Entire walls that act as televisions – Years worth of pay – These TVs show serial dramas in which the viewer’s name is woven into the program and the viewer is able to interact with fictional characters called “the relatives” or “the family.” Scenes change rapidly, images flash quickly in bright colors, all of it designed to produce distraction and fascination.
“Seashell ear thimbles”
– When individuals are not paying attention to the parlor wall, driving too fast to think, or working, they are lost at sea sleeping with seashell ear thimbles, miniature radio receivers that play constant broadcasts of news, advertisements, and music, drowning out the real sounds of the world.
Throughout the novel, Bradbury portrays mass media as a veil that obscures real experience and interferes with the characters’ ability to think deeply about their lives and societal issues
– Bradbury isn’t suggesting that media other than books couldn’t be enriching and fulfilling. As Faber tells Montag, “It isn’t books you need, it’s some of the things that once were in books…. The same infinite detail and awareness could be projected through the radios and televisors, but are not.”
Society chose to give up knowledge
As Beatty explains to Montag, people didn’t stop reading books because a tyrannical government forced them to stop. They stopped reading books gradually over time as the culture around them grew faster, shallower, intellectually blander, and centered around minor thrills and instant gratification. In such a culture, books became shorter, magazine and newspaper articles became simpler, cartoon pictures and television became more prevalent, and entertainment replaced reflection and debate.
– Pleasure-seeking and distraction are the hallmarks of the culture in which Montag lives – Hedonism and mindless entertainment are the norm, and so long as the people in the society of Fahrenheit 451 stick to movies and sports and racing their cars, pursuits that require little individual thought, they’re left alone by society. – Those who question and represent individuality like Clarisse, who has little interest in the thrill-seeking of her peers and would rather talk, observe the natural world firsthand, and ask questions, are snuffed out of society – People like her end up at best social out-casts to society at worst they are killed like Clarisse most likely was
Lost in humanity: why do people drive so fast, keep Seashell ear thimbles in their ears, and spend all day in front of room-sized, four-walled TV programs?
– According to Beatty, the constant motion and titillation is designed to help people suppress their sadness and avoid any kind of intense emotion or difficult thoughts and experiences. The people of Fahrenheit 451 have to come to equate this motion, fun, and distraction with happiness. – However, Fahrenheit 451 makes the case that engaging with difficult and uncomfortable thoughts and experiences is the only routes to true happiness. Only by being uncomfortable, or experiencing things that are new or awkward, can people achieve a real and meaningful engagement with the world and each other. – The people in the novel who lack such engagement, such as Mildred, feel a profound despair, which in turn makes them more determined to distract themselves by watching more TV, overdosing on sleeping pills, or letting technicians use a specialized machine to suck away their sadness. – Fahrenheit 451 teaches us that the only way to overcome this is to rely in ourselves and “acknowledges his own unhappiness can Montag make the life-changing decision to find Faber and resist his society’s oppressive “happiness” and thought-suppression that he, as a fireman, once enforced.”
Reflecting on you emotions to overcome conformity and placing pleasure over thought and debate so that we do not have to face what makes us sad, humanity
“Are you happy?” — Clarisse McClellan – Fahrenheit 451 teaches us that the only way to overcome this is to rely in ourselves and “acknowledges his own unhappiness can Montag make the life-changing decision to find Faber and resist his society’s oppressive “happiness” and thought-suppression that he, as a fireman, once enforced.” – “We have everything we need to be happy, but we aren’t happy. Something’s missing. I looked around. The only think I positively knew was gone was the books I’d burned in ten or twelve years. So I thought books might help.” — Montag
Too much, too fast causes us to not be able to digest
“Speed up the film, Montag, quick… Uh! Bang! Smack! Wallop, Bing, Bong, Boom! Digest-digests, digest-digest-digests. Politics? One column, two sentences, a headline!… Whirl man’s mind around about so fast under the pumping hands of publishers, exploiters, broadcasters that the centrifuge flings off all unnecessary, time-wasting thought!” — Captain Beatty
Guns created controversy undermining equality and therefore they need to be limited causing loss in individuality making every exactly equal losing self reliance
“We must all be alike. Not everyone born free and equal, as the Constitution says, but everyone made equal. Each man the image of every other; then all are happy, for there are no mountains to make them cower, to judge themselves against. So! A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it. Take the shot from the weapon.” — Captain Beatty
What is happiness?
