In the novel Fahrenheit 451, author Ray Bradbury explores the idea of censorship in a futuristic, dystopian society of the United States in which possessing or reading books is against the law. The ban on reading or even owning books is an example of the censorship of information. The government banned books because they believed the information inside of the books could hurt people. Beatty discusses the ban on books with Montag: “Colored people don’t like Little Black Sambo. Burn it.
White people don’t feel good about Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Burn it” (Bradbury 59). Most people in Montag’s society seem to live in a world where their only entertainment and knowledge comes from their walls and parlors.
As a result, this society is less productive and idler than one that has the rights to own and read books. As seen in Fahrenheit 451, most people in society do not care about learning about their world. They carelessly and recklessly drive their vehicles around and show no guilt or regret if they hit animals or even other humans.
In schools, it does not seem like a big deal to anyone if someone is killed. Bullying does not seem to be something that is taken care of by adults.
The victims of such accidents do not really have anyone to turn to for help because they could probably care less about the world anyway. The only ones who seem to desire more knowledge and care about the world throughout the novel are Montag, Clarisse, Faber, and Granger.
Most of the other people are corrupted by the government’s messages, the walls, and the parlors.
The government does not care if the people of the United States are harmed or killed for owning books. Most of the firemen showed no guilt or remorse when the old lady’s house burned down with her. The government turned the firefighters into book-burners to enforce the ban on books. Even if a fireman owns a book, he can get his house burned down or even face death. Montag was too curious about books, and this caused his house to get burned down after he was caught by Beatty. Montag was not willing to allow any more books to be burned, so he killed Beatty and went on the run. Montag met up with Faber and later with Granger, who also hide their knowledge of books from the firemen. They hide their knowledge because they could be killed by the government for posing a threat.
In addition to the ban on books, the government seems to censor warfare as well. The United States fights wars with one or more unknown nations that end in forty-eight hours. The common people do not have a clear idea of what truly happens in those forty-eight hours of warfare. The people do not even seem to care about what happens in each war, so that is likely why the government chooses not to disclose that information.
Beatty told Montag about the history of book-burning. He stated that Benjamin Franklin was the first one to burn books of the British in the name of the United States. Beatty, in his dialogue with Montag, always implied that he strongly supported the ban on books. However, it is unknown whether this is completely true. First of all, Beatty always quoted books to Montag, as if he had a feeling that Montag was hiding some books. His suspicion was obvious when he told Montag about his strange dream in which he and Montag were shouting famous quotes at each other. After he killed Beatty, Montag concluded that Beatty probably wanted to die.
Clarisse McClellan was a teenage girl who befriended Montag early in the novel. When she talked to Montag, she asked a few questions that implied that she was curious about firemen and the ban on books, including “Do you ever read any of the books you burn?” (Bradbury 10) and “Are you happy?” (Bradbury 12). She was the one who caused Montag to start rethinking his life and develop a curiosity for books. One day, Clarisse disappeared without any notice.
Clarisse’s disappearance worried Montag, who thought she had died after he heard from his wife, Mildred, that she was probably hit by a car. Montag later learned from Beatty that Clarisse’s family was deemed a major threat by the government and that Clarisse was better off dead. This meant that Clarisse and her family were likely tortured or killed by the government. Throughout the novel, Montag cited Clarisse as his inspiration for his desire to read from various books that had not yet been burned.
Mildred was an example of someone who lacked knowledge and access to information and became attached to her wall and parlor. She stayed home most of the day because she had no interest in going anywhere else. Montag hardly related to her and could not even remember where they first met. Mildred’s only real friends throughout the novel were Mrs. Ann Bowles and Mrs. Clara Phelps. They related to Mildred in their common interests of both the wall and parlor.
In the modern society of the real world, information is not censored to a large degree like it is in the society of Fahrenheit 451. People have the right to own and read any books they would like to, and they also have access to information on the Internet. For example, the general public can learn a lot about ongoing wars, such as the War in Afghanistan and the Syrian Civil War, via the Internet. Although people have many privileges and rights in modern society, there is still an amount of censored information.
The U.S. government has lots of classified files that remain censored to the commoners. One example of their classification is the amount of information surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy that remains unsolved. The government caught Lee Harvey Oswald, but many still believe in conspiracy theories surrounding Kennedy’s controversial assassination. Another example of modern censorship is profanity on television. Most TV stations censor inappropriate language and sexual content like nudity. However, this kind of censorship is meant to protect children from being exposed to bad language and debauchery.
In the time of Hitler’s reign in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945, the Nazis rounded up all the European Jews they could locate and sent them to concentration camps to die. This was an attempted genocide known today as the Holocaust. The Nazis also burned the books relating to the ideas or practices of Jews and other groups they hated and believed posed a threat to their nation. Like the government of Fahrenheit 451, the Nazis took extreme measures to eliminate messages they deemed harmful, even if it meant killing their own people. However, the Nazis believed that they were the supreme race of the world, so this was their reasoning behind the Holocaust. The government in Fahrenheit 451 was only paranoid because the books supposedly contained harmful content.
During the 1950s, the same decade in which Fahrenheit 451 was written, Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin made ridiculous accusations that many politicians in the United States were likely communists without even researching their backgrounds. He was criticized by the media and the general public because he believed in a fallacy. He probably wanted to purge all the so-called communists of the United States. McCarthy can be compared to the U.S. government, or even Beatty, from the novel. Both McCarthy and the government had the common belief that something was harming their country, but they took extremes to attempt to solve the problems.
McCarthy accused lots of people of being communists, while the government believed that books were harming the people of the country. McCarthy ended up being censured in a vote by the Senate, and he lost his position as a Senator. Bradbury may have heard a lot about McCarthy’s controversies while writing Fahrenheit 451.
The wars and controversies of the 1940s and 1950s may have given Bradbury the idea of writing about the government’s willingness to take extremes to eliminate ideas and nuclear warfare. Many people at that time still believed that ideas could be killed off, but Bradbury was smarter than they were. He believed that even attempting to do such a thing would be absurd but interesting to write about. Bradbury definitely thought that banning something extremely vital like books would cause people to become less knowledgeable. He was also inspired by the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan to end World War II, which he used to write the ending of Fahrenheit 451, in which nuclear warfare ends up destroying the town in which Montag and most of the people he knew had lived.
Through Bradbury’s examination of censorship in Fahrenheit 451, people can understand that too much censorship can destroy society by making people unproductive and unwise. The society can become more knowledgeable if people are exposed to the useful information that books contain. Lacking access to important information found in books can hold people back in life. Without that information, the society in the real world would probably end up like the one in Fahrenheit 451. With access to more information, people can become more successful in their careers and more comfortable with their life choices.