Ray Bradbury: The Great Dystopian Author
The nineteen twenties can be summed up in three words: The Great Depression. In a time of crisis and heavy poverty in a country that is just establishing itself in the new world allows for one outcome and one outcome only: A distrust in the government, separating the fundamental bond of government and people. Ray Bradbury, an accredited author widely known for his dystopian futuristic novels, was born in the early twentieth century in the midst of the great depression. Greatly influenced by the events happening during his time like the influx of poverty and starvation as well as the ongoing fight for slavery, Bradbury had no option but to turn into literature as an escape. At an early age Ray Bradbury was fascinated by magicians and the idea of living forever as the article written by Erik Gregersen says: “ Bradbury often told of an encounter with a carnival magician, Mr. Electrico, in 1932 as a notable influence. Wreathed in static electricity, Mr. Electrico touched the young Bradbury on the nose and said, ‘Live forever!’ (Gregersen 2).The next day, Bradbury returned to the carnival to ask Mr. Electrico’ s advice on a magic trick. After Mr. Electrico introduced him to the other performers in the carnival, he told Bradbury that he was a reincarnation of his best friend who died in W orld W ar I. Bradbury later wrote, “a few days later I began to write, full-time. I have written every single day of my life since that day” (Gregresen, 1). Stuck by the magician’ s words, Bradbury wanted to find a way to live forever: Literature. Bradbury was determined to live forever. Bradbury’s quest to live forever was successful. Bradbury’s art continues to live through us to this day, teaching upcoming generations important life lessons and instilling critical thinking in many of the upcoming generations. Bradbury was heavily influenced by his society, which created a writing dynamic that depicts alternative realities.
Bradbury will always be known for his dystopian and creative environments that are brought to life through his art i n books like Fahrenheit 451 and short stories such as “The Pedestrian”. Fahrenheit 451 gives a clear understanding of what kind of author Bradbury was: A socially conscious imaginative writer. As mentioned above, distrust in the government was a widely popular ideal in the era of Bradbury due to the multitudes of events that occured. That distrust is evident in the dystopian futuristic world that is created by Bradbury in the name of c. In the book, Bradbury envisions future America with the ideals that it is most against. Fahrenheit 451 is based on the government manipulating and blocking free thought by controlling all outlets and sources of education and broader enlightenment. Furthermore, the government is shown to demonstrate that it will do whatever is required to keep its autonomy.
So much so, that the “firefighters” do the complete opposite: firefighters in the book initiate fire instead of removing it. Their main aim is to regulate and continue helping the extinction of free thought by burning books, magazines, and any literature that is not government approved. This idea is shown to represent Bradbury’s time and how he thought the future might turn out as he lived through a great economic crisis that was filled with poverty and corruption. In addition to representing Bradbury’ s time, the burning of books also symbolizes the dangers of censorship. As expressed in the book Fahrenheit 451 by Captain Beatty, the head firemen, “Don’t step on the toes of the dog lovers, the cat lovers, doctors, lawyers, merchant, chiefs, Mormons, Baptists, Unitarians, second-generation Chinese, Swedes, Italians, Germans, T exans, Brooklynites, Irishmen, people from Oregon or Mexico The bigger your market, Montag, the less you handle controversy” (Bradbury 57). This idea of censorship and justification of it based on the idea of not stepping on others is dangerous because only the powerful will have access to the knowledge. This kind of power allows a person like Captain Beatty to decide for everyone what they should or should not know like the cat lovers, the dog lovers, the doctors, the engineer, and the many vocations of the society. Bradbury makes sure that the warning of censorship is shown as in the book, the dystopian world is always in war, showing the consequences of censorship. Another example of how Bradbury warns of vast censorship can be found again in the numerous monologues said by Captain Beatty on page 156 “Surely, you remember the boy in your own school who was exceptionally ‘bright,’ did most of the reciting and answering while the others sat like so many leaden idols, hating him.
And wasn’t it this bright boy you selected for beatings and torture after hours? Of course it was. We must all be alike. Not everyone born free and equal, as the constitution says, but everyone made equal.” Here, Captain Beatty elaborates on her thinking process and tries to explain to Guy Montag why cessation of media that is not approved is important. Captain Beatty goes on to explain “Each man the image of every other; then all are happy, for there are no mountains to make them cower, to judge themselves against. So! A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it. Take the shot from the weapon. Breach man’s mind. Who knows who might be the target of the well-read man? Me? I won’t stomach them for a minute.’ (Bradbury, 156.) In the quote, Bradbury illustrates another warning to show how jealousy and knowledge could be thought of as power that warns the reader of the power of censorship. Bradbury’ s warnings are heavily influenced by The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The NAACP is an organization that aims to secure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights in order to eliminate race-based discrimination and ensure the health and well-being of all persons which was and still is an ongoing movement fighting the suppression of the colored people by the government through censorship to prevent the activists to advance in their purpose (NAACP 6). T o expand, Bradbury’ s Fahrenheit 451 came out in 1953, fifteen years before Martin Luther King Jr was censored through his assassination in 1968 in his fight for equal rights, and two years before Rosa Parks was famously censored and arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus.
These two historical forms of censorship held by government institutions against its own people can be clearly demonstrated in Fahrenheit 451 through the firefighter department that continues to censor people. This connection, shows how self aware and a critical thinker Bradbury was and how his society influenced his writing heavily. More of Bradbury’s influences can be shown in Fahrenheit 451 in the recurring theme of how obedience and rebellion shape society. It can be inferred that the theme is heavily influenced from the NAACP and their rebellion against the system to earn their rightful natural rights. Much like the NAACP, Guy Montag, the protagonist of Fahrenheit 451 and ex firefighter, rebels against the system but not for equal rights, but for his natural born freedom: Knowledge. In the story, Montag represents rebellion. Despite the resistance and danger he faces, Montag questions societal norms and steals books. However, it is important to note that Montag’s rebellious nature is not necessarily pure of heart. Much like many women and men who fought for their rights as part of the NAACP, many of Guy Montag’s actions were a result from personal dissatisfaction, such as angrily lashing out at his wife and attempting to make others see his point of view.