“The important thing for you to remember, Montag, is we’re the Happiness Boys… you and I and the others. We stand against the small tide of those who want to make everyone unhappy with conflicting theory and thought. We have our fingers in the dike. Hold steady. Don’t let the torrent of melancholy and drear philosophy drown our world.” — Captain Beatty
“We are living in a time when flowers are trying to live on flowers, instead of growing on good rain and black loam.” — Faber
Animal and nature imagery
Animal and nature imagery pervades the novel. Nature is presented as a force of innocence and truth, beginning with Clarisse’s adolescent, reverent love for nature. She convinces Montag to taste the rain, and the experience changes him irrevocably. His escape from the city into the country is a revelation to him, showing him the enlightening power of unspoiled nature.
Much of the novel’s animal imagery is ironic. Although this society is obsessed with technology and ignores nature, many frightening mechanical devices are modeled after or named for animals, such as the Electric-Eyed Snake machine and the Mechanical Hound.
Conformity and lack of knowledge results in having to accept it
“People don’t talk about anything…and nobody says anything different from anyone else” This quote, from Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, demonstrates how this fictional society had no individuality, yet they expressed no disprovement of the conformity. To be so simple minded as this civilization was would have eventually lead to self-destruction. To support my theory, recall in the novel when the old lady chose to commit suicide because she did not have freedom. She felt that even though she was “free” she was “enslaved” by the enforcement of limited knowledge.
Knowledge brings about self reliance
Something’s missing” to be happy and the only thing that is missing in the futuristic society are books which lead to knowledge.
People wouldn’t be so self-centred, which would contribute to a happier and more united society. In the novel Bradbury explains that people in that society didn’t even take care of their children, and they were a burden for their parents. When Mildred met with her friends, they met to watch the television together, not to talk like people would nowadays. Mildred also interacted more with her “family” (which were fictitious people) than with her husband. The lack of knowledge of the people in “Fahrenheit 451” also Impedes people from imagining things and being creative. Imagination is the first step to set out goals and people in “Fahrenheit 451” don’t have the power to do that. They don’t even have religions (such as Jesus being a member of the family) and people can’t have faith or hopes, which brings them satisfaction.
Bradbury warns us that if we don’t pay attention to knowledge and focus too much on material objects (such as Mildred does with her “parlor walls”) then our society will become similar to the society in “Fahrenheit 451”.
They think happiness is talking to television screens or burning books.
Bradbury says people should consider books and treat them with respect. People should also interact with one another and not be tied to looking at a screen. Bradbury also disapproves of the education people get in “Fahrenheit 451”, because their education leads them to not think and to not respect books.
The people in Montag’s society have a world that revolves around key material possessions: their t.v. walls and their fast cars. The t.v. walls are extremely expensive; so expensive, in fact, that one wall alone costs “one-third of Montag’s yearly pay.” So 4 months of salary would be sucked down the tubes through one t.v. wall. It would take their entire life’s earnings to keep up with the entertainment expectations that Mildred has. Also, Clarisse alludes to the fact that all of her friends have cars that they like to drive around really fast, causing havoc and violence; in fact, “ten of them died in car wrecks” from their driving. Mildred, when she is upset, likes to take their car out and “get it up around ninety-five and you feel wonderful.” So, their society’s entire happiness is centered around these material possessions; it is a way for them to escape, to not have to think, and to drown their miseries. Later, Montag is talking about all of the wars that they have gotten into and wonders why, saying,
“Is it because we’re so rich and the rest of the world’s so poor…we’re well fed.”
So at least in his society, they are rich, well fed, and living a life filled with ease and comfort.
Today, there are many similarities. Many people think that they can find happiness in money; many parents buy their kids things in order to show their love and provide a “better life” for their kids. In fact, it has been materialism, and the desire for bigger and better things that has, in part, contributed to the economic recession that we are now in. Too many people wanted a house, and wanted to have nice things, even if they couldn’t afford it. That has caused a lot of economic turmoil, and led only to more unhappiness, just as the people in Montag’s society were surrounded by comforts, but miserable.
Self reliance in inherent actions: trusting what felt right
“So it was the hand that started it all . . . His hands had been infected, and soon it would be his arms . . . His hands were ravenous.”
This passage from “The Hearth and the Salamander” refers to Montag’s theft of books from the old woman’s house. Montag guiltily portrays his actions as an involuntary bodily reflex. He describes his crime as automatic and claims it involves no thought on his part. He blames his hands for several other crimes in the course of the book, and they become a powerful symbol for Montag’s instincts of rebellion, will, and moral imperative. Montag’s thoughtless actions here are akin to Mildred’s unconscious overdose, as they are the result of some hidden sense of dissatisfaction within him that he does not consciously acknowledge.
