Why has the society of Fahrenheit 451 become so shallow, indifferent, and conforming? Why do people drive so fast, keep Seashell ear thimbles in their ears, and spend all day in front of room-sized, four-walled TV programs? According to Beatty, the constant motion and titillation is designed to help people suppress their sadness and avoid any kind of intense emotion or difficult thoughts and experiences. The people of Fahrenheit 451 have to come to equate this motion, fun, and distraction with happiness.
However, Fahrenheit 451 makes the case that engaging with difficult and uncomfortable thoughts and experiences is the only routes to true happiness. Only by being uncomfortable, or experiencing things that are new or awkward, can people achieve a real and meaningful engagement with the world and each other. The people in the novel who lack such engagement, such as Mildred, feel a profound despair, which in turn makes them more determined to distract themselves by watching more TV, overdosing on sleeping pills, or letting technicians use a specialized machine to suck away their sadness. The result is a vicious cycle, in which people are terrified to expose themselves to any kind of emotion or difficulty because doing so will force them to face their pent-up despair, though in reality it's their avoidance of those thoughts and feelings that creates their despair. Only after he acknowledges his own unhappiness can Montag make the life-changing decision to find Faber and resist his society's oppressive "happiness" and thought-suppression that he, as a fireman, once enforced.
Happiness Explored In Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451
The philosopher Aristotle once wrote, “Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.” This famous quote compels people to question the significance of their joy, and whether it truly represents purposeful lives they want to live. Ray Bradbury, a contemporary author, also tackles this question in his book, Fahrenheit 451, which deals heavily with society's view of happiness in the future. Through several main characters, Bradbury portrays the two branches of happiness: one as a lifeless path, heading nowhere, seeking no worry, while the other embraces pure human experience intertwined together to reveal truth and knowledge.
Of all characters, Bradbury uses Mildred Montag to effectively portray the idea that the majority of society has taken happiness as a refuge in nothing but passive, addictive entertainment. She immediately reveals her character early in the book, by saying, “My family is people. They tell me things: I laugh. They laugh! And the colors!” (73). Mildred is describing her parlors, or gigantic wall televisions, in this quote. Visual technological entertainment is so important in her life that she refers them to as “family,” implying the television characters as her loved ones. By immersing herself in an imaginary world, Mildred finds herself able to relate to fake characters and plots, giving her a phony sense of security. This is necessary for her to achieve her shallow happiness, or senseless plain fun, as she lifelessly watches other people in her walls with a senseless mind. Her family in real life only consists of Guy Montag, her husband, whom she has no fond feelings about. Montag is so frustrated with Mildred because of her inability to express feelings for anything, including him. He tries to talk sense into Mildred by blurting, “We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?” (52). This quote illustrates that people like Mildred take refuge in entertainment to avoid worry and thought, by placing themselves in the feet of imaginary characters, whose shallow problems always play out to a happy ending. Because of this, she lives a pointless life, a life that is not even hers. However, Montag tries knock her out of her trance by saying that living true life comes with struggles, and the need to consider one own responsibility and choices, one that Mildred fails to create for herself. Instead, she uses entertainment as a chance to escape self-responsibility and hassle of solving her own issues. Surprisingly in Fahrenheit 451, Mildred reflects the attitude of society: almost everyone is a mirror image of her, following a lifeless and uncaring lifestyle, defined by childish entertainment, and thus achieving happiness through ignorance.
Also, Bradbury provides Captain Beatty's perspective that happiness is based on human equality. During his speech to Montag, Beatty states, “We...
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