How did Bradbury's experience during the time of writing influence Fahrenheit 451?

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belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator


Although Fahrenheit 451 is usually seen as an allegory for censorship, Bradbury actually meant it as a criticism of how television and radio caused people to become more isolated from each other. He explained in a 1960 interview that he had seen a husband and wife walking their dog; the wife had a radio with earphones, and was:

...listening to far winds and whispers and soap-opera cries, sleep-walking, helped up and down curbs by a husband who might just as well not have been there.
(Bradbury, Wikipedia)

The obsession with entertainment, especially television, that was rising in the 1950s gave Bradbury a lot of inspiration in writing the book. He foreshadowed current flat-panel TVs with his "parlour walls," enormous television screens that covered entire walls of a room. He saw how people became more interested in watching TV than in reading, and in repeating every slogan and ad they saw without actually understanding any of the content. In the book, Montag's wife Mildred is the classic example of this; she only cares about her television shows, which are short and contain nothing but meaningless emotion. She repeats slogans and visits neighbors not to socialize, but to watch the same shows on their television walls. Montag realizes, through his interaction with Clarisse, that he doesn't have any actual human relationships, and tries to "unplug" himself from the society so he can develop individuality. The society, which operates entirely on collective thinking, resists his efforts to change it from within, and eventually he is forced to flee.