My favorite book is Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. I love how it doesn’t tell the story in a traditional format. Instead, it takes the reader through the story as an experience which means you have to do quite a bit of inferring. But in the year 2021, the story is also a bit unsettling as it seems like we are creeping closer and closer to the dystopian and dysfunctional world in that novel. Read on to see my perspective, but this post may contain spoilers, so if you haven’t read the novel but plan to and don’t want parts of it ruined for you, then maybe stop here 🙂
- Wall TVs: our TVs keep getting bigger and bigger; soon they will literally be as big as an entire wall.
- Seashells: ear buds are very close to the seashells people use in the novel. Just take a look around the next time you are in public. People everywhere are plugged in to the ear buds, just like people in Fahrenheit 451.
- Banning books: while books are not anywhere close to illegal in our current society, we have started to remove books that people find offensive. This is a hot button issue for sure. Take the Dr. Seuss brouhaha. Yes, the books in question had racist material. But does that mean it should be completely removed and unavailable? I don’t know. To me, it seems enough to call the books out for what they are, and then they can sit on library shelves, maybe never to be checked out again. But what if I wanted to read them? What if I wanted to look at them through a new lens, trying to make sense of the racist depictions? Is it fair that I can’t access the books? Ultimately, the removal of some books because of offensive content starts a trek down a potentially very slippery slope.
- Cult mentality: just as people in the society of the novel seem to have a cult mentality, sticking to their misguided tenets, eschewing and actually turning in people who don’t follow those tenets, even people they love and care about. Politics over the past decade or so have cultivated a similar mindset, with people losing relationships with friends and family because of differences of opinions about politics and political figures.
- Death rituals being abridged, even eliminated: COVID has caused many families to have to skip the traditional goodbye rituals to loved ones who pass away. In the novel, when someone dies, there is no mourning or service to bring closure. The deceased is simply taken away and life goes on.
- Dependence on medication: so many people today are reliant on medication for stress, anxiety, depression, sleeplessness, etc. People use medication like its candy in Fahrenheit 451, and medication is so commonly used that even when the protagonist’s wife overdoses, the technicians who help her aren’t the least bit phased by it. Mildred herself thinks it’s impossible that she took too much medication, she takes so much that she can’t even fathom how it’s possible she took too much.
- Desensitization to death: there is a scene in the book where a car full of teens try to hit and kill the main character, Montag, with their car. Montag’s wife Mildred talks about how she goes out at night and drives her car fast, sometimes hitting and killing animals and how it makes her feel good to do that. We may not be having fun with killing (yet), but we sure seem accepting of it. Mass killings and school shootings are common place and don’t seem to be terribly shocking news and nobody seems interested in finding ways to make them stop.
Are you a fan of Fahrenheit 451? If so, do you see things the way I do, and did I miss any parallels? Or am I way off base with a really crappy, pessimistic attitude? I’d love to hear your thoughts!