“It was a pleasure to burn.” (Bradbury 7) In Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury creates a world where individuals on this production line they call society are swept into whirlpools of kerosene and eventually, fire. There are many overarching topics and themes to this book, such as conformity and censorship, but the one that will be examined in this blog post is: the prevalence of technology preys on pliant minds.
In Fahrenheit 451, the people of the society tend to seek out mindless, brainwashing entertainment. As an example, Mildred is always seen walking around with her “seashells,” little earpieces that you could use in order to listen to mindless talk as entertainment. “And in her ears the little Seashells, the thimble radios tamped tight, and an electronic ocean of sound, of music and talk and music and talk coming in, coming in on the shore of her unsleeping mind.” (Bradbury 16) The use of the word “seashell” is most likely a reference to the non-stop, roaring sound of the ocean you hear when you hold a seashell up to your ear. Another excellent example of mindlessness is when Mildred asks Montag for permission to install a fourth parlor wall, although it’s incredibly expensive: “‘It’s only two thousand dollars.’ ‘That’s nearly one-third of my yearly pay.’ ‘It’s only two thousand dollars,’ she replied.” (Bradbury 24) These passages of dialogue display Mildred’s reliance on technology and a detachment from reality mirrored later, when her friends are discussing the best candidate in the presidential election and the war.
In this book, Bradbury is trying to teach us the importance of keeping contact with the real world, rather than spend all our time on the mindless entertainment that may come with the prevalence of technology. Those who only seek mindless entertainment will fall victim to its alluring grasp. It is clear how influential technology has become in Fahrenheit 451, and it should also be clear how influential technology has become in our society. In Fahrenheit 451, the decline of thought was due to the public’s increasing demand for entertainment, not because the government decided to place a ban on books from the start. “There was no dictum, no declaration, no censorship, to start with, no!” (Bradbury 61) Technology quickly met people’s demands and intelligent entertainment fell out of favor, resulting in the dead society where everyone is Mildred. In our world today, we may meet similar challenges in the future as technological advancements take place.
In conclusion, an overarching theme in Fahrenheit 451 is the prevalence of technology and how it preys on the pliant minds of society. But such a world, no matter how many technological marvels it contains, will eventually burn, like all the rest.