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Fahrenheit 451: A Glimpse of the 21st Century
Fire! It is hard to imagine firemen starting fires instead of putting them out. Yet that is what occurs in Ray Bradbury’s novel, Fahrenheit 451. Writing in 1953, Bradbury warns readers about a future that could happen. Bradbury notices dehumanization in society as technology makes people become less personable and less capable of independent thought. Bradbury observes that the more addicted people become to technology, the less they socialize and the less they care about other people. Much of the dehumanization that occurs in Fahrenheit 451 has actually come to be true in the beginning of the 21st century.
In the world of Fahrenheit 451, books are burned. Guy Montag is a fireman who starts fires rather than putting them out as fireman do in our society. People are not allowed to own books and Guy knows that “It’s against the law!" (Bradbury 8) The only books people are allowed to read are how-to books, guide books, and rule books. Consequently no one is reading any books that make them think about the past, present, or future. Bradbury is concerned about censorship and independent thought and that people won’t be allowed to read books that cause them to think for themselves.
Even though in the present world books are not burned, statistics from Information Please Database show that people hardly ever read books for fun. Most adolescents only read them for school. A survey comparing time spent reading and watching T.V. was taken of people from the ages of fifteen to sixty- five and over. People from the ages fifteen to twenty- four said that they only spend ten minutes reading on both weekdays and weekends. About 90 million adults, 48% of the adult population, are only on levels one and two in functional literacy. This means they can only read directions, picture captions, and job forms.
The activity that people do instead of reading is watching T.V. Bradbury shows that people will choose T.V. over books. Watching T.V. means that people will be less educated. In Fahrenheit 451, Guy’s wife, Mildred, spends most of time focusing on the T.V screen. She often talks to the T.V as if she were in a play. Mildred wants to extend her involvement with technology and has little desire to do anything else:
It’s really fun. It’ll be even more fun when we can afford to have the fourth wall installed. How long you figure before we save up and get the fourth wall torn out and a fourth wall-TV put in? It’s only two thousand dollars (Bradbury 20).
All Mildred want to spend money on is another T.V. screen. Then she will be completely surrounded by T.V. Bradbury shows that in his society T.V is more important than spending time with other people.
In today’s society, people often choose to watch T.V. over other activities. They read less, spend less time outside, and spend less time interacting with their family and friends. People often eat their meals while watching T.V. One research study done by The National Endowment for the Arts and reported in Information Please Database showed some alarming trends:
People age 15-24 spend 1hour and 57 minutes each weekday watching T.V., people age 35-44 spend 1 hour and 53 minutes each weekday watching T.V., and people age 55-64 spend 2 hours and 35 minutes each weekday watching T.V. All of these age groups spent even more time viewing T.V. on the weekends than they did during the week. (http://www.infoplease.com)
This study shows that people spend a great deal of time “vegetating” in front of a T.V. screen rather than interacting with others or using their minds to think. It is hard to understand how the youngest age group studied, those between the ages of fifteen and twenty-four, had the time to watch T.V. for almost two hours a day during the school week. It seems like these young people would be students with homework and extra-curricular activities to do rather than watching T.V.
Two other inventions that exist in the world of Fahrenheit 451 are the ear thimble and the seashell ear. The ear thimble is like a cell phone. Montag uses it to talk to his retire professor friend, Faber, and Faber can talk back to him on it. It rests in the ear and allows people to communicate with each other at long distance. The seashell ear is plugged into the ear and provides music to the listener. Montag’s wife Mildred uses the seashell ear when she is not watching T.V. Mildred is more connected to what she is watching or listening to than to other people, including her husband Guy Montag. These inventions interfere with her personal relationships.
In today's society, cell phones and Blue tooth cell are identical to the ear thimble while the iPod is much like the seashell ear. A research study shows that over eighteen million cell phones can be found in our country. (http://ezinearticles.com) A research study shows that 82% of Americans own cell phones.( http://swicthed.com) Another study from C&R Research shows that 60% of teenagers from the ages ten to fourteen own cell phones. These studies show that a majority of Americans own cell phones, no matter what their age. Cell phone use is so common in America that cell phones are used almost everywhere. People are seen talking on their Bluetooth or cell phone while shopping, including while they are in the checkout line. There are times when a cashier or the employee at the customer service desk has the customer wait while they are on their phone. These interactions are indeed rude and totally impersonal.
The same behavior happens when people are using iPods. Some people listen to their iPods when they are at work, and when another person tries to talk to them, they will not hear that other person. According to a recent study, about 22 million American adults, 11 percent of the U.S. population, own iPods or similar MP3 players (http://news.cnet.com), and one out of every five people under the age of thirty own an iPod. When people are listening to the iPod they often get distracted from what they are doing. Sometimes when people are listening to their iPods they will be singing along with the iPod. People act as if they are in their own world. While listening to their iPod, they are not very connected to other people or to their environment. In Fahrenheit 451, Montag’s wife rarely talks to her husband because she is constantly plugged into her seashell ear listening to music just like people with their iPods.
Bradbury imagined the future as a world without books. He saw that as more technology is invented, people will spend less time reading, thinking, and interacting with others. It is obvious that many of Bradbury’s fears have come true in today’s society. Bradbury observed human beings becoming very addicted to technology and as a result becoming less social. With computers, social networking, iPods and TV, people today stay home and stare at screens all day.
Bradbury imagined the future as a world without books. He saw that as more technology is invented, people spend less time reading, thinking, and interacting with others. It is obvious that many of Bradbury’s fears have come true in today’s society. Bradbury observed human beings becoming very addicted to technology and less social. With computers, social networking, iPods and TV, people are beginning to resemble the mindless characters in Fahrenheit 451.