Censorship is implemented everywhere from hindrance on social media to published literary pieces. With that being said , it is a major theme in the novel Fahrenheit 451 written by Ray Bradbury.
The novel revolves around Guy Montag, a fireman, where his job is to incinerate books in a dystopian society where censorship reigns supreme. During a regular call, Guy has his eyes opened when a woman is burned along with her books even when she had the chance to leave. After this incident, he wonders what causes people to stay and be murdered along with the books. With the help of his wife Mildred and English professor Faber, Montag will have to avoid Captain Beatty and the society he lives in. This government is similar to that of a communist one where books are burned for the happiness of equal literary knowledge between citizens. However, characters such as Clarisse McClellan, Captain Beatty, the captain of the firemen, and Mildred Montag, Guy Montag’s wife, show that they are not happy with the way things are in terms of current situations.
Mildred attempts suicide, Clarisse is killed after she moves near Guy Montag, and Beatty dies as if he asks for his death from this world. All of these characters display the lack of support for human morals such as caring for you and looking after others. The implicit messages in Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, display that a controlling government can censor sources of information to the point where society can lose touch with basic human morals. Clarisse McClellan is the first character that is introduced other than Montag.
She is a seventeen year old lady who recently moved in and provides a different outlook on the aspect of censorship and the jobs of the firemen. She asks Guy whether he knew about this in the quote:”Strange. I heard once that a long time ago houses used to burn by accident and they needed firemen to stop the flames.” He laughed. She glanced quickly over. ….
. “Are you happy?” she said. “Am I what?” he cried. But she was gone-running in the moonlight. Her front door shut gently.
“Happy! Of all the nonsense.” He stopped laughing. He put his hand into the glove-hole of his front door and let it know his touch.
The front door slid open. Of course I’m happy. What does she think? I’m not? he asked the quiet rooms.
(Bradbury 4)In this quote, Clarisse describes whether there was a time where firemen put out fires instead of creating them. With her outlook on the job of being a fireman, Montag is moved to think whether he’s happy and whether his job is morally right. Clarisse violates the basic moral of preserving ones when she chooses to commit suicide by being run over by a speeding vehicle. This shows how Clarisse is deprived of the information she seeks and then becomes unhappy which leads her to lose her life.Mildred Montag is another case of dissatisfaction with herself due to the mindlessness induced by censorship of novels.
She attempts suicide from an overdose of on sleeping pills. When she is confronted by Guy, she plays it off as she would never be able to do that. It is displayed in the quote:”I wanted to talk to you.” He paused. “You took all the pills in your bottle last night.” “Oh, I wouldn’t do that,” she said, surprised.
“The bottle was empty.” “I wouldn’t do a thing like that. Why would I do a thing like that?” she asked. (Bradbury 8)In this quote, Montag confronts Mildred about the night before where she had dialysis conducted to prevent her from slipping away.
This quote demonstrates that Mildred is not happy with the way things are, and that she puts on this false persona for society that she’s happy with everything. Millie has mentioned before that she can’t think for herself and that she follows whatever the parlour walls say or do. This further motivates Montag as he saw how indecisive society has become and they depend on things like television to live their lives.
Perhaps Millie wanted to read books but wasn’t able to since she couldn’t obtain literary knowledge which had been previously mentioned. Mildred knows the strict laws governing the possession of literature and she doesn’t understand why but only follows the rule that books were banned for a reason. Her violation of the basic value of looking after one’s safety really shows how far muting information has affected the citizens.Captain Beatty is the head honcho for the firemen.
Out of the group he is the most wise and experienced. He is a manipulative man who taunts and ridicules Montag to pressure into realizing what’s appropriate for society. An example of this is explained in the quote: “You must understand that our civilization is so vast that we can’t have our minorities upset and stirred.
Ask yourself, What do we want in this country, above all? People want to be happy, isn’t that right? Haven’t you heard it all your life? I want to be happy, people say. Well, aren’t they? Don’t we keep them moving, don’t we give them fun? That’s all we live for, isn’t it? For pleasure, for titillation? And you must admit our culture provides plenty of these.”(Bradbury 29)In this quote, Beatty and Montag have a debate on why censorship on novels is necessary for the happiness of citizens. Beatty explains that to keep society happy you have to keep the minorities happy. With that, he explains that the authors’ opinion and views disrupt the peace and order of society. Beatty mentioned before that he has read a few books and that they say nothing.
However, he always uses his own knowledge of books to poke at Montag. Beatty knew that knowledge is power and despite living in a happy world as he so calls it, he isn’t happy himself. He has seen where the world has been and where it is now.
Further on in the book, Beatty is burned alive by Montag after the firemen get a call to incinerate the books in Montag’s house. Montag realizes that Beatty wanted to die. He didn’t move at all when he was incinerated by Montag.
Beatty abandoned the basic instinct of defending oneself when disturbed. He displays that even he with his massive support for censorship and his knowledge of literature, he was still unhappy with the way things are in society like many other residents. Looking at his actions from the book until his death, the reader can infer that Beatty is putting on a façade for hatred on books. The reason being that he is a fireman and that firemen cannot support the survival of publicized literature since that would be against their principles.
Fahrenheit 451 gives a very detailed insight on a dystopian society that is hinged on maintaining happiness through equality of literary knowledge. The controlling government, coupled with restrictions of censorship, dilute sources of information to the point where the citizens have little to no emotion. As a result, it is easy for them to lose touch with basic values and morals of keeping oneself safe. With the depiction of the near future Ray Bradbury provides, it is easy to see the loss of self-preservation in the majority of society. This brings the question of whether mass population would rather benefit from intense amounts of censorship or a more open rule when it comes to literary publications.