Fahrenheit 451

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by Gehrenfeld10
Last updated 6 years ago

Discipline:
Language Arts
Subject:
Literature
Grade:
10

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Fahrenheit 451

CENSORSHIPCensorship: the suppression of speech, public communication or other information which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, politically incorrect or inconvenient as determined by governments, media outlets, authorities or other groups or institutions. (Wikipedia definition)Approaches to censorship have changed throughout history. In the Middle Ages, texts that didn’t conform with religious doctrines tended to be censored. In times of international conflict, media has been censored in various countries to support a nation’s war effort.Censorship standards vary between societies and that is very prevalent nowadays. In some places it is not permitted to depict images of Mohammed. In some, newspapers are not permitted to criticise the government. In others, it is an offence to offend people based on their ethnicity. Censorship can apply to books that cause controversy or have sexually explicit material, offensive language, are unsuitable material for children, promote homosexuality, have objectionable religious views, display nudity, racism and even sexual education, among other things.Censorship is a major theme present in the novel. The government has the idea that in order to create a utopian society, there must be no conflict. This is obtained by everyone having the same beliefs, meaning that conformity is the key according to the government. In the novel Fahrenheit 451, the real enemy is technology. By censoring books, individualism and unique personality is decreased and this means that relationships are minimal and there is no face to face communication. “There are too many of us… There are billions of us and that’s too many. Nobody knows anyone.” This quote demonstrates that the government has succeeded in using censorship to make everyone think the same, however this has had a negative impact. The people within the society in the novel are lazy and too reliant on technology to make them happy rather than gaining happiness from within themselves, their surroundings and other people. Although there is no conflict, there is no true happiness either.

THEMES

DYSTOPIAN LITERATUREDystopia: A futuristic, imagined universe in which oppressive societal control and the illusion of a perfect society are maintained through corporate, bureaucratic, technological, moral, or totalitarian control. Dystopias, through an exaggerated worst-case scenario, make a criticism about a current trend, societal norm, or political system. (definition: readwritethink.org)A list of characteristics of a dystopian society:1. Propaganda is used to control the citizens of society. In Farenheit 451, propaganda is used when Montag kills Beatty and is being hunted for it. The government uses media to portray that Montag was killed when he had actually escaped into the woods. By doing this, the government is looked up to as heroic and secure for eliminating any ‘threats’ to society.2. Information, independent thought, and freedom are restricted. In the novel, through the censorship of books, individual thought is suppressed and any sources of such thought is banned. Everyone within the society is forced to think the same way and have the same beliefs in order to prevent conflicting ideas.3. Citizens live in a dehumanised state. Every person has been indoctrinated by technology and are inevitably slaves to it. By not being individual, the people are living in a dehumanised state.4. The natural world is banished and distrusted. Although the natural world has not been banished it is still as if it is not there because nobody embraces it anyway. The lives of the people within this society are so focused on technology it is as if their nature does not exist.5. The society is an illusion of a perfect utopian world. In the novel, the government believes that the worst thing to happen is war so the fact that there is no conflict puts people under the impression that they are living in a perfect society.

BURNING BOOKSThe book burning is referring to the ritual destruction of books in World War II by burning them because of cultural, religious, or political opposition to the ideologies the Nazis enforced. This is an element of censorship. The first book burning occurred on 10th of May 1933 where over 25,000 books were burnt simply because they were ‘un-German’. The burnings of the Nazis had been widely shown after World War II. They became a major symbol of the repression that followed in Nazi Germany. The importance of books and the freedom to read them was a central concern of liberal-minded people during the 1950s.In Fahrenheit 451, a similar political ideology of totalitarianism is present in that the government controls everything through propaganda. To eliminate books that provoke individual thought, both the Nazis in Germany and the firemen in Fahrenheit 451 burn them. Faber says, “It's not books you need, it's some of the things that once were in books." By burning the books, an entire masterpiece of intellectual thought is being lost as if it never happened.

HISTORICAL CONTEXT

McCARTHYISMMcCarthyism was an anti-communist movement in the 1950’s in the United States. It was started by Joseph McCarthy, senator from Wisconsin when he claimed that he had a list of 205 communist supporters, who had intruded into the State Department. This was declared in a speech that he gave at the Ohio County Women’s Republican Conference in Wheeling which propelled him into the national spotlight. During McCarthy’s second term as senator, he was put in charge of the committee of government operations resulting in the launch of many investigations of the alleged communists within the federal government. He took an aggressive approach and interrogated witnesses, which many argued was a violation of their civil rights. Communism had been responsible for tens of millions of deaths in the Soviet Union, China, and elsewhere, and people living in Communist countries had significant restrictions on freedom. In that environment McCarthy was able to gain support for his crusade. Two thousand government employees lost their jobs because they had left wing views and had previously been a part of the Communist Party. The end of McCarthyism was aided when journalist Edward R. Murrow, who despite being an anti-communist, still passionately believed in civil and political rights and viewed McCarthy’s actions as morally incorrect, as it was harming innocent people. Bradbury as a teenager was horrified by Nazi book burnings and Communist oppression, but later by McCarthyism. In Fahrenheit 451, he depicts a lot about McCarthyism through this characterisation of the firemen. Joseph McCarthy and the firemen, in particular, Beatty have many parallels that can be drawn between them. They both show intense aggressiveness and many accusations in order to obtain their ideal society. McCarthy interrogated those who had communist histories, and many were prosecuted, while Beatty burned books and sometimes the people who owned books for being associated with literature and intelligence. McCarthy’s attitude towards communist can be described as an extreme hatred as he valued the free enterprise society. Likewise, Beatty’s attitude towards books is one of extreme hatred and he values a literature-free society where everyone thinks the same way. By standing up for his beliefs, Edward R Murrow publicly exposed McCarthy and in comparison, Beatty was killed by Montag for the same reason.

SEXISMThe 1950’s was a time when women were viewed predominantly as having a domestic role. This often resulted in an unequal power distribution, and sexism was often tolerated and sometime actively encouraged. Within the relationship women were generally stereotyped as having the role of staying home cooking, cleaning and having children. People viewed the raising of children as very important, but many believed, and still do, that this is the main contribution women can make to society. The family culture was much stronger than today. On the flipside, it often entailed men abusing the women for errors and the women feeling extreme guilt as if her life revolves around impressing her husband. The lack of feminist culture is evident in Fahrenheit 451 when Montag rants at Mildreds friend Mrs Bowles:“Go home and think of your first husband divorced and your second husband killed in a jet and your third husband blowing his brains out, go home and think of the dozen abortions you’ve had, go home and think of that and your damn Caesarian sections, too, and your children who hate your guts! Go home and think how it all happened and what did you ever do to stop it?”This encounters the sexist gender stereotyping, typical of the 1950s working male. By saying this, Montag is showing flawed morality which indicates that books may have impacted him negatively. In this quote, Guy is implying that is at fault of the women that divorce, abortion and bad parenting are issues present in their society. After Montag blurts this out at Mrs Bowles, she leaves without any response. This alludes to the superiority of men over women in the 1950’s and how they were expected to do what the men said.

SOCIAL CONTEXT

POLITICAL CONTEXT

THEMES

FAHRENHEIT 451


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