Though published in 1953, Ray Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451 remains a relevant social commentary on censorship in our 21st century world. The themes in Bradbury’s novel reflect the social conditions and limitations in 21st century America in many ways. Censorship is becoming more prominent in today’s society, which is reminiscent of the famous novel because books were banned in Guy Montag’s dystopian futuristic society. Technology has also become far more popular than books and is becoming the primary source of information. Even with all of the knowledge at our fingertips, today’s population is sometimes relatively uninformed about the world. All of these themes are present through the novel and are relevant to today’s society.
Censorship is taking over media and popular culture. Songs on the radio are censored to make them “more appropriate.” People’s ideas can even be censored. Writers are forced to be so politically correct that people often feel uncomfortable expressing their opinions anymore. When books and movies are censored, it takes away an important element of the writer’s freedom of speech. In Fahrenheit 451, books are outlawed completely because the government does not want their citizens to be exposed to any kind of independent thought or to think too deeply about anything. This is an extreme version of the censorship we see in society today.
Technology is taking over in the 21st century. Most people would rather browse the internet than pick up a book. The internet is quickly becoming an alternative to literature. This is similar to the novel because they rely on technology in lieu of books. There is no way for them to satiate their curiosity, so they live through characters on television. Does this sound familiar? It should. Many of today’s technologies were predicted by Ray Bradbury. For example, the Montags own a television that takes up three walls. Wealthy people do have these, and even average people sometimes have extremely large TV’s. Some other examples are voice activated commands, certain types of communication devices, and earbuds (or, as he called them, “seashells”).
Ignorance is becoming increasingly more common in our country. People either are unaware of, or don’t care about events that are happening in other countries. Since people are reading less, the intelligence of individuals is lessening by the year. People are also not learning to have complex thoughts of their own and are taught to accept certain opinions as the “norm.” Political correctness has become so important that people are afraid to express their thoughts. In Fahrenheit 451, America is at war and no one even cares. This is true to an extent in today’s society as well. The book has much in common with real life.
It is incredible that Ray Bradbury was able to accurately predict so many aspects of his future. In his writing, he predicted the boom in the use of technology and the ignorance of today’s society. Many of the devices he “invented” are similar to today’s technologies. It is kind of frightening that our world is becoming more similar to a dystopian society. Hopefully, the amount of freedom and knowledge we have will only continue to grow, and will remain for as long as possible.
Do you have an opinion about how the novel reflects on our culture today? Let us know in the comments!