Bradbury refers to Fahrenheit 451 as a science fiction novel, because he uses technological advancements to develop a futuristic plot, which supports and builds his ideas. One aspect of the society, which became significant, especially in the first installment, “The Hearth and The Salamander,” was the parlor walls. Giant screens on the walls of every host and interactive programming allow the viewer to become completely immersed, changing their views on everything from family to religion.
The interactive aspect of the walls is important, because in the lives of everyday citizens, these are their main source of amusement and human connection. We are first introduced to the “parlor walls” during a dialogue between Montag and his wife, Mildred. She explains how much fun the parlor walls are and attempts to convince him that a fourth wall is needed. This first scene demonstrates an almost total loss of humanity. Millie represents the general population, in her unquenched desire for more of the interactive shows that she, like the rest of society, relies on.
The screens come to depict, then represent and finally become the facets of society that should never be recreated by technology, including god and family. Notably, when Montag asks if Mildred will turn off the parlor she responds with “No, they’re my family.” This quote not only shows the attachment to technology but also the distance from physical interaction once it is replaced by virtual interaction. We see the same happening with religion and the god figure. In the parlor, “You play God to it.” Along with that, Christ is literally a character in the scenarios depicted. This is recognized in a quote from Faber. “Christ is one of the ‘family’ now. I often wonder it God recognizes his own son, the way we’ve dressed him up…” This creates even more distance between the characters of Fahrenheit 451 and what we currently see as human.
Without a doubt, parlor walls play a major role in developing the setting of book and consequently the theme. The dependence on them is a clear indicator of the insufficiencies of society, which Bradbury is pointing out in his novel.
Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451. New York: Ballantine Books, 1953. Print.