In Fahrenheit 451, what social statement is made by the book about the individual in a technical world?

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Ray Bradbury saw technology as a necessary force for human progression, but he also saw it as a tool of collectivism and indoctrination. Bradbury understood that people will gravitate towards easy and thoughtless entertainment, avoiding intellectual arguments because they are irritating. The progression of the novel's future history is that...

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Ray Bradbury saw technology as a necessary force for human progression, but he also saw it as a tool of collectivism and indoctrination. Bradbury understood that people will gravitate towards easy and thoughtless entertainment, avoiding intellectual arguments because they are irritating. The progression of the novel's future history is that the government increased its control over public media while slowly eliminating all alternate opinion and thought. It seems, therefore, that humans are wired to accept authoritarian control as long as their superficial desires are maintained.

"...the word 'intellectual,' of course, became the swear word it deserved to be. You always dread the unfamiliar. Surely you remember the boy in your own school class who was exceptionally 'bright,' did most of the reciting and answering while the others sat like so many leaden idols, hating him."
(Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, Google Books)

The official history, told by Beatty, is that society itself moved this way without any interference, but the need of government to keep control over its populace gives this idea the lie. It is easy to see that without the subtle movement of the accepted extremes -- a concept called "The Overton Window" society would flow back and forth in its acceptance of contradictory opinions. However, with government-controlled media dictating the mob mentality, that window moved farther and farther until there was no public acceptance for books at all.

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One of the major conflicts is humanity vs. technology. Bradbury begins this conflict early when Montag goes home and finds his wife has overdosed on sleeping pills. He screams, but his voice is drowned out by the planes flying overhead. This immediately sets up the situation of a human being's feelings and voice being overshadowed by mass culture and technology. According to his story, Bradbury feels man has no future in a technological world if society doesn't balance a person's thoughts and feelings, his ability to think and feel, with the technology. Montag no longer feels a part of his mechanical society and gravitates toward books and the book people. It is through books that we as humans are connected to each other. Take this away, and people are left with shells of their former selves. They no longer think, feel, or have a connection to one another.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on