The Oxford Dictionary defines the word “parlor” as a room for “receiving guests” or a room “set aside for conversation.” It is ironic that the parlor walls are called such a name. When I envisage conversation and having guests over I picture real verbal exchanges with real people. The “parlor walls” in this dystopian society frame conversation based on scripts with the “family” which include distant digital images. The parlor walls exemplified the futuristic technology within the novel, Fahrenheit 451. The parlor walls are effective in symbolizing the distance present in this futuristic society. This is important in the novel since it highlights the emptiness and lack of relationships present in Montag’s world.
Ray Bradbury reveals the emptiness of the world in the novel through the use of the parlor walls symbolism. The parlor walls are designed to fill the void in the society. The following quote reveals the void exposed when the walls are turned off; “the parlor was so empty and tray-looking without its walls lit with orange and yellow confetti and skyrockets and women in gold-mesh dresses and men in black velvet pulling one-hundred-pound rabbits from silver hats” (Bradbury 71). When the exotic colors and dramatic situations are turned off the lack of relationships is displayed. “Mildred kept peering in at it with a blank expression” (Bradbury 71), she was clearly upset when her ‘world’ within the walls was turned off. When the walls were off Mildred’s relationship, or lack of one, with Montag and the distance between them became evident.
The lack of formed relationships between citizens in this society are partly due to the parlor walls that capture their attention from one another to the colorful images and loud sounds the walls produce. Montag asks Mildred, “Does your ‘family’ love you, love you very much, love you with all their heart and soul?” (Bradbury 77). Mildred thinks that is a “silly question” and doesn’t answer it. This ignorance displayed by Mildred in this incidence demonstrates the unknown concept of love that is in this society. She doesn’t truly know what love is and doesn’t have a personal connection with the ‘family’ despite the script she reads to the walls. This distance in relationships within this dystopian society is also due to the lack of listening.
These parlor walls have not framed our rooms and lives yet, but plasma screen televisions and computers are on the same route in distracting us from relationships and our thoughts. The programs on the walls that left blanks and spaces for us to fill in with the words on the script reminds me of kids shows such as “Dora the Explorer.” It does the same in the hope to involve the audience in the world that exists between the frames of the television. These parlor walls are effective in symbolizing the emptiness and lack of relationships within the novel, Fahrenheit 451.
Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451. New York: Ballantine Books, 1953. Print.