I saw that some unlucky fellow stumbled on my blog by typing into Google, “What does Montag mean when he tells Mildred ‘We need to be really bothered once in a while.’” I thought I would write about what that means.
Dystopias are hyperbolic versions of our world, intended to make a point. The author will take a contemporary issue they’re concerned about – in Bradbury’s case, the rise of TV and the decline of American readers – and make the issue much more obvious than it is in real life.
In Bradbury’s world, individuals have become desensitized due to television. Nothing matters except for the petty arguing of the people on their TV screens. However, outside of their homes wars are raging and television-less people are dying. Soldiers are going to war and their wives are too busy peering into their TV screens to notice. Children are growing up parentless for the same reason. And, above all, everybody is apathetic to these issues. No one cares.
Actually, not true. Montag cares. That’s why he’s our protagonist. Montag gets “really bothered once in a while.” Quite often, actually. And I think Bradbury would like it if we got really bothered once in a while, too.
However, Bradbury also makes the point that perhaps the world isn’t as apathetic as it seems. Maybe it’s just hopeless, and feels too defeated to face its fears. So it tries self-medicating its problems away, and as a result it turns to TV. TV is a nasty medicine, though – it doesn’t do anything to stop Mildred from attempting suicide. Montag remembers her suicide attempt shortly after telling her to be bothered, and the memory quiets him.