What purpose is the "family" supposed to serve in Montag's society?

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tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Montag's society, people become invested in the lives of fictitious "families" that appear in interactive, continuously running, soap opera-like television shows they watch on their parlor walls. Like everything generated by Montag's society, these shows are supposed to distract people from their real lives so that literacy and free thought will seem needless. Mildred, Montag's wife, is completely enthralled by these shows and watches them on their three parlor walls all day long. She is especially excited about the recently created technology that allows the audience to respond to and interact with the people on the shows. Mildred is so completely swept up in the ways of her world that when she does start reading books, not only does she not understand what she's reading, but she says the following:

"Books aren't people. You read and I look all around, but there isn't anybody! . . . Now, my 'family' is people. They tell me things: I laugh, they laugh! And the colors! . . . And besides, if Captain Beatty knew about those books. . . He might come and burn the house and the 'family.' That's awful! Think of our investment" (73).

Mildred has been so completely sucked in by her "family" that she has bonded with a TV show more than she has with her own husband. She values the TV technology because that is what brings her the show and the brilliant colors and music that distract her from establishing a strong bond with her own family. It is probably the reason why she and Montag don't have any children—because she's always watching someone else's family. This is exactly what society accepts in Montag's culture. In their society, it is more important to seek one's own pleasure rather than to sacrifice one's life for others. The "family" creates a bond with viewers in a way that keeps them from forming their own families. It perpetuates a selfish society that values hedonism rather than family.

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Fahrenheit 451

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