Sunday, August 29, 2010

Theme - Censorship

stopping the transmission or publication of matter considered objectionable.

In the novel Fahrenheit 451, censorship plays an enormous role and is noted to be the most important theme.

In the futuristic world of Fahrenheit 451, firemen start fires rather than extinguishing them. People of this society do not think independently nor do they have meaningful conversations. They don’t even have an interest in reading books.

Rather than that, they watch an extreme amount of television on wall-size sets and listen to “Sea-shell radio” which is attached to their ears. People drive extremely fast due to lack of appreciation for nature; They never take time to look around and admire nature's wonders and instead takes them for granted.

“It was a pleasure to burn.”, the opening line of the book, grabs the reader’s attention and immediately tells where the unfortunate hero stands on the idea of books being banned. The books in Fahrenheit 451 were banned for several reasons. First off, many books were banned because they weren't politically correct.

"Colored people don't like Little Black Sambo. Burn it. White people
don't feel good about Uncle Tom's Cabin. Burn it. Someone's written a book on
tobacco and cancer of the lungs? The cigarette people are weeping? Burn the
book. Serenity Montag. Peace Montag"

If one group of people, no matter how small, didn't like a book, it would be banned.

People in the novel are afraid-afraid of themselves. They fear the thought of knowing, which leads them to depend of others (government) to think for them. Since they aren't thinking, they need something to occupy their time. This is where television and mass media comes in. A whole host of problems arise from television: violence, depression and even suicide.

Fahrenheit 451 depicts what can happen if a society allows the government to take total control of what they do (or do not) read, watch, and discuss.

Although the books and people have fallen victims to censorship in Fahrenheit 451, luckily, some citizens remain who are willing to sacrifice their lives to ensure that books remain alive. As Faber notes in a conversation with Montag,
"It's not books you need, it's some of the things that once were in
Faber then continues this conversation with Montag pointing out that people need
"the right to carry out actions based on what we learn (from books). . .

Tool of censorship - Mass media

In the novel, mass media is being used as a tool of censorship.

The programmes broadcasted on television do not provoke the viewer's thinking; The programmes do not give food for thought, they provide mindless entertainment. This shows that the government does not give viewers the slightest opportunity to use their brains to think by giving them shows that are meant to entertain and not spark ideas.

Because the society depends on the government so much, they blindly follow and believe whatever the government says. When the hunt for Montag went on, the government killed a man and claimed on national television that they have killed Montag when in actual fact they let Montag escape. By doing so they want to let the society know that the Government is always right and that the Government never lets anyone get away with non-conformity.

Theme- Apathy


Citizen are unconcern about death and war, people are absorbed in their own lives and are not concerned about other people. Citizens are generally apathetic towards life and death, and also towards war. The police in the society do not care about the safety of their citizens, allowing them to speed.

"ride in the jet cars when they race on the edge of the town at nidnight and the police do not care as long as they are insured."

People are emotionless towards treating patients in danger. This can be seen during the Mildred overdose of sleeping pills. This suggest that they are nonchalant and passive about death.
"Standing straight over her, not bent with concern but standing straight"
"You take out the old and put in the new and you will be okay"

Citizens are unconcerned about the war Mrs. Phelps is not concerned and not worried by the fact that her husband might be killed in the war.

"I'll let Pete do all the worrying"
"No tear nothing like that"

Mildred simply forget to tell Montag that Clarisse is dead and after telling Montag Mildred was "sing under her breath"

People are too absorbed in their own lives to care about the other people.
Montag once complaint "it's been a long time since anyone care enough to ask." and "nobody listens anymore"
Shows that the society is apathetic about everything, everything except themselves and entertainment. They only care about themselves and are stoic towards the plight of others.

"I 've had two children...I plunk the children in school 9 out of 10 days."

Citizen unfeeling towards each other.

"Either shouting or dancing around like wild and or beating upon one another and they go to a fun park to bully people around"

They are unfeeling and could not care less.

"it's fun out in the country. You hit rabbits, sometimes you hit dogs"

Mildred, and the other citizen like to distress at the expense of other living things, showing apathy towards life and death towards other living things.

Government create apathy in the society throught the use of technology to make people conformist and undulge in a meaningless life.

"toast popped out of the silver toaster, was served by a spidery metal handful and drenched it with melted butter"

Uses palor walls and seashells to brainwash people.

"there have been no nights in the last two year she had not swum in that sea"

Theme- Conformity

Conformity is portrayed in Fahrenheit 451 through Entertainment, Education, Fear and Changing of History.


Senses overloaded
The entertainment the citizens received provide them with so much excitement in a short time they have no time to think. Their mind has no room for thoughts as they have their senses occupied with what is happening in front of them. Therefore, they will just follow with anything that is asked for them, and do not question anything.

E.g.: Seashells, parlor walls
"the televisor is real. It is immediate, it has dimension. It tells you what to think and blast it in. It must be right. It seems so right. It rushes you so quickly to its own conclusion your mind hasn't time to protest"

The games they play or the shows they watch all contain violence. This made them apactheitc to all the happenings around them. Even if death of war occurs around them, they would blink an eye on it and continue to live their lives at their own pace. Being apathetic, they would not question the happenings around them and continue to mindlessly follor the government as conformists.

