”Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury Argumentative
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How plausible is the future envisioned in this novel?
The large screen televisions are believable – in fact, technology is currently leaning towards 48, 56″ TVs that nearly fill up the whole wall. When this book was written, it seemed like an obscure possibility that TVs would ever be that big.
The Seashell earphones are like CD players. People can be listening to them in one ear and having a somewhat normal interaction with the half of their brain that’s not listening to the music. In the futuristic setting, people are constantly being bombarded with what seems to be a normal radio, customized to use their name. Moreover, people listen to their seashells and watch TV at the same time. They need to be constantly stimulated from more than one source to keep them constantly entertained and that way they have no time to think. People in our society today multitask much, much more than in the 50s. People today talk on their cell phones and drive at the same time. They always have access to MP3 players, Discmans, 24-hour television broadcasting, even TVs and DVD players in their automobiles and in the plane.
In the 50’s, these appliances seemed futuristic, way-out, so to speak, but in the 21st century, we find them coming all too true.
The cars are capable of going about two hundred miles per hour, and people are arrested for driving too slowly. It seems that the people are always going so fast that they don’t have time to think. They’re arrested for driving too slowly – the government doesn’t want to give its people any leisure time to ponder. “‘If you showed a driver a green blur, oh yes! He’d say, that’s grass! A pink blur! A rose garden! White blurs are houses. Brown blurs are cows. My uncle drove slowly on a highway once. He drove forty miles an hour and they jailed him for two days.'”
The Mechanical Hound, featuring 21st century AI, is another example of technology that was almost completely fictitious in Bradbury’s time, but almost a reality now. The popular image of the crime fighting machine gone wrong was merely an idea in the brain of a science fiction writer half a century ago. “‘Its calculations can be set to any combination, so many amino acids, so much sulphur, so much butterfat and alkaline…all those chemical balances and percentages on all of us here in the House are recorded in the master file downstairs. It would be easy for someone to set up a partial combination in the hound’s ‘memory,’ a touch of amino acids, perhaps. That would account for what the animal did just now. Reacted toward me.'”
There was, of course, no reference, to computers of any kind, save the one inside the Mechanical Hound. There were not even any crude ideas of computers in the mid 20th century, no internet at all. The huge televisions were the most accurate to what life 50, 60 years from then is really like.
There are totalitarian governments in some places currently. It is conceivable that the country in the book might really have a totalitarian government today like the one described in this book. A few decades from now, when this book is set, it is unlikely that totalitarian governments will be abolished.
The systematic book-burning is a government-sponsored event. The government in the book wants people to remain ignorant. Mrs. Montag is a prime example of a citizen kept ignorant. She could be useful to her country’s rulers because she is a consumer and she blindly accepts anything the government does. If Mrs. Montag weren’t so blinded, she might object to the burning of books and murder of those who own them; the dangerously fast driving; the passivity of her neighbors who watch TV all day; the disappearance of the neighbor girl Clarisse. Mrs. Montag is completely nonchalant about these things:
“‘I meant to tell you. Forgot. Forgot.’
‘Tell me now. What is it?’
I think she’s gone.’
‘Whole family moved out somewhere. But she’s gone for good. I think she’s dead…got run over by a car. Four days ago. I’m not sure. But I think she’s dead. The family moved out, anyway. I don’t know. But I think she’s dead.’
‘You’re not sure of it.’
‘No, not sure. Pretty sure.’
‘Why didn’t you tell me sooner?’
‘Four days ago!’
‘I forgot all about it.’
Mrs. Montag is an easy citizen for the government to control. There are totalitarian governments today that employ technology, law and ignorance to control their citizens in a way that is to the government’s advantage.
Montag comes home one night to find his wife has overdosed on her sleeping medication. Two technicians come to “clean ’em out” with a machine specially designed for this purpose.
“‘The other machine operated by an equally impersonal fellow, in nonstainable reddish brown coveralls. The machine pumped all the blood from the body and replaced it with fresh blood and serum…’we get these cases nine or ten a night. Got so many, starting a few years ago we had the special machines built…You don’t need an M.D., case like this. All you need is two handymen, clean up the problem in half and hour. Look,’ – he started for the door – ‘we gotta go. Just had another call on the old ear thimble. Ten blocks from here. Someone else just jumped off the cap of a pillbox.'”
The people in the book are not happy, even though they have everything they want. The government controls people with Seashell Earphones that brainwash them with government tainted media messages all day, every day.