However, unlike the NAACP movement, Montag, does not share the knowledge he gains from the books he hoards, nor does he seem to consider how he might help others. When he flees the city, he saves himself not because he foresaw the nuclear war, but because his instinctive and self-destructive actions have forced him to run. Bradbury is constantly drawing in his book elements of his ongoing society as shown by the fusions of themes that continuously show remanence of his world. Like, how obedience and rebellion shape society and the dangers of censorship. Which shows elements of what the author has gone through in his adulthood and childhood. Bradbury was an innovative author as many of his books were interpretations of societal differences and represent actual events that happened. Bradbury often used those societal themes to convey and represent a direct theme in his novels such as Fahrenheit 451. According to the US history, the Manhattan project created the first nuclear bomb which was invented in 1945, in addition, the first usable general computer and the first contact lenses was invented in 1948. Furthemore, according to the fifties web, the first credit cards and self cleaning house were invented in 1950. “The Pedestrian”, a short story written by Ray Bradbury was written in 1950. Similar to Farenheit 451, this short story takes place in a future imagined by Bradbury. The story tackles what a world full of technology may look like in the future with Bradbury setting the story where people spend more time in front of their television sets than interacting with each other, and a simple activity like taking a walk is against the law. This would make sense as many groundbreaking inventions were occuring at the time such as the first computer, the first nuclear bomb, and the first contact lenses.
All these inventions would make anyone dream that the world would exponentially rise to even greater technological advances. Worried about the negative effects of these technologies, Bradbury expresses fundamental themes in “The Pedestrian” that correlates to the twenty first century as well as the future ahead of us. Like his novel-length Fahrenheit 451, a lone individual slowly taking a walk outside in the street is unusual and cause for concern. In this case, the pedestrian is arrested on page twenty one of the short story and taken to a mental institution for evaluation because of his “regressive tendencies” of taking a walk instead of watching television. A recurring fundamental theme of ”The Pedestrian” is that precaution is needed when new technology is introduced. Bradbury’ s message is that technology, while designed to make our lives easier, actually threatens our humanity. Advances like television separate humans instead of bringing them together. As Leonard Mead, “The Pedestrian” protagonist of the story walks aimlessly, he describes streets lined with houses illuminated only by the lights from their televisions, with the only sounds coming from either the sets or dim-witted reactions to them. Leonard Mead’ s experience was described by Bradbury on page twenty six on how the brainwash that the technology has on his society while he was walking, “W as that a murmur of laughter from within a moon-white house? In ten years of walking by night or day, for thousands of miles, he had never met another person walking, not once in all that time” (Bradbury, 26). This quote from the short story speaks volumes, It shows the consumption of the technology that was supposed to be benefiting us instead of harming us and decreasing human activity which ultimately decreases humanity. Similarly, the society that has been molded and formed by twenty first century ideology with the help of technology shows a huge resemblance from the novel of The Pedestrian written in 1950 and the current 2019 state.
Another important theme in the short story “The Pedestrian” is that humanity rests in the interaction with people. As Leonard walks the streets, he notes that no one ever comes out. No one even looks out. Their eyes are fixed on the screens. While the police who stop him ask him if he is married, the marriage seems to exist only for the continuation of the human race, not for human interaction. Do both spouses interact more with the TV than with each other? Why do none of them leave their houses? To truly be happy, people have to be able to communicate and express feelings with each other, not just focus on being entertained by technology. It is a warning to his time and the many generations to come. As Bradbury warned sixty nine years ago, many of the younger generations who are in their seventh and eighth year living are consumed by technology. There have been many cases where kids of a very young age refrain from interacting with others because they are so hooked to their tablet or in “The Pedestrian” term, their “television”. With this rate exponentially increasing, the society could slowly mold into “The Pedestrian” if the technology that is evolving and innovating everyday is not used efficiently and properly. The Pedestrian is merely a hologram of a possible future that represents Ray Bradbury’ s fear of over consumption and misuse due to the increase of inventions at the time he was alive with complex developments like the computer and the Nuclear Bomb. T o conclude, humans are the result of their experiences, and that is exactly what Ray Bradbury is. A kid born in the midst of the Great Depression with nothing to his name, suffering grief and losing his sister. Ray Bradbury turned to books as an escape as a way to live forever.
Shown in his timeless literary works like “The Pedestrian” and Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury is heavily influenced by many of the historical events occuring in his time like the NAACP movement in their fight for equality and the increasing rate of inventions. Furthermore, Bradbury used his works as a way to help inspire many through his many recurring life themes that are illustrated in Fahrenheit 451 such as how obedience and rebellion shape society and how members of society should always challenge the government and see knowledge as well as the consequences and dangers of censorship since it blocks the fundamental establishment of humanity: Free thought. Ray Bradbury went on to win numerous prizes. He received many honours for his work including an Emmy for his animated adaptation of The Halloween T r ee (1994) and the National Medal of Arts (2004). In 2007 the Pulitzer Prize Board awarded Bradbury a Special Citation for his distinguished career (Gregresen 2019). Bradbury’s quest to live forever was successful. Bradbury’ s art continues to live through us to this day, teaching upcoming generations important life lessons and instilling critical thinking in many of the upcoming generations. Bradbury was heavily influenced by his society, which created a writing dynamic that depicts alternative realities. Bradbury will always be known for his dystopian and creative environments that are brought to life through his art.
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