An essay written about Fahrenheit 451
Technology is often a very interesting aspect in the genre of science fiction. Many times, the advancement in technology in dystopian novels leads to the retrogression of human society. Ray Bradbury’s novel, Fahrenheit 451, is one of the most esteemed science fiction novels published in the twentieth century. Originally, Bradbury had written Fahrenheit 451 as a much shorter story titled “The Fireman” which was published in Galaxy magazine in 1950. After his publisher urged him to go back and double the length of the book, Bradbury returned the basement of the library at UCLA and wrote the rest of Fahrenheit 451 on a typewriter charging ten cents every half hour. Eerily, in Fahrenheit 451, the society depicted in the story is reminiscent of society today. New developments in the world today like social media and the internet have become increasingly significant. Montag, the protagonist, is a firemen, who rebels against the society devoted to electronics and explores books, which are routinely burned and outlawed.The technology of the ages has cultured a society where the people are becoming more dehumanized, as predicted in Fahrenheit 451.
A recurring theme in Fahrenheit 451 is the complete absorption of people’s attention to the electronic world at all times. The society Bradbury depicts is without books, but with different forms of entertainment. The people in the novel have Seashells, which are like wireless earbuds that broadcast music or the radio as well as TV parlors where entire walls are televisions whose characters interact with the viewer. In the beginning of the book, Montag meets a young girl named Clarisse who changes his perspective on his current state. She also mentions how teens are causing harm with no remorse, saying “everyone I know is shouting or dancing around like wild or beating up one another” (Bradbury 30). Her peers view others are dispensable and think it is normal if they die. Because of the world they live in, people have no consideration for a human life, but instead, people regard technology as something human, like when Mildred treats technology as an intimate part of her life. She is constantly immersed in the parlor with the televisions. In fact, Mildred has become so fond of her parlor that she believes “[her] ‘family’ is people” (Bradbury 73), or genuine in existence. Mildred cannot distinguish what is real and what is not real. She thinks that the fictional characters she watches are as real as Montag, and even holds her “‘family’” (Bradbury 73) as more important. A sign of her complete detachment to her husband is when she reports Montag to the firemen because of the books he’s harboring. Instead of sympathizing and remaining loyal to Montag, she betrays him and only mourns the loss of her television screens. She has spent most of her life with Montag, but cares more deeply about her “‘family’” (Bradbury 73), imaginary individuals, than her actual partner.
Today, teens are also incredibly attached to screens of their own. When interviewed young adults stated that on average, they “spent eleven hours in front of screens every day” (Kosoff) participating in social media and video and movie streaming services as well as at school. The rise of smartphones and other electronics have fostered a new generation who uses these commodities constantly, and without abandon. With all of these new technologies, happiness is decreasing instead of increasing. In fact, in a recent study, the amount of Americans who reported to be very happy was 33 percent, “dropping from the 35 percent who reported being very happy in 2008 and 2009” (Gregoire). Technology does not improve the quality of life people are living, and more and more people are committing suicide or overdosing on drugs. The amount of drug overdoses is increasing exponentially, where “in 2014, there were almost three times as many deaths from prescription drug overdose than there were in 2001” (Ellis). In the past years, the deaths from suicide are increasing as more people do not see the value in their lives. In a world filled with technology, the number of suicides are increasing as more people use devices to fill them up with a false sense of happiness in lieu of searching for legitimate happiness.
Of course, Fahrenheit 451 may be a warning, but is not the truth. Teens are not violent and harsh, but engage in normally harmless activities online. Social media enhances everyday life as it provides a place where people can be “heard and often validated” (Kosoff). Therefore, technology can also aid a person to expressing their humanity and connects people all over the world. News can also spread faster online, and young adults today have opportunities to stay more aware about world affairs. Teenagers today could be the most informed generation due to the amount of education they are receiving. In general, the more education people receive, the more they will likely read in the future, since having class stimulates reading even when school ends. Luckily, today’s generation of young adults are more educated than other past generations, with “85 percent of the high-school class of 2004 [having] at least some postsecondary education” (Weissman), meaning books and reading seem to be on the incline instead of the decline. Books teach readers humanity and reveal truths about humanity. As a result, people are continuing to read and holding onto sensitivity.
While there may be some positive aspects to technology, the overall effect of technology on society today is adverse. Fahrenheit 451 shows what soon could be a reality as the society becomes more entrenched in technology. Bradbury envisioned a future where people would rather interact with a screen than interact with other people, and our society is also moving towards that depiction. However, the problems being created do not stem from technology itself but rather how technology is used. People are allowing themselves to be swept away into an artificial world created by technology, technology is not truly controlling the people. If electronics were used responsibly, then technology would be an invaluable tool able to improve society and allow humans to achieve great feats.
Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451. New York: Ballantine, 1991. Print.
Ellis, Mary Ellen. “Drug Overdose.” Healthline. Healthline, 5 Dec. 2016, http://www.healthline.com/health/drug-overdose#Definition1. Accessed 15 Feb.
Gregoire, Carolyn. “Happiness Index: Only 1 In 3 Americans Are Very Happy, According To Harris Poll.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 01 June 2013, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/01/happiness-index-only-1-in_n_3354524.html. Accessed 14 Feb. 2017.
Kosoff, Maya. “60 Teenagers Reveal What They Think Is Cool – and What Isn’t – in 2016.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 28 Jan. 2016, http://www.businessinsider.com/what-teens-are-like-in-2016-2016-1/#who-did-we-talk-to-1. Accessed 15 Feb. 2017.
Weissman, Jordan. “The Decline of the American Book Lover.” The Atlantic. Atlantic
Media Company, 21 Jan. 2014, https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/01/the-decline-of-the-american-book-lover/283222/. Accessed 11 Feb. 2017.