How did Ray Bradbury criticise the 1950s in Fahrenheit 451?

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belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Fahrenheit 451 satirizes some of the technological advances that occurred in the 1940s and 50s, including faster cars, cheaper goods (like disposable tissue, and of course television. Radio had been the most common entertainment aside from books for many years, and it was quickly supplanted by television because of the novelty of moving pictures outside of a theater. Ray Bradbury, seeing how society was developing isolationist tendencies partly due to television, satirized this with the prediction that housesĀ  would eventually have enormous flat screens, around which all human socialization would be based.

"I went to Helen's last night."

"Couldn't you get the shows in your own parlour?"

"Sure, but it's nice visiting."

She went out into the parlour. He heard her singing.
(Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, Google Books)

People don't visit others to actually visit, but to share their experience of television viewing. During the 1950s, television moved from a fringe novelty to enormous popularity, reaching incredible heights in the next decade. Units became cheaper and more families owned them, and social time started to revolve around favorite shows instead of games or shared experiences. Bradbury used this interest in his novel to show how the removal of substance-based relationships and interests creates a society willing to accept anything they hear from television without the capacity to think critically.