Fahrenheit 451 is a story based in a future dystopia where books have become against the law and firefighters use flamethrowers to destroy books. However, while these are a big part of the story and overall warning, technology in this story is also heavily used to influence how people see the world.

Within most houses, a Virtual Reality set is in a room, that is projected on the wall as a giant TV which is always spewing loads and loads of false information into people’s brains. Many people had become addicted to the VR, like Montag’s Wife, Millie. She had become so addicted that she wanted to install a fourth wall in a room so that she would have the walls talking to her everywhere she looked. “…It’s really fun. It’ll be even more fun when we can afford to have a fourth wall installed. How long you figure before we save up and can have the fourth wall out and the fourth wall-TV in?”. These VR walls had people and voices in them that addicted people began to call ‘family’ as if they were real and a part of their lives. However, these voices were only able to provide opinions that were programmed into them, which was programmed by the government, meaning that all the information that was given was either false or edited to sound better than it actually was. This misuse of technology lead people to believe everything that was coming out of the VR walls to be true. This causes people to lose their opinions, and by losing opinions the people lose their individuality, causing them to be less and less human. Also, the loss of opinions causes people to stop challenging whether or not what they are being told is true, and while this causes less arguments, it does cause people to be less happy than what they would be if they had their own opinions and thoughts on issues that mattered.

Alongside these VR parlors, little devices that were known as ‘Seashells’ provided the same kind of false information that the VR parlors did. However, these could be used while sleeping and while outside of the VR room, which meant that they were being influenced wherever they went and had them in their ears. The first time we are introduced to them is when Montag’s wife, Mildred, is attempting suicide, and Montag states that he can hear them from inside her ears behind the door. “The little mosquito-delicate dancing hum in the air, the electrical murmur of a hidden wasp snug in its special pink warm nest. The music was almost loud enough so he could follow the tune”. The ‘Seashells’ were used as a distraction device, and stopped Montag’s wife from thinking twice about killing herself because she was being distracted by the fake news that she believed in.

Another piece of technology that is heavily misused is the mechanical hounds that the firemen use to find suspects that may have books. These hounds can be programmed to have information fed into them, and this means that hounds can be programmed to target anyone. This also means that normal citizens of the cities are not safe from the hounds as the firemen can have them taken down by a hound. A good example of this would be when Montag goes down to work and inspects the hound. As he is inspecting it, it activates and becomes aggressive towards him. “Montag touched the muzzle. The Hound Growled. Montag jumped back. The hound half-rose in its kennel and looked at him with green-blue neon eyes”. It was later revealed that the hound was being fed information that made the hound think Montag had books (which he did) by his boss at the fire station. This is evidence that the hounds can be programmed to target anyone and that no one is safe from them.

While the hounds are a heavy misuse, the firemen that use and control them are even bigger misuses. While they themselves are not technology you would normally think of, because they were given a purpose to help other humans, we can think of them as technology. These are essentially the military police of the cities, who use flamethrowers and the hounds to control what people are taught and think. They are hired by the government to go around with flamethrowers and burn down houses with books inside them. On occasion, they have to burn the people in the houses as they refuse to leave. One example was when Montag and the other firemen go to a call about a house filled with books. The woman who owned them all refused to leave and instead lit herself on fire inside the house along with the books. The firemen there with Montag did not think anything of her when she killed herself, dismissing it as “a failed demonstration”. “…You can stop counting. She opened the fingers of one hand to reveal a single slender object. It was an ordinary kitchen match.“.Also, as mentioned before, the firemen control the Hounds, meaning that they are the ones who program it with information on people that they want to hurt or end up in jail.

Another form of technology that is misused is drones. In this story, while Montag is being hunted by the government after killing all of his old co-workers, burning his own house, and destroying a hound, they use drones to fly around and find him. These drones were sending live feeds back to the VR parlors, where people could watch the live chase for Montag. This chase was put forward as entertainment for the public, as they wanted to make it seem like it was better than what was actually happening. Alongside this, the drones were also used to spy on other people in the public. This is a massive invasion of privacy, and even scarier is the fact that this technology exists in our world today.

The final form of misused technology is another real threat from our reality, and at this time the threat of it happening is becoming increasingly high. Nuclear bombs and warfare are a big part of this story, as it is a time where America has gone to war against England, and as the world in this book is so evolved, the warfare is very advanced and uses nuclear bombs as a means of total destruction. The aircraft that are constantly flying over head in this book gives you a sense as to how alert and serious both countries are. In the very end of the book, Montag stands outside his old city and watches as bombs are dropped on it, destroying the city and everyone he knew within it. “The first bomb struck. Montag, falling flat, going down, saw or felt, or imagined he saw or felt the walls go dark in Millie’s face, heard her screaming, because in the millionth part of time left, she saw her own face reflected there…“.

Join the conversation! 2 Comments

  1. Hi Steven,

    Do come and have a chat with me if you would like to be considered for extra time for this piece. We can also talk about where you could take it from here. Nice going so far!

    CW

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  2. To develop this further, I would concentrate on the following two things:

    1) Your introduction should provide a more detailed expression of your view of how this society has gone wrong – and what its basic flaws are. What is missing at the moment is an explanation of why it’s so important in this society that people don’t access the knowledge available in books and what it might be that the state is trying to distract the population from noticing. Then you’ll be able to focus each of your (well-written) paragraphs about technology’s mis-use on why this is happening on a state level.

    2) You have selected some good quotations, but are often leaving them to speak for themselves. This is missing an opportunity. Remember that if you explore and explain the quotes in terms of what additional information we can gather from them. This might mean in some cases choosing a better quote – I think this would be needed in your paragraph about the parlours, as there are extensive quotations in the text about the damage they’re doing to Mildred.

    Here’s a reminder of the paragraph we worked on as a class about the seashells that then went on to explore the quotation itself, rather than just left it to speak for itself:

    “The seashells are a kind of ear buds that are constantly on the news radio station. “She just lay there not saying anything with the sea shells chirping in her ear”. At this point in the novel Montag’s wife Mildred was lying on her bed with the ‘seashells’ in her ears and in a coma due to the overdose she had just taken. This moment is significant because the incessant emptiness of the media projected through the ‘seashells’ contributed to the despair that lead to Mildred wishing herself dead. The seashells are also an effective metaphor, because like a shell at the sea, while people think what they’re hearing is something of substance, what they really hear is an empty echo.”

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