Technology in Fahrenheit 451

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  • 0:04 Background On Science Fiction
  • 0:58 Entertainment In…
  • 2:26 Medicine In Fahrenheit 451
  • 2:56 Mechanical Hound In…
  • 3:34 Technology Significance
  • 4:50 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christina Boggs

Chrissy has taught secondary English and history and writes online curriculum. She has an M.S.Ed. in Social Studies Education.

Written in the early 1950s, Ray Bradbury stunned readers with his imaginative technology in Fahrenheit 451. This lesson explores the various types of technologies and their significance to the novel.

Background on Science Fiction

Humans have a particularly interesting habit of imagining the future. While most people have taken a few minutes to think about where they'll be in a few months, years, or even decades, others have devoted their time to dreaming about what life will look like for all of mankind. Ray Bradbury, a prolific writer, is one such dreamer.

Bradbury is well-known for his science-fiction novels. In case you didn't know, the science-fiction genre is characterized by two key elements:

  1. They take place in the future
  2. They feature innovative and yet to be discovered technologies (for example, teleporters and flying cars).

Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 includes several technologies that seemed fantastical when the novel was published in the early 1950s. By today's standards, however, many of the objects from Bradbury's imagination are not unrealistic. In fact, similar technologies actually exist in the 21st century!

Entertainment Technology in Fahrenheit 451

The society depicted in Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 is obsessed with entertainment. Entertainment is not only a distraction, but a way to control people's behaviors, thoughts, and interactions. Bradbury describes two key pieces of technology: the 'Seashell' and the television.

Readers first encounter the Seashells as Guy Montag returns from home one evening after work. Montag finds his wife, Mildred, in an unsleeping state; 'And in her ears the little Seashells, the thimble radios tamped tight, and an electronic ocean of sound, of music and talk and music and talk coming in...' Can you think of anything that people use today that pump talk and music directly into your ears? Bradbury's 'Seashells' sound an awful lot like earbuds or headphones.

In addition to the 'Seashells,' people in Fahrenheit 451 have an unhealthy obsession with television. Three sides of Montag's living room are made up of massive wall-to-wall televisions. While this may not sound completely crazy, after all, big screen televisions are pretty common today, in the 1950s this was unheard of. When the novel was published, television sets were much smaller, and families certainly did not have more than one of them in the same room!

To enhance the television-watching experience, Mildred Montag has a special converter that makes it sound like the characters in her favorite programs are speaking to her directly. This offers audiences the chance to interact as a part of the show.

Medicine in Fahrenheit 451

After readers are introduced to the musical 'Seashells', Bradbury shares another piece of technology that's commonplace in the Fahrenheit 451 society. Mildred Montag overdoses on sleeping pills, forcing her husband to call emergency services. Two technicians arrive at his home with two machines. The first, Bradbury describes as a 'black cobra' inserted down Mildred's throat to suck the poison and toxins from her stomach. Meanwhile, a second machine removed Mildred's blood and replaced it with someone else's fresh blood.

Mechanical Hound in Fahrenheit 451

Perhaps the most horrifying piece of technology Bradbury describes is the Mechanical Hound. The Mechanical Hound is a non-living, non-breathing thing, but it behaves like it were alive. Essentially an eight-legged robot, the Mechanical Hound has the ability to register 10,000 different smells. This allows the Mechanical Hound to track down its victim. Once located, a long needle emerges from the Mechanical Hound's 'nose' to inject the victim with a paralytic drug. The main character, Guy Montag, suspects that the Mechanical Hound that resides at his firehouse dislikes him. Ultimately, the Mechanical Hound is set loose on Montag at the end of the novel.

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