Posted to Facebook, May 29, 2009.
October 28, 2008
_____Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 has accurately predicted the rise of three acceptable behaviors: ignorance of voters, shallow conversations, and superficial relationships. After reading Fahrenheit 451, the content and message of the book was on my mind every day. I found the prophetic nature of the book to be very upsetting, but because of its relevance to today's society, I have recommended it to many people.
_____The prediction of voter-ignorance has been discussed a lot recently because of the upcoming election. I also think that this concept is the most frightening. In Fahrenheit 451, Mrs. Bowles mentions how her vote was based on how handsome the candidate was. "I think he's one of the nicest-looking men ever became president," she tells the others (Bradbury 96). Mrs. Bowles also pointed out that the names of the candidates influenced her vote: "Compare Winston Noble to Hubert Hoag for ten seconds and you can almost figure the results" (Bradbury 97). Bradbury also alludes to the possibility of a rigged election, a popular conspiracy theory of today. Why else would the opposing party run a man like Hubert Hoag, knowing the voting habist of the citizens?
_____Although this behavior may not be as outwardly expressed as it is in Fahrenheit 451, evidence of this ignorance is still apparent in modern society. One example of this is the election for state representatives. Although Voter's Guides are provided by local newspapers, many people I know continue to be confused as to where the candidates stand on the issues. Even the Voter's Guide itself is hard to understand, with abbreviations that are too short and the questions being too far away from the answers. While some try to critically evaluate each candidate to choose the best representative, many do not invest the time and instead decide in the booth on Election Day, comparing only their names and picking the one who sounds nicer or voting straight for their party.
_____Earlier today, my mom showed my a clip from a radio talkshow where the host went out and interviewed people from Harlem in New York City. He performed his own experiment by polling people who said they planned to vote for Obama. He asked them if they supported his policies of being pro-life and staying in Iraq (which are McCain's policies) and every single one said they agreed. Surprising? It gets better. He then went on to ask them if they thought that Obama made a good choice when he elected Sarah Palin to be his Vice President. They each said that they thought she would do a good job. Clearly, the American population is not paying attention, just like Bradbury predicted.
_____Bradbury also prophesied that polite conversations would become increasingly shallow and rehearsed. When the ladies come over to watch television with Mildred, they greet each other with the expected compliments of "nice," "fine," "swell," and "wonderful" (Bradbury 93). Although the women may mean these things, they sound more scripted than honest. These one-word compliments do not sufficiently express their true feelings, only the feelings they are expected to have. In my Sociology class, we discussed one theory that proposed the best way to find social norms is to violate them. One experiment to show this was to take every comment and question it literally. For example, when asked how they were doing, one participant asked, "In regards to what? My mental health, physical health, or emotional health?" The participant provoked the first person to anger, who responded by saying they didn't really care how they were doing (Sociology Class, 22 Oct). The participant of this experiment clearly violated the social norm of simply responding with the expected response, no matter how misleading it may be. Because of the shallow conversations we each display each day, our relationships may soon become equally superficial.
_____The threat of superficial relationships was also illustrated in Bradbury's book. The shallow and rehearsed conversation is evident between Montag and Mildred and this repetitiveness has affected their relationship. When Montag asks Mildred about Clarisse, the words of her answers reflect Montag's questions, as if she cannot construct sentences on her own (Bradbury 47). This lack of originiality trickles down into their relationship to the point that Mildred always says the same questions because she doesn't really care. Her lack of concern for Montag is evident when she cannot remember where they met. However, neither can Montag, which means that Mildred's apathy has affected him (Bradbury 43). The lifelessness of Mildred and Montag's relationship is contrasted by Clarisse and Montag. Even though they had just met, they share a real connection and communicate honestly. Clarisse asks him thought-provoking questions, like "Are you happy?" which encourages true communication, which is essential to deep and meaningful relationships (Bradbury 10). Although this prediction of Fahrenheit 451 has not been as evident to me personally, I have seen shallow communication produce superficial relationships between the people around me.
_____Because of its relevance, Fahrenheit 451 is one of the best books I have ever read. However, it is also one of my least favorite books because it shows how much ignorance and apathy are penetrating everyday issues, communication, and relationships and how much we need to counteract these events. If people won't research candidates, we need to tell them; if people don't have the time to listen to our honest answers, we need to invest the time to listen to theirs; and if people won't exert the effort to cultivate meaningful relationships, we will have to make the effort to promote our own relationships.
Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451. New York: Random House,
Sociology Class. "Social Norms and Deviance." Patricia
_____Collamer. 22 October 2008.