Imagine a life where you had no thoughts of your own, no control over what you read, watch, and listen to. Imagine a world where you’re not even a real person, but a pawn. Imagine the government having complete control in the world around you.
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This is called censorship. Censorship can be defined as the suppression or prohibition of any parts of books, films, news, etc. that are considered obscene, politically unacceptable, or a threat to security(Censorship). In Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury introduces the idea of censorship, the art of banning and burning, and what might become of a society should the censorship grow like a forest fire. He shows us firemen paid to destroy knowledge. He shows us a society that becomes too enamored with technology, refusing to grow their minds and expand their own personal knowledge. Instead, they let the government force-feed them all they need to know while having a burning desire for entertainment. The need for entertainment becomes explicitly apparent. He shows us a selfish society where life moves a pace so fast, you have no time to think. The sad thing is that technology is not inherently bad, but too much of anything can quickly turn into a bad thing. Through Fahrenheit 451, we see a transformation in the protagonist and anti-hero, Guy Montag. We see the importance of individuality and free-thinking rather than vanity.
Even with all their advanced technologies, we see government censorship in what they read – rather what they don’t read -, what they listen to, and what they watch on television. Even in today’s society we can see the dangers of censorship, the dangers of a free-thinking society. In a world full of hackers, fake news, and turmoil it is easy to distract yourself with technology. It’s easy to unplug yourself from society and plug yourself on the couch. In the age of binge-watching television on streaming networks such as Netflix and Hulu, we lose touch with our own society. We forget to take in nature for all that it has to offer. We’re obsessed with not losing time, causing us to speed off to work, to read headlines instead of diving deep into articles. We believe everything we read without doing proper research ourselves. Technology has changed what our society values, how our relationships are formed. We see this with Mildred with her three television walls, constantly with her Seashells in. She is sucked into her own little world with her own little family. And because of this, we see that Montag has no real value for her, at least none that compares to her technology. Her interactions with Montag have a striking opposition to Montag’s interactions with social outcasts such as Clarisse, Faber, and Granger which implies that Fahrenheit 451 is, obviously, anti-censorship.
In this world of censorship, we also see a blatant disregard for life that isn’t theirs. We see this when Beatty and Montag discuss Clarisse, a social outcast and someone who enjoyed looking at the world without technology. She didn’t want to know how a thing was done, but why. That can be embarrassing. You ask Why to a lot of things and you wind up very unhappy indeed, if you keep at it. The poor girl’s better off dead (pg 58). Clarisse can be described as out-of-the-box, someone who takes time to observe her surroundings and see the true and effortless beauty in life. She tells Montag of the dew on the grass, the moon in the sky, and how billboards have to have been stretched out because people speed everywhere. She knows she different and makes not effort to hide it. She points out to Montag that maybe he could be different, too. She essentially becomes the catalyst for Montag’s change of view. We also see how Beatty reacts versus how Montag reacts when they find that a woman would rather be burnt alive with her books than be alive without them. We see how shaken up Montag gets and how Beatty brushes it off under the rug. We see how Mildred has no care for animal life, suggesting that killing dogs is a good thing. We see that nothing has a significant consequence on her life.
Leisure activities and meaningless ideas have taken up the entire populations time and thought processes. Yet somehow we think we can grow feeding on flowers and fireworks, without completing the cycle back to reality (pg 79). Faber becomes Montag’s guide, the one to teach him the value and importance of books. He gives him his guidelines and the comprehension to absorb the information in it. Through this, Montag discovers that the society he believed cared about him, the society he didn’t question suddenly had a lot of questions to answer. The general public lives these light-hearted lives, in an untroubled society were relaxation is essential. In fact, we don’t really hear of many other professions, especially among women. Not only is this society censored, it is stunted in growth. Of course, it is key to remember that this stunted society can be credited to the era this book was written, where women did not have to work and televisions were becoming a new thing. Philosophical musings are dismissed as crazy talk, and to suggest that books have the answers would be considered blasphemous. The moment books are mentioned, a fire alarm and everything goes up in flames right before your eyes.
History becomes rewritten to emphasize why the government had banned books. In doing so, they never have to give a clear and concise answer to why books have been banned. There is a collective loss of memory within the society, making the population easy to manipulate. They live a life where they believe the government would have no reason to lie to them or hurt them. Yet, as the story goes on, we see that the government does not value free-thinkers, intellectuals, and radicals. Ironically, we see that once Montag is forced out of town, he is not seen as a threat anymore, that without society, without big brother watching him, he would have no chance of survival. Fahrenheit 451 will forever remain one of the best-known warnings against the art of censorship and the loss of identity and originality.
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