In Fahrenheit 451, what technology does Mildred use to go to sleep?

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Just before Montag realizes that his wife, Mildred, has attempted suicide, he finds her lying "uncovered and cold" on their bed. And in her ear is the technology that she uses to help her sleep:

His wife stretched on the bed, uncovered and cold, like a body displayed on the lid of a tomb, her eyes fixed to the ceiling by invisible threads of steel, immovable. And in her ears the little Seashells, the thimble radios tamped tight, and an electronic ocean of sound, of music and talk and music and talk coming in, coming in on the shore of her unsleeping mind. The room was indeed empty.

Although this book was written in the 1950s, the technology that Bradbury describes is eerily similar to many tiny earpieces used today and which have become increasingly popular in recent years. Through these tiny wireless headphones, Mildred is delivered the sounds that help her sleep at night—and on this night, the sounds she had hoped would take her to her death. Mildred has become so reliant on this technology (and other forms of it, such as the "family" who lives in their walls) that her mindless stare is not immediately of great concern to Montag.

These little Seashells and other technology which Mildred uses constantly throughout her day contribute to her vapid and meaningless life, which Montag ultimately comes into direct conflict with.

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Mildred takes sleeping pills to go to sleep. These are what she uses to try to commit suicide. She takes an entire bottle of thirty pills, and Montag has to rush her to the emergency room at the hospital.

But the sleeping pills are not enough. Mildred uses a technology called Seashells to soothe her to sleep. These seashell transmitters fit in her ears like thimbles, and through them she can listen to music and programs far into the night until she falls asleep.

Mildred needs all these sleeping aids because she leads an utterly vacant life, which is what her society conditions people to do. If she didn't narcotize herself through the meds and the seashells, she would be forced to face unpleasant thoughts about her existence that would keep her awake and unhappy at night.

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In addition to taking sleeping pills, Mildred wears Seashell thimble radios in her ears, which replicate the sounds of ocean waves and play meaningless talk radio. Mildred's Seashell radios also block out sounds, and Montag has difficulty speaking to her while she is listening to them. Bradbury writes that Mildred had become an expert lip-reader from ten years of constantly wearing Seashell ear thimbles and attempting to communicate with her husband. Mildred is portrayed as a callous, shallow woman, who lives in denial and refuses to analyze her meaningless life. She spends the majority of her day watching her interactive parlor walls and refrains from exercising her mind and body during the day. Mildred's inactivity and tortured soul contribute to her sleeping problems. In Part One, Montag returns home from work to discover that Mildred has overdosed on sleeping pills. When he enters his bedroom, all he can hear is the humming sound of Mildred's Seashell ear radios and is forced to call emergencies responders to revive her.

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In order to sleep, Mildred not only relies heavily on sleeping pills, she also relies on little earphones that she puts in her ears, that constantly plays music, entertainment, news and talk that her society channels in.  They are just like earbuds, but wireless, and Bradbury refers to them as Seashells--probably in reference to how if you hold a seashell up to your ear, there is the continuous sound of the ocean waves roaring.  These are just the same--there is non-stop news, entertainment, and mindless talk streaming constantly from these earphones.  As Montag walks in the first night, he sees Mildred in bed, listening:

"And in her ears the little Seashells, the timble radios tamped tight, and an electronic ocean of sound, of music and talk and music and talk coming in, coming on on the shore of her unsleeping mind."

So, even as she rests, Mildred is surrounded by noise, by constant entertainment, just like she is during the day with her t.v. walls.  Montag's society uses these seashells for two purposes.  The first is to control information, and hence, thought and potential rebellion.  If they are the ones controlling what information you get, they can tell you whatever they want, giving only one perspective, and painting a rosy picture so that people are never discontented.  They also use the shells to relay important information.  For example, when Montag escapes at the end, they send a message through all of the seashells for everyone to look out for him, and to turn him in if they see him.  They automatically have a huge civilian army at hand, through the use of the seashells.  Secondly, if people are constantly "plugged in," they don't have any spare time for their minds to be on their own.  If people never have silence, they never think, and so never have the kind of discontented thought that come from meditation.

Mildred stays "tuned in" so much that she really has no mind of her own.  In this sense, she is a perfect citizen of her society.  I hope that these thoughts helped; good luck!

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