Montag regards his hands as infected from stealing the book and describes how the “poison works its way into the rest of his body.” Montag uses the word “poison” to refer to his strong sense of guilt and wrongdoing. Later, the novel incorporates a reference to Shakespeare, as Montag compulsively washes his hands at the fire station in an attempt to cleanse his guilt. His feeling they are “gloved in blood” is a clear reference to Lady Macbeth. Montag’s hands function as a symbol of defiance and thirst for truth.
We must all be alike
We must all be alike. Not everyone born free and equal, as the constitution says, but everyone made equal . . . A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it. Take the shot from the weapon. Breach man’s mind
Captain Beatty speaks these lines toward the end of “The Hearth and the Salamander” while explaining the revisionist history of firemen to Montag in his home. It is important to note that Beatty’s whole speech has an ironic sound.
Importance of books
Do you know why books such as this are so important? Because they have quality. And what does the word quality mean? To me it means texture. This book has pores. Faber speaks these words to Montag toward the beginning of “The Sieve and the Sand,” as he explains the importance of books. Faber tells Montag that it’s not the books themselves that Montag is looking for, but the meaning they contain. The same meaning could be included in existing media like television and radio, but people no longer demand it. According to Faber, Montag is really in search of “quality,” which the professor defines as “texture”—the details of life, that is, authentic experience. People need quality information, the leisure to digest it, and the freedom to act on what has been learned. Faber’s comment that a book has “pores” also evokes the sieve in the title “The Sieve and the Sand.” Trying to fill your mind by reading books is like trying to fill a leaking bucket, because the words slip from your memory before you can even finish reading anything.
Do you know why books such as this are so important? Because they have quality. And what does the word quality mean? To me it means texture. This book has pores. Faber speaks these words to Montag toward the beginning of “The Sieve and the Sand,” as he explains the importance of books. Faber tells Montag that it’s not the books themselves that Montag is looking for, but the meaning they contain. The same meaning could be included in existing media like television and radio, but people no longer demand it. According to Faber, Montag is really in search of “quality,” which the professor defines as “texture”—the details of life, that is, authentic experience. People need quality information, the leisure to digest it, and the freedom to act on what has been learned.
Technology and society today
Fahrenheit 451: Distraction versus Reality In our society today, social media and personal electronics consume so much of our time and mind space. In the novel Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury presents us with a futuristic dystopian society that marks a frightening resemblance to our own. In this culture, all books are burned and people are void of any desire to question their actions or those of the government. Although the protagonist Guy Montag plays a significant role in exposing the destructive qualities of this society,
Mildred demonstrates that constant distraction cause people to lose their ability to think for themselves
This is made evident when Mildred gets into an argument with one of her “family” members and when asked what the argument is about, “Mildred couldn’t say. Who was mad at whom? Mildred didn’t quite know” (45). Mildred is not arguing anything based on reality, and furthermore, it is ironic that she spends all of her time watching her parlor walls yet is clueless as to what she’s watching or why she is upset. This is further exemplified when Mildred tells Montag that she spent her evening watching the “best ever” (49) programs on her parlor televisions and upon being asked who was in the programs, Mildred replies that they were “oh, you know, the bunch”(49). The fact that Mildred cannot explain why the programs are meaningful to her shows that she truly cannot form individual thought or articulate any original opinions. Mildred and her friends also cannot think critically about their government when one of them remarks that “compare Winston Noble to Hubert Hoag for ten seconds and you can almost figure the results”(97). Mildred is not capable of forming thoughts that express her own opinion and individuality because she does not absorb or critically evaluate the events occurring in her life. Mildred spends all of her time behind a screen apparently content with these superficial relationships and artificial events.
Mildred and sleeping pills disconnection with herself yet she is inherently unhappy and her actions reflect this
In this first description, it is illuminated to readers that Millie has a sleeping pill addiction and that every night her mind is filled with waves that “come in and carry her away on their great tides of sound, floating her, wide-eyed, toward morning”(12).
Superficial conforming society
Relationships are experienced vicariously through television, people race cars without thought for consequences, and all books are burned without question. Because this society is so consumed with this artificial lifestyle, people are not able speak their minds with genuine and original thoughts, they lose connection in their relationships, and they completely isolate their minds from the rest of the world. Mildred’s society buys into this superficiality because the reality of life is too frightening to come to terms with. Although Bradbury’s mid twentieth century description of a modern world does not include social media or cell phones, the way that the people live in his invented dystopia bears a chilling resemblance to our society today. We as human beings are slowly becoming isolated from the world around us because we are so engrossed in our own personal screens and superficial television shows. Is our society headed towards that of Bradbury’s? The choice is ours. It is up to us to make a conscious decision every day to stay connected with our families, with nature, and ultimately, with ourselves.