Satire In Fahrenheit 451
How does Fahrenheit 451 show satire?
Fahrenheit 451 is a satirical look at a society where books have become illegal because they make people uncomfortable. The government, having become a bloated bureaucracy without care for human life, knows that it can control its citizens through television and meaningless entertainment, and so it encourages the use of enormous television screens that show nothing but random images and shouting, emotional people, without actual stories or scripts. It avoids discussion of issues in favor of catchphrases that people will repeat without thinking. Chief Beatty explains:
"Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs or the names of state capitals or how much corn Iowa grew last year. Cram them full of non-combustible data, chock them so damned full of 'facts' they feel stuffed, but absolutely 'brilliant' with information. Then they'll feel they're thinking, they'll get a sense of motion without moving."
(Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, Google Books)
This satirizes the rise of commercial television in the 1950s, when Bradbury wrote the book. He used his knowledge of human nature combined with the booming ad industry to create a world in which people don't think about anything except what they see on TV. In fact, this sort of mentality became almost commonplace later in history, and for a time there were cases of "television addiction," which have now been replaced by Internet addiction. The bottom line is that the novel satirizes the rise of entertainment without content, and the creation of an isolationist society -- not from other societies, but from its own members.
Bradbury satirizes various aspects of American society throughout the novel Fahrenheit 451. Bradbury satirizes America's fascination with the entertainment industry by portraying Mildred's passion for her parlour wall televisions. Mildred continually watches her parlour wall interactive television shows and argues with her husband about getting a fourth wall installed. Bradbury also satirizes the desensitized nature of Americans by portraying the citizens' affinity for violence and brutality in Montag's dystopian society. Bradbury depicts how teenagers purposely hit pedestrians with their cars and are only interested in violent games. Bradbury also satirizes America's consumer culture and lack of emphasis on education and literature. Faber explains to Montag how corporations exploit religious holidays to increase profits and illustrates how the majority of citizens disregard literature and intellectual pursuits. Bradbury also satirizes politics during the conversation between Mildred and her friends when mention that they will vote for the most attractive candidate. In the same scene, Bradbury also satirizes America's affinity for war and the desensitized atmosphere surrounding violent, disturbing topics.
Satire uses humor, exaggeration, and irony to make fun of people's weaknesses and vices. It is often used to comment on or critique social ills in the hopes they can be remedied.
In this novel, written in 1953, Bradbury focuses on social problems of the 1950s and exaggerates them in an imagined future world. He critiques the increasing reliance on technology, especially television. He exaggerates the conformity and anti-intellectualism of the period (the McCarthy era). He envisions a society in which not only the people prefer watching television to reading, but also the government actually bans and burns books.
Bradbury's is a dark satire that makes readers uncomfortable rather than getting them laughing. The novel opens with Montag delighting in book burning and finding Mildred has attempted suicide. This is a bleak society that Bradbury warns could be our own.