Tag Archives: Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451: Feelin’ the Heat!

Fahrenheit 451 is the temperature at which books burn, and burn they do. But why do people burn them? In general, the main purpose of a book burning is to dispose of and forbid knowledge that might expose an authority figure as being wrong in some way. Burning books has never been uncommon; it has always been used to prevent people from knowing the truth about various matters.

Unexpectedly, however, the chief fireman, Beatty, owns a large number of books in his home, but claims not to have read them; however, he speaks in an educated way, and often quotes books, which means that, not only has he read those books, but he is a liar. He lies to Montag when he tells him that books say nothing and are not worth anything, and he lies when he says he has not read the books that line his shelves. Why, though, would he lie about this? Obviously he fears negative repercussions when people discover that he has, in fact, read the books, but, as discussed in class, the point of burning books is to keep people from reading them, because then they watch their television walls instead, which they cannot control. As Emma W. pointed out, Faber tells us, “You can shut [books],” meaning that we can close a book and think about them. With the “parlor families,” that is not an option. Beatty knows that people do not own books because of the same fear we can guess he feels, but he also wants to have the ability to control the knowledge he gains from the books he reads.

Another question is, how can he read books and then still burn them? This probably relates back to the idea of controlling knowledge. If he burns books, nobody else can learn what he has learned. Knowledge is power, everyone says, and if Beatty has knowledge, he has power, and if he has power, then, as discussed in class (I forget who raised this point) Beatty knows nobody will come after him, that nobody will dare to burn his house down.

Later in the book, in the third section (spoiler alert: if you have not yet done the reading, stop reading this, finish the book, and then read the rest of my post) Montag turns the flamethrower on Beatty and pulls the trigger, burning Beatty to death as well as the mechanical hound. Beatty knew perfectly well that he was endangering himself in giving the flamethrower to Montag, and did nothing to protect himself when he found the flamethrower pointing at him. Perhaps burning books did have deep psychological effects on him after all; he read the books, he learned their value, and he destroyed them. Guilt causes people to do crazy things; perhaps he helped the authority figures who gave him power by becoming a martyr, while at the same time sentencing to death the man with the books who could eventually learn what Beatty had learned, but it is also possible that Beatty’s letting Montag kill him is, in Beatty’s mind, poetic justice for all the books he destroyed in the past.

Finally, we have to consider the ending. The people living in the woods, watching the chase and murder of “Montag,” know that the government is a fraud, and that they instill fear in people while at the same time publicly but, interestingly enough, secretly killing those who might dare oppose them, the people like Clarisse McClellan, the first person to open Montag’s eyes to the censorship under which he lived. The government, of course, forbids the publics learning that they are not infallible, which is why it is the ones in the woods, who live out of the law, that reveal this final secret to Montag. But is it possible for them to win? Faber confesses a regret for not speaking out when book burnings started and expresses the idea that it is now too late, but can he be wrong? Or do you think that the ones in the woods are optimistic beyond reality?

Fahrenheit 451

Chile_quema_libros_1973Fahrenheit 451 brings up a new perspective on censorship. The censorship of books. This form of censorship comes in the most real way as burning books theoretically eliminates them forever. To bring up a point Meaghan made today, “isn’t it ironic that we are reading a book about burning books?”

While the main aspect of Montag’s life is censoring books, I also found that his life, and the lives of others, was censored as well. The first example is when Montag meets Clarisse. He realizes that he was simply wearing his happiness as a mask. By doing so, he was censoring his emotions.  The truth is also censored, as Beatty admits in regards to the fireman’s job, “Well, I’d say it really got started around about a thing called the Civil War. Even though our rule book claims it was founded earlier.” Why does the rule book lie about the beginning of the fireman’s modern job? Is this just a way to justify what they are doing? I do find this point to be quite ironic, as they are burning books, yet the firemen have rule books of their own.  The final form of censorship I would like to bring up is the censorship of education. By getting rid of books, they took out philosophy, history and language. Eventually spelling was neglected and ignored. To me, all of these forms of censorship came directly from the burning of books. Emotions possibly by the lack of communication that happens when Mildred, Montag’s wife, cares more about her “parlour family” than her own husband. The truth, comes from the burning of historical documents. With those gone, no one would know the truth as it was back then, only the new fabricated truth that “they” want us to know. (Who is “they” anyway?) The censorship of education comes from the lack of teaching literacy. These children in school simply pull thoughts from their head, rather than writing them down and making some sort of meaning from them.

Our discussion in class today in many ways brought up more points from the book. The point was brought up that the world in books isn’t real, which is also a point Beatty brings up when the firemen burn a woman’s books, and burn the woman with them. Is that justifiable? It was also argued that the fantasy in books can create a sort of escape when one is unhappy, which goes directly against the idea that books make people unhappy, which is stated in the book. When we think back to Mildred’s suicide attempt, is it fair then to say that books make people happy? Mildred must have been unhappy to some extent to attempt suicide, yet isn’t her “parlour family” the ideal in that society?

The idea that a world without books makes people happy seems to come from what Beatty told Montag later in the chapter, “It didn’t come from the government down. There was no dictum, no declaration, no censorship, to start with, no! Technology, mass exploitation, and minority pressure carried the trick, thank God.” Is this a fair assumption? Are they the people who burn book because of the truth that they want? Do they fear one another to such an extent that they hide their emotions? Are they the generation who fear the next generation to such an extent that they “dumb down” education to an extent where no one really thinks anymore? Or are they simply misguided?

We may not burn books yet, but we hide emotions, we fabricate the truth, we tend fear those who are smarter than us. While this may not be true for every individual, I find that main aspects of this book almost “predicted” the future, the future of our REAL society.This is a real life example of books being burned in Chile. Are we becoming the society, or are we already the society, that has been presented in Fahrenheit 451?

This link may not be 100% accurate, however I find that it relates quite closely to this text, and to our recent discussions of censorship.