A/N: I wrote this for an assignment at school and would really appreciate some feedback on it. Be as nitpicky/broad as you like, I'll take what I can get. ^^"
It may not seem apparent, but our society is steadily changing into a dystopian reality―and the causes lie in the very way we live. Ray Bradbury highlights many of these reasons in his novel Fahrenheit 451. Set in the future, it shows Americans as empty shells of people that have shallow thoughts and deep, hidden sadness. Both societies have similarities and differences in the use of technology and the attitude most people have towards human relationships.
In Fahrenheit 451, people’s whole lives revolve around television and entertainment. Beatty tells Montag as much in his lecture about the reason America is the way it is; “‘[I]f the play is hollow, sting me with the theremin, loudly. I’ll think I’m responding to the play, when it’s just a tactile reaction to vibration. But I don’t care. I just like solid entertainment’” (Fahrenheit 451, p.61). In the novel, many people have “wall-TV” screens instead of walls, into a parlor dedicated to television. There, they are bombarded with flashes of images and cacophonic noises, many of which bear no relation to the others. An example of this is when Mildred and her friends are watching in the parlor, entranced by the vivid colors and motion. “Abruptly the room took off on a rocket flight into the clouds, it plunged into a lime-green sea where blue fish ate red and yellow fish. A minute later, Three White Cartoon Clowns chopped off each other’s limbs to the accompaniment of immense incoming tides of laughter… ‘Millie, did you see that?’ ‘I saw it, I saw it!’” (Fahrenheit 451, p.94) The video clips are abrupt, flashy, and full of movement, and seem to beat down the watcher into believing everything that is shown. “But with all my knowledge and skepticism, I have never been able to argue with a one-hundred-piece symphony orchestra, full color, three dimensions, and being in and part of those incredible parlors,’” Faber says when he is pointing out a major distinction between books and wall-TVs: books can be closed and thought about, but television that spans walls in your room encases you and prevents you from thinking on your own. In contrast, the case is not as bad in our society, though it is getting worse. As time passes, more and more people are choosing to spend time on their devices instead of doing physical activity, finding a hobby unrelated to computers, or talking to people. In fact, “[t]oday children are more dependent upon electronics and less dependent on human interaction” (“Technology: Is it making kids anti-social?”). Unlike what Ray Bradbury predicted, we have made our screens small―smartphones―and take them wherever we go. In 2014, it was “estimated that children spend an average of seven hours per day in front of a screen either watching television, playing video games or using the computer, according to ICMPA” (“Technology: Is it making kids anti-social?”). It is 2019 now, almost 2020, so it is safe to assume that the average numbers have only increased since then. However, this is not always the case for certain families. My mother strictly limits my screen time to just homework and a bit more to do extra things, such as write stories or find food recipes. Otherwise, I’m expected to find something to do that does not require a screen. We don’t even own a TV, which is one of the reasons I read so much. Also, not being glued to the screen has opened up multiple hobbies for me, including karate, drawing, crochet, and making simple song covers on my piano keyboard. Most other people, including many of my friends, fall somewhere between those two extreme amounts of technology use, which is steadily increasing. The use of technology differs from household to household, but on the whole, our society is moving toward becoming the dystopian society described in Fahrenheit 451.
Another aspect that bears both startling similarities and differences between this society and the one in Fahrenheit 451 is the attitude people have on human relationships. In Fahrenheit 451, most seem to have a flippant, uncaring and almost ignorant attitude on relationships. In this particular quote, Mrs. Phelps is talking about her husband, Pete, who has gone to war. “‘I’m not worried,’ said Mrs. Phelps. ‘I’ll let Pete do all the worrying.’ she giggled. I’ll let old Pete do all the worrying. Not me. I’m not worried” (Fahrenheit 451, p.94). Mrs. Phelps evidently cares little for her and her husband’s relationship, and they seem to lack the emotional connection most people have when they get married. This is further accentuated when Mrs. Phelps continues. “‘Anyway, Pete and I always said, no tears, nothing like that. It’s our third marriage each and we’re independent… He said, if I get killed off, you just go right ahead and don’t cry, but get married again, and don’t think of me’’’ (Fahrenheit 451, p.95). Their attitude toward children is also similar: that children are “ruinous” and need to be taken care of as though they are a chore. As Mrs. Bowles, mother of two puts it, “‘I plunk the children in school nine days out of ten. I put up with them when they come home three days a month; it’s not bad at all. you heave them into the ‘parlor’ and turn the switch. It’s like washing clothes: stuff laundry in and slam the lid’” (Fahrenheit 451, p.96). There appears to be no familial love between Mrs. Bowles and her children, which is something nearly all parents have. There are even some who don’t understand the concept of love: “‘Millie, does--’ He licked his lips. ‘Does you ‘family’ love you, love you very much, love you with all their heart and soul, Millie?’ He felt her blinking slowly at the back of his neck. ‘Why’d you ask a silly question like that?’” (Fahrenheit 451, p.77). Montag realizes that Mildred does not truly understand what love is, that she only has an idealized, rushed idea of it based off of what she’d watched on the television. In fact, there was only one time Montag felt he really had a friendship—someone he could talk to, someone he could listen to--and that was Clarisse. “‘Why is it,’ he said one time, at the subway entrance, ‘I feel I’ve known you so many years?’ ‘Because I like you,’ she said, ‘and I don’t want anything from you. And because we know each other.’” He felt the very real connection, the connection of friendship, between him and Clarisse, and that made it different from all the other people he talked to. Similar to this, people still care about each other in our society. Many have a close circle of friends that they interact with regularly, and are affiliated with organizations/groups that share similar interests. Technology plays a big part in this; websites like Tumblr and Pinterest help people share their ideas, and social media like Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat, among others, helps us keep track of our friends’ and family’s lives and communicate more often. However, technology does have its drawbacks, including its effect on how people interact. Often in communicating via a screen, people say things they usually wouldn’t, in a way that they wouldn’t speak in orally. Many of my friends have completely different on-screen personalities that show when they’re typing. Some are nicer, even formal. Others use extremely excited language peppered with exclamation points and emoticons. Still others have a harsher, more matter-of-fact voice on the screen, which is very different compared to their way of speaking face-to-face. Technology creates a barrier, a shield between the person and the world which gives them the confidence to be different--sometimes in a negative way. “The impersonal communication that comes through technology and social media platforms results in arguments, opinions and unnecessarily crude remarks because the two communicating are not doing so face to face” (“Technology: Is it making kids anti-social?”). While most people don’t disregard their relationships as openly and shallowly as in Fahrenheit 451, I still notice friend groups getting together just to gossip about others or giggle about meaningless things, such as the color of someone’s painted toenails.
All in all, our society is changing into a version of the society described in Fahrenheit 451. Both societies, though they seem to be vastly different, have their own set of similarities and differences, especially about the use of technology and the attitude many have on human relationships. In Fahrenheit 451, wall-TVs are the center of people’s lives, whereas in our society, technology affects people’s lives in various ways, depending on who they are and how they live. Also in the novel, a flippant attitude is portrayed towards most human relationships, including friendship, family and marriage. This differs from our society in that we still have active human relationships. However, technology is inhibiting face-to-face conversation, which could lead us to end up like the majority of people in Fahrenheit 451. To prevent ourselves from going down this path, we must take breaks from technology to see, really see, the world and the people in it. Our world can be beautiful, and technology, amazing and limitless as it is, shouldn’t prevent us from seeing that.