Denham's Dentifrice

Why is it appropriate that the Denham's Dentifrice commercial keeps interfering with Montag's reading of the Bible in Fahrenheit 451?

In Fahrenheit 451, it is appropriate that the Denham's Dentifrice commercial keeps interfering with Montag's reading of the Bible because it highlights the invasive nature of media in Bradbury's dystopia and depicts Montag's difficulty transitioning into an intellectual. Montag's struggle to comprehend the passage also contrasts with the behavior of the mindless passengers, who unconsciously sing the catchy commercial. This scene also underscores the prevalent man vs. society conflict explored throughout the story.

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While Montag is riding the subway to meet Faber, he attempts to read a passage out of the Bible but is continually interrupted by an annoying Denham's Dentifrice commercial blaring through the speakers. As Montag furiously tries to comprehend what he is reading, the other passengers on the train tap their feet to the rhythm of the commercial and begin unconsciously repeating the words. Bradbury writes that the people were "pounded into submission" by the commercial and personifies the speakers by describing the way the radio vomits information.

The irritating quality of the Denham's Dentifrice commercial is significant because it illustrates the invasive, exhausting nature of media in Bradbury's dystopia. In Montag's society, citizens are depicted as shallow individuals who consume mindless entertainment all day. If they are not listening to catchy commercials, they are watching their parlor walls or enjoying their Seashell radios. While the other passengers enjoy the loud commercial, Montag desperately attempts to block out the noise and focus on the biblical passage. In a society founded on media and thrilling experiences, intellectual pursuits are futile.

This scene also highlights Montag's difficulty transitioning into an intellectual and corresponds to the title of part 2. Montag becomes increasingly frustrated with the annoying commercial, which reveals his awareness and new outlook on life. Montag is no longer the passive, ignorant fool he once was and desires the quiet solitude needed to study. Similar to sand falling through a sieve, Montag struggles to comprehend the information, regardless of how fast he reads. The fact that the commercial interrupts a meaningful activity like reading the Bible emphasizes Bradbury's theme regarding the invasive nature of media and depicts Montag's intellectual growth.

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In Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, Montag takes the subway to Faber's house. He goes to find out if books have something in them that will fill the void in his life. While on the subway, though, Montag decides he wants to read and memorize parts of the Bible he is holding. When the Denham's Dentifrice ad starts playing over the speakers, it seems abnormally loud. Montag becomes annoyed because he is trying to study, but the other passengers are humming and tapping their toes along with the ad's music. This scene shows the difference between most people, who are conditioned to be a part of this hedonistic society, and Montag, who represents someone emerging from the grips of it. The description of the other passengers is as follows:

"The people whose mouths had been faintly twitching the words Dentifrice Dentifrice Dentifrice . . . were pounded into submission; they did not run, there was no place to run" (79).

It should be noted that these people also don't have any inclination to run like Montag does. The Denham's Dentifrice ad isn't bothering them in any way. In fact, they seem to be enjoying the music and words. They do, however, think that Montag is crazy when he becomes annoyed by the ad as follows:

"'Shut up, shut up, shut up!' It was a plea, a cry so terrible that Montag found himself on his feet, the shocked inhabitants of the loud car staring, moving back from this man with the insane, gorged face . . . The train radio vomited upon Montag, in retaliation . . ." (79).

The above passage seems to personify the radio as an extension of the government's forced regimen of "submission" as it "vomits" the ad out upon Montag and the other passengers. It is as though the radio, not necessarily the ad or the music, is the one bearing down on people and forcing them to pay attention to it and nothing else. The commercial gives Montag the feeling that he is trapped, not just on a subway, but in society, as it forces its way into every aspect of home, work, sleep, and travel. Therefore, the scene on the train is appropriate because it makes the point that Montag is changing while the rest of society is numb to what is really going on in their lives to control them, their thoughts, and their actions.

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It is appropriate that the commercial kept interfering with Montag’s reading of the bible in order to demonstrate the extent of the government’s control over people’s minds. Just like in their houses through the TV walls, even while on transit, people’s minds are still being controlled. Through the constant repetition of tailored information from the commercial, people’s minds remain fully engaged to an extent that they have no time to think independently. In addition to that, the transmission was deliberately done at such high volume in order to deter any conversation among commuters. The interruption of Montag’s reading shows that the government had successfully achieved its mission: even Montag, an enlightened individual, could hardly think of anything else other than the commercial.

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I do not think that what the ad was really mattered.  I think that what is important here is just that Montag keeps being interrupted and, more importantly, that it is an ad that keeps interrupting him.

Montag is trying to read and think.  But his society really does not want people doing these things.  Instead, it wants people to focus on material things.  This is why it is so appropriate that an ad is distracting Montag -- society wants ads and material things to distract people from thinking.

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