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Dangers of Media in “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury Essay

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Updated: Jun 19th, 2022

Media consumption has increased immensely in recent decades, and this can be the beginning of the end of humanity. This comes to mind after reading Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, a science fiction novel depicting the world where books are burned by firemen for containing ideas that may make someone unhappy. Media, on the contrary, is highly encouraged and designed to fill in every minute of people’s spare time. In the novel, Bradbury shows that when media, especially TV, replace books, people become nothing but empty shells, with no life purpose and no ability to think critically and form their own judgments. The writer achieves this through his choice of setting, his portrayal of Mildred, and his depiction of the inner change that occurred in Montag throughout the novel.

The setting of the story helps readers understand the media impact on characters’ lives. The events of the novel seem to take place in an unknown American city in the twenty-first century, which was not a very distant future in 1953 when the book was written. In this future world, books are banned, but the media accompanies people everywhere. In their homes, they have TV-sets called “parlor walls” because they occupy several or all the room walls (Bradbury 7). On the streets, people are bombarded with advertisements, for example, “two-hundred-foot-long billboards,” which have been made this large because “cars started rushing by so quickly they had to stretch the advertising out so it would last” (Bradbury 7). The mentioning of these details shows that people in this world are always surrounded by lifelike media aiming to attract people’s attention by all means. Thus, it becomes clear to readers that, under such circumstances when media is highly available and books are prohibited, people have no other choice than yield to the media influence.

The character of Mildred, Montag’s wife, is used in the novel as an example of what happens to people when their lives are overly saturated with media. For Mildred, characters appearing on the parlor walls are more real and important than her husband (Abootalebi 11). For example, she does not turn off the television when her husband is sick or wants to talk to her. Mildred consumes media all the time: when she is not watching TV, she listens to the radio through the earphones called seashells. Referring to the radio sounds as “the sea,” Bradbury writes that “there had been no night in the last two years that Mildred had not swum that sea” (10). It seems that, for Mildred, media is the way of escaping reality in which she is not happy. Although the government removed all the books to prevent people from learning disturbing ideas and thus make them happy, the novel shows that this gave the opposite effect. Without valuable ideas found in books, people’s lives became shallow and purposeless.

The novel demonstrates the importance of books and the threats of media by depicting changes that occurred in Montag’s worldview throughout the plot. At the beginning of the story, Montag is a firefighter diligently doing his job of burning books. However, he develops an inner conflict after meeting Clarisse, who makes him realize that most people’s lives are empty and meaningless. The conflict escalates when Montag meets Faber, a retired English teacher who reveals to him that “it’s not books you need, it’s some of the things that once were in books” (Bradbury 78). The story reaches the climax when Montag is chased after, and the conflict resolves when the city is destroyed by bombing, but Montag survives by fleeing with a group of book lovers. According to Syvertsen, the story teaches that society can be rescued only by “removing oneself from … the mass media and seeking refuge in traditional literacy and writing” (53). Thus, the plot of the story is crafted so as to show that thoughtless media consumption is a road to nowhere, and society can thrive only if it consists of critically thinking people.

In conclusion, Bradbury uses the setting, the character of Mildred, and the plot depicting the development and resolution of Montag’s inner conflict to demonstrate the threat of replacing books with media. The novel serves as a warning to contemporary society regarding the use of media. The moral of the story is that people should be careful when consuming facts presented to them by the media and take their time to think over important life issues.

Works Cited

Abootalebi, Hassan. “The Omnipresence of Television and the Ascendancy of Surveillance/Sousveillance in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.” [email protected], vol. 19, no. 1, 2017, pp. 8-14.

Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451: A Novel. Simon and Schuster, 2012.

Syvertsen, Trine. Media Resistance. Palgrave Macmillan, 2017.

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IvyPanda. "Dangers of Media in "Fahrenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury." June 19, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/dangers-of-media-in-fahrenheit-451-by-ray-bradbury/.

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IvyPanda. 2022. "Dangers of Media in "Fahrenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury." June 19, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/dangers-of-media-in-fahrenheit-451-by-ray-bradbury/.

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IvyPanda. (2022) 'Dangers of Media in "Fahrenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury'. 19 June.

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