Week 6: April 24-30 - Urban Studies
Readings completed: City Lights, Chapters 11-12.
Chapter 11 looks at the social psychology of urban interaction.
Chapter 12 lays out the basic structures of local governance.
BTW: Now’s as good a time as any to start thinking about your Formal Assignment. See details under Assignments on Blackboard.
And don’t forget: Reader Response Paper due in two weeks. See your Assignments Section for details!
DISCUSSION FORUM 6: Books! WHO needs 'em?!!
For this Discussion Forum, you first have to read the book, Fahrenheit 451. Also, you must read what I have prepared under Course Materials (Thinking about F-451). Then, respond to the following:
Fahrenheit 451…The Temperature at which Books Burn
Meet Guy Montag, Fireman. That is, a “guy” who starts fires, to burn…books. First published in 1950, this classic science fiction thriller is noteworthy for many reasons, and essential to any discussion on urban themes spanning the last half-century.
Similar in many ways to the tone of Brazil, Fahrenheit 451 confronts us with the dark side of modern society, taking elements we all recognize – mass preoccupation with infotainment, “reality” TV, superficial social relations, personal isolation and alienation – and bundling these into the story of a society gone terribly wrong. As with Brazil, we encounter here a police state, very literally dedicated to eradicating any semblance of independent thought and action. In this story the TV (the Parlor) dominates all social activity, and is depicted (some would say, revealed) as an instrument of domination and control, subtle and not so subtle in the way it propagates docility among people and society at large.
Front to back, this book bristles with a harsh commentary on forces that, at the time it was published, were only just beginning to emerge. Television was barely a feature of household living in 1950. So called “reality TV” was not to emerge as a key TV theme for another 45 years. Live and taped broadcast of police chases would not dominate broadcasting for nearly 50 years. How, then, did Bradbury anticipate these trends? Do our readings provide a clue? More importantly, what does his commentary have to tell us about our society?
We encounter in F-451 an ambivalent hero, transformed in his outlook by circumstances he confronts (including an acute sense of isolation), and the “renegade” people he encounters. We find him then suddenly pitted against ominous forces; forces he at one time was almost entirely oblivious to – in fact, forces to which he was dedicated to serve.
You have read about the precarious nature of “community” in contemporary society. F-451 forces us to confront what “community” implies at its most basic level: making choices. For Montag’s wife, Mildred, the Parlor was “her family”. We understand this as an exaggeration, a feature of the plot intended for literary effect, still; we must ask ourselves how much of an exaggeration is this depiction, and how much does it capture something essentially wrong with contemporary culture. As the story’s protagonist, Montag must rebel against the forces ruining his life (ravaging his marriage, making a basket case out of his wife). Thus, to restore some balance, Montag must act in some ways alone – at least to the extent he is forced to step outside of the accepted norms of the society he lives within, and he must do so in the face of very high stakes. So we are confronted with what seems, at one level, a paradox: to restore one’s sense of community, we may have to defy some element of the status quo, defy the existing “community” – maybe not only defy, but deny entirely.
The relationship between Montag and his wife is intended as a microcosm to demonstrate how intrusive and pervasive is the conditioning we get from outside influences. Beatty,
1. Describe the ways in which you found yourself relating to Guy Montag. He's the story's protagonist, so we've all got something in common with him. Explain his conflict, delve into his character. Do you support his actions? Did he have any viable alternative? Be sure to characterize the nature of the dramatic conflict he faced.
2. Do you accept my characterization of the novel in my essay, Thinking about F-451? Explain the ways in which the novel is an accurate portrayal of reality, or conversely, explain how it is an exaggeration bearing little similarity with reality.