The following is an expository essay written by a 7th grader who had a unique perspective about how a classic dystopian novel compares to modern American life.
“Nobody listens anymore. I can’t talk to the walls because they’re yelling at me. I can’t talk to my wife; she listens to the walls,” (pg.84). This is Montag, the protagonist of Fahrenheit 451’s response to his frustration with the society he’s surrounded by. The community of Fahrenheit 451 is similar to today’s society because members are tuned out from reality and only focus on alternate realities. They become obsessed and are fearful of the real world.
One of the major themes in Fahrenheit 451 is how everyone is so caught up in their television programs and whatever’s playing in their seashells to pay attention to what’s actually happening around them. For example, Mildred, Montag’s wife, spends most of her time tuned out. “She had both ears plugged with electronic bees that were humming the hour away,” (pg. 22). She uses the Seashells, which are like headphones, often to ignore her life and the people around her. Another way people isolate themselves is by using the walls, which are like T-Vs. “It’ll be even more fun when we can have the fourth wall installed...It’s only two thousand dollars,” (pg. 24). This shows how dependent they are on distractions, and how much they need them.
All of this is very similar to today, with people, their technology, and their need to live through other people’s lives. Most people today are obsessed with their phones and television programs. Many people are only focusing on what’s going on in reality television programs, like Keeping Up With The Kardashians. They only seem to want to live through other people’s programmed lives, rather than live through their own.
Because people are so isolated from reality, they often become afraid of it. “I’ve always said poetry and tears, poetry and suicide and crying and awful feelings, poetry and sickness; all that mush! Now I’ve had it proved to me. You’re nasty, Mr. Montag, you’re nasty!” (pg. 103). This was Mrs. Bowels’ reaction to Montag reading poetry to her, which was unfamiliar. Sometimes, the unfamiliar things are the scariest. The members of the society in Fahrenheit 451 also seem to be taught not to engage in books or any sort of literature. Mrs. Bowels’ response to the poetry shows obvious disgust with naming poetry among some of the worst things in the world. It wasn’t just the fear of books, though. Montag, who wanted to read more than anything, was afraid of being caught. “Montag felt his heart jump and jump again as she patted his pillow,” (pg. 59). Montag had a book hidden under his pillow and fire captain Beatty was over. If the book was to be discovered, Montag could've lost everything. Most people in Fahrenheit 451 are also afraid of being different. They were all taught to be this one way, and now every time that someone is different in their society, they immediately reject them, similar to the way we do now.
It’s important for people today to be aware of what’s happened in Montag’s community because it may happen to us. Wouldn’t you rather be present and enjoy what life has to offer, rather than spend all your time plugged in?