How has technology affected the lives of people in Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 , technology is a central theme of the novel. Technology is used by the authoritarian state to both distract and consume the minds of individuals while also making resistance extremely difficult and dangerous. The technology serves to isolate people from each other so that...

View
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

In Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, technology is a central theme of the novel. Technology is used by the authoritarian state to both distract and consume the minds of individuals while also making resistance extremely difficult and dangerous. The technology serves to isolate people from each other so that a person is dependent upon the technology and, as an extension, the state, for a sense of connection and meaning. If someone does not comply with this status quo of technological dominance, the Mechanical Hound that is used to sniff out and squash dissent is then used to ensure resistance cannot succeed. Resistance is much more difficult because people are socially isolated from one another due to dependence on technology, and thus, organized resistance to the authoritarian state is even more difficult.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Citizens of Bradbury's dystopian society are completely consumed by technology, and the authoritarian regime uses technologically-advanced mechanisms to threaten and intimidate political dissidents. Bradbury depicts how technology consumes the citizens' everyday lives by emphasizing Mildred and her friends' obsession with their interactive parlor walls. Mildred and her friends spend the majority of their day consuming meaningless entertainment on their massive television screens and listening to their Seashell radios. Technology has also given the world "mass" and made it possible to shorten classic works of literature and significantly increase the pace of life. Citizens prefer to be passive consumers of meaningless entertainment instead of enjoying leisure activities and engaging in intellectual pursuits. Technology negatively affects the citizens' motivation to preserve knowledge, enjoy the natural environment, and change their society for the better.

Bradbury also portrays how perverted science and technology have contributed to the destruction of society. The masked medical technicians that pump Mildred's stomach and replace her blood illustrate how technology can become invasive to an increasingly callous world. The Mechanical Hound is a perfect example of perverted science and technology, which the government uses to oppress the population. The use of nuclear weapons and high-speed cars also contribute to the destructive nature of Bradbury's dystopian society. Overall, Bradbury depicts how technology can negatively affect the human experience and contribute to an increasingly ignorant and violent culture.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Technology is central to the lives of people in Bradbury's dystopian society, but its effect is negative in several ways.

First, technology is used to divert attention and to distract from more complex feelings and issues. We see this most clearly in the television programs broadcast directly onto the parlour walls. In doing this, the television becomes its own world, absorbing and all-encompassing, delivering a message which serves society, not the individual, as Faber comments, 

But who has ever torn himself from the claw that encloses you when you drop a seed in a TV parlour? It grows you any shape it wishes. It is an environment as real as the world.

The Seashell radio, used daily by Mildred, is another example of this invasive effect of technology. Mildred has used hers so much that she is now an "expert in lip-reading:" the Seashell has cut her off from everyday interactions with others.

If technological entertainment is used for distraction then the Mechanical Hound, another form of technology in the novel, is used to silence and oppress. Though a robot, this fierce Hound is able to sniff out instances of crime:

It would be easy for someone to set up a partial combination on the Hound's ‘memory,’ a touch of amino acids, perhaps. That would account for what the animal did just now. Reacted toward me.

In Part Three, the Hound's true capabilities are demonstrated when it kills a man it believes is Montag but is in fact a complete stranger who has not committed a crime.

This destructive aspect of technology is also illustrated through the constant references to military helicopters and the atomic bomb; both are used for the purposes of total annihilation. In fact, the novel closes with the complete destruction of the city, a potent symbol of technology's dark side.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team