Danielle Elisha F. Ching
Upon watching the episode, there’s this one question that keeps bugging me: In the story, why does everyone discourage reading as if it would bring any reader into harm? Particularly with Mrs. Helen Bemis’ behavior towards Mr. Henry Bemis, she told him that oppressing his hunger for reading would also be for his own good. She even called her husband, a man who reads, a fool. Why is that so? Well, the answer to my question lies in the understanding of the story’s setting.
The episode was set in the 1950’s, just after World War II—a post-apocalyptic era wherein people are in fear of global annihilation caused by nuclear weapons. There’s also the issue of anti-intellectualism, which is the hostility towards any kind of intellectual pursuit. The government considered intellectuals as threats to society.
If ever I’m going to tweak the story to make an updated version of the episode, I’ll exchange Mr. Bemis’ addiction to books with addiction to naked and porn pictures of other women. The reason is that anti-intellectualism is no longer an issue today; instead, a husband’s infidelity is a major issue to a wife. Instead of reading literary and classic works inside the vault, Mr. Bemis will be browsing porn magazines. He can’t go over them in the restroom since there’s always a bee line at the office, and his wife’s always tailing him at home. After the nuclear blast, instead of finding a library of classic books, he’ll find a library full of porn magazines. But soon enough, his life won’t last long since the aftereffects of a nuclear blast will severely damage his health. He’ll die. The End.