Essay Sample: The Theme of Mass Culture in Fahrenheit 451
In the novel Fahrenheit 451, the author, Ray Bradbury, criticizes the behaviors of modern society to develop the theme of mass culture. Mass culture impacts society and causes most people to lack social and emotional connection. It leads people to focus on appearances and be very materialistic. Mass culture causes the majority of people to value media over the well-being of themselves and of others. Most people have a lack of concern for human life. They rely on what is popular to make decisions and disregard what is truly important.
Many people in Montag’s society lack a social and emotional connection with each other. Almost everyone is emotionless and just lives their life the way everyone else does, in front of technology all day. For example, Mildred is cold, emotionless, and distant from everyone, especially Montag. This is shown when she carelessly tells Montag that Clarisse is dead. “Run over by a car. Four days ago. I’m not sure. But I think she’s dead. The family moved out anyway. I don’t know. But I think she’s dead.” (Bradbury 44). She showed no emotions, even though her neighbors were dead and she knew that Montag cared about the girl, Clarisse. Secondly, Mildred claims she has no family and her only emotional attachment is to the “family” in the shows that she watches. “Will you turn the parlor off? He asked. That’s my family. Will you turn it off for a sick man? I’ll turn it down” (Bradbury 46). When Montag was sick after killing the old woman with her books, Mildred has no interest in taking care of him. Though Mildred has a husband who wants to form a better connection with her, she is only interested in her television family. Even when she has her friends over to her house, they do not talk, they just watch television. Additionally, Mildred's friends portray this lack of compassion and emotional connection when talking about their children. Mrs. Bowles talks about her kids as if they are worthless and mean nothing to her. “I plunk the children in school nine days out of ten. I put up with them when they come home three days a month.” (Bradbury 93). Mrs. Bowles barely spends any time with her kids, and when she does, she puts them into the parlor so she does not have to deal with them. This ciritizes the theme of mass culture because parents are supposed to love their kids and want to spend time with them. When people value entertainment over relationships, whether it is with their husband, kids, or friends, there is a lack of social and emotional connection.
Mass culture leads people to focus on appearances rather than what is truly important. For instance, when talking about who they voted for in the presidential election, Mildred, Mrs. Phelps, and Mrs. Bowles all voted for the better looking candidate, rather than who would do a better job as the president. “I voted the last election, same as everyone, and I laid it on the line for President Noble. I think he’s one of the nicest looking men ever became president.” (Bradbury 93). This is said by Mrs. Bowles, she follows what everyone else does and voted for the better looking president. This criticises the theme of mass culture because she does not care about what is important to be president, she cares about something completely irrelevant to doing good on the job. Montag lives in a very material-desiring society. The people living in his society end up being less compassionate due to materialism. For example, when Montag is sick and throws up on the floor, Mildred is only focused on the carpet. “He pressed at the pain in his eyes and suddenly the odor of kerosene made him vomit. Mildred came in, humming. She was surprised. ‘Why’d you do that?’ He looked with dismay at the floor. ‘We burned an old woman with her books.’ ‘It’s a good thing the rug’s washable.’” (Bradbury 47). Mildred completely dismisses what Montag says about killing an old woman and is only concerned about the rug.
When people value media and entertainment over themselves, there is a lack of concern for human life. Everyone is worried about one thing, the media, and nothing else. Mildred is an example of someone who does not care about her own well being. “The small crystal bottle of sleeping tablets which earlier today had been filled with thirty capsules and which now lay uncapped and empty in the light of the tiny flare.” (Bradbury 11). Since Mildred refuses to take her seashell radios out of her ears when she sleeps, she overdoses on sleeping pills so that she can fall asleep. She is so obsessed with the media that she puts her life at risk because of it. When Montag called for help, two handymen were sent with machines to clean out Mildreds blood. Their society has a job designed for overdoses rather than medical professionals coming to help. “We get these cases nine or ten a night. Got so many, starting a few years ago, we had the special machines built. With the optical lens, of course, that was new; the rest is ancient. You don’t need an M.D., case like this; all you need is two handymen, clean up the problem in half an hour.” (Bradbury 13). Suicide attempts and overdosing are so normalized in this society that an occupation has been created. Most people are not phased by the amount of times incidents like this happen. With the exceptions of Faber, Clarrise, and Montag, the concern for each other's lives and health is absent in the novel’s society.
In conclusion, the author is criticizing modern society to depict the importance of mass culture and the impact it has on people. The majority of people in this society have no social or emotional connection with anyone. They are focused primarily on appearance and are very materialistic. In Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury is predicting a harsh future where people do not care about others, death and murder is common, and having no sense of indivisuality. They lack a sense of care for others and concern for human life. These issues have led to the troubling dystopian society they live in.