During the early 1950’s, the United States was involved in the Cold War with the Soviet Union. As a result of the fear of communism, which was the main party in the Soviet Union, McCarthyism began to target screen writers, authors, and artists who were thought to be a part of the communist party. If they did not comply with the committee, these people were blacklisted, the committee censoring their work. Ray Bradbury saw what censoring did for the public. During his time he also saw the influence of technology to the literary world. People began leaning toward television and radio to fill their time.
In his novel Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury uses the symbols of mirrors and the battle between technologies and nature to display the importance of literacy. Throughout his novel, Bradbury deals with the issues of self-expression and identity. In his society, everyone is the same, part of the same family. Bradbury uses the metaphor of the mirror from the very beginning of the book. His main character, Guy Montag, “knew that when he returned to the firehouse, he might wink at himself, a minstrel man, burnt-corked, in the mirror. ” (Bradbury, 13) In this passage, Montag does this as a reflex, not really seeing things below the surface.
Here Montag also states that he thinks of himself as just a fireman. When Montag first meets Clarisse McClellan, a neighbor girl, he is fascinated by her “incredible power of identification. ” (Bradbury, 18) Clarisse knows who she is, and she expresses it. Through her, Bradbury refers to mirrors once more. “How like a mirror … her face. Impossible, for how many people did you know who refracted your own light to you? … How rarely did other people’s faces take of you and throw back to you your own expression, your own innermost trembling thought? (Bradbury, 18) Mirrors are reflective, not only showing your visage, but people use it to reflect on their lives. An age old question is asked “Who am I? ” Self-expression is forced out of people’s lives in this book. Books are burned because they make people feel. In this society, that will not do. When Montag expresses a want to read books, his boss Beatty states, “With school turning out more runners, jumpers, racers, tinkerers, grabbers, snatchers, fliers, and swimmers instead of examiners, critics, knowers, and imaginative creators, the word ‘intellectual,’ of course, became the swear word it deserved to be. (Bradbury, 47) Beatty states negative feelings when explaining life with books. It was too controversial with so many differencing opinions. Bradbury shows what a mindless; “hive” style of society is like. Everyone has no way to express many different emotions. People are arrested every day for violence in the streets. At the end of the book, an atomic bomb wipes out the city. A man who helps Montag once he is out of the city says that they need “to build a mirror factory first and put out nothing but mirrors … and take a long look in them”. Bradbury, 116) Bradbury believed that you could find yourself through works. Starting in 1932, he wrote every day for at least 69 years. (In His Words). Books and writing could be seen as a mirror. We write in a journal to reflect on what we have done, or what we think. That is what writhing is, our opinions. Author Neil Gaiman says, “It’s important for people to tell you what side they are on and why, and whether they might be biased. ” (Gaiman) Without a way of expressing this, we could have a society like one in the book.
That is what Bradbury was trying to get across to his audience. In his novel, Bradbury frequently compares technology and nature. From the very beginning, he displays he thoughts that technology was taking over nature in the public’s minds. Clarisse states “I sometimes think drivers don’t know what grass is, or flowers, because they never see them slowly. ” (Bradbury, 16) As she and Montag talk over the next few days, she enthusiastically speaks of nature, even asking Montag to taste the rain. This moment changes his life, as he has never noticed the things she talks of before.
Nature is mostly ignored. Clarisse is a stark contrast to Montag’s wife Mildred. When he arrives home, she is in bed listening to her radio, like she has done for the past two years. She talks often of her “family” on TV, speaking about them as if they are actually related to her. “Does your ‘family’ love you, love you very much, love you with all their heart and soul, Millie? ” (Bradbury, 59), Montag asks her. She is baffled by this question, thinking the answer is obvious. Mildred represents most of the public in the book, which is very superficial.
TV screens take over most of the walls in their homes, showing their importance in the culture. On another occasion, Montag tries to have a conversation with Mildred and three of her friends. To get their attention he has to turn off the TV, only then do they listen to him. He reads to them, but they do not understand what he is trying to explain to them. They start felling things and become upset. While on the train, Montag tries to read the Bible, but is distracted by a radio commercial for toothpaste. Frustrated with it, he gets up and yells out words from the passage he is reading. Bradbury, 60) Bradbury was showing that we let our technology distract us from real life. That it takes us away from seeing the world around us. When Montag finally gets out of the city he is overwhelmed by the sounds of nature. He feels it all wound him. Today in our society, these ideas and suggestions by Bradbury are shown everywhere in our real life. We are so distracted by technology. Many jokes are made of how youth do not know how to communicate without their cell phone. In Fahrenheit 451, Clarisse is told she needs to be more social, though she speaks a lot.
Our society deems face to face interaction less desirable then a quick text, or snap chatting. Our ability to communicate has lessened. Neil Gaiman also shares the same sentiments as Bradbury towards literacy. In his lecture on why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming, he states “The drive to know what happens next, to want to turn the page, the need to keep going, even if it’s hard, because someone’s in trouble and you have to know how it’s all going to end … that’s a very real drive. And it forces you to learn new words, to think new thoughts, to keep going. (Gaiman) He goes on to state why we need to promote reading. Literacy creates a more well-rounded society. Through Fahrenheit 451, we are shown how censorship can breakdown a society and how literacy promotes a better one. Works Cited Bradbury, Ray. “In His Words. ” In His Words. Raybradbury. com, 2001. Web. 24 Nov. 2013. Bradbury, Ray, Neil Gaiman, and Jonathan R. Eller. Fahrenheit 451. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2013. EPUB. Gaiman, Neil. “Neil Gaiman: Why Our Future Depends on Libraries, Reading and Daydreaming. ” The Guardian. The Guardian, 15 Oct. 2013. Web. 23 Nov. 2013.