E.g: Fun parks for bullying people, Window Smasher for smashing windows, Parlor walls.
"head for Fun park to Bully people around, break windowpanes in the Window Smasher palce or wreak cars in Car Wreaker place with a steel ball"
"six of my friends have been shot in last year alone"


Information overload
Schools no longer teach. They merely fill the students with "knowledge"and make them feel "smart" and students are never taught to question, but just accept what they have been told.
"We never ask questions, or at least most don't; they just run the answers at you, bing bing bing, and us sitting there for four more hours of film taecher"
"Cramp them full of non-combustible data, chock them so damn full of facts they feel stuffed, but absolutely brilliant with information."


The government take charge of every aspect of the citizens life, e.g. what shows are been programmed on television. It expects every civilian to follow its laws i.e. by no reading and seeking self improvement. Those who violate the laws of attempts to rebel against the system are being severely dealt with.
arrested for simply being diffent"my uncle was arrested..for being a predestrain"

Creation of jobs and machines to inspire fear
the Mechanical Hound is invented to force support from the citizens, through fear
*ireman who burn hourse of those who dares to keep books

Changing of history

Benjamin Franklin named the first fireman(pg34-35)
They changed the history to make burning of books and houses seems plausible and reasonable. Thus, people will not question the origins of a fireman's job scope.

They also purposely made use of a famous name in the history "Benjamin Franklin" so as to make the job of a firemen more awe-inspiring and distinguished. Citizens in the novel would therefore respect them and mgiht even be afraid of them.
"so many people are. Afraid of firemen, i mean."


Characters in Fahrenheit 451 include Guy Montag, Clarisse, Mildred, Captain Beatty, the Mysterious Old Woman, Faber, Granger and other intellectuals and Mildred's friends - Mrs Bowles and Mrs Phelps.
Guy Montag is the protagonist for the novel Fahrenheit 451. He is a fireman who makes his living by burning books and the houses where they are illegally kept. He has been working the same job for close to 30 years. He has never questioned his happiness until Clarisse asked him, "Are you happy?". That question sparked his thoughts and since then he started to think and go against the norm of the society. He realizes that the world is wasting away because people live only to be entertained. He forms unusually strong relations with anyone who seems positive to true friendship thus Montag turns to Professor Faber, a man of books who Montag met once long ago, for guidance in his quest for knowledge. A few characteristic traits about is that he is BRAVE, LOYAL and RECKLESS

Montag is COURAGEOUS because:

-He was brave enough to keep the book that he
was supposed to burn at the old woman's house and even showed it to Mildred.

-When he could not commuinicate with Mildred about his ideas, he went to seek help from Faber. He is brave in the sense that
he decided to look for Faber, somebody whom he only met once. For the purpose of
finding out the truth, he is brave enough to disregard any
chance of being caught owning books and collaborating with a

-He is also brave as he dares to read a book to
Mildred's friends
. He knew that Mrs Bowles and Mrs Phelps are conformist
and would not support the idea of reading books, yet he wants to give it a try, despite the risk.

-He dared to defy the ways of a firemen of the

Montag is LOYAL because:

-In order to protect Faber, he killed Beatty and the Mechanical Hound. "We'll trace
this and drop in on your friend"
Beatty had threatened to seek out Faber
when he found out about the freen capsule in Montag's ear. "He twitched the
safety catch on the flame thrower."

Montag is RECKLESS because:
-He did not think carefully about what he was
doing or planning to do. He wanted to plant books in the firemen's houses but he
did not think about the danger of it or whether it will succeed. "Plant the
books, turn in an alarm, and see the firemen's houses burn, is that what you

-He also did not consider the consequences of
reading the poem 'Dover Beach' to Mrs Bowles and Mrs Phelps.


Clarisse McClellan is an unusual young girl who lives next door to Montag. A seventeen-year-old she is, she influences montag into discovering the beauty of the world. She is an outcast from society because of her odd habits, which include hiking, playing with flowers, and asking questions. However, her family and herself seem happy with themselves and each other. She inspires Montag to ponder over his life, asking him if he is happy with what he does. Clarisse is a non-conformist, she expresses herself. She is also the catalyst that aids Montag in his search for himself. She is BRAVE.

Clarissa McClellan is COURAGEOUS because:
-She dared to talk to Guy Montag although she knew from his pungent
kerosene scent that he was a fireman. She says that she is not scared of

-She is a non-conformist and she does not have to hide it. Her
non-conformity is shown in the things she do, such as playing with flowers and
asking questions. When people in the Fahrenheit 451 society question "What?",
she questions "Why?".
Mildred (Millie) is the protagonist's wife, the one major character in the book who seems to have no hope of resolving the conflicts within herself. She is obsessed with watching television and refuses to be in a conversation with her husband about their marriage or her feelings. Her suicide attempt, clearly indicates that she suffers a great deal of pain. Narrow-minded and childish, Mildred does not understand her husband and apparently has no purpose in doing so. Her suicide attempt suggests that she is in great pain and that her obsession with television is a means to avoid confronting her life. Eventually, Mildred is overwhelmed by her husband's discovery and dedication to books, reports his illegal activity and flees the house. She is a flat character.
Mildred is not COURAGEOUS because:
- She is a conformist and she is afraid of going
against the law
. This can be seen when she reports Montag's possesion of
books to the firemen. She does not seem to mind the fact that Montag is her own
husband and that her house was going to be burnt down; She just did not want to
go against the laws and get into trouble.

-She is aware of the state of the society, and how unhappy everything is.
Instead of facing up to her problems, she does not have to do so and instead
takes the easy way out - commit suicide. Which is why she gulped down a alot of
sleeping pills just so she could die and escape from her unhappiness.
Captain Beatty is the captain of Montag's fire department and also the antagonist of the story. Although he is himself extremely well-read, he hates books and people who insist on reading them. He is cunning and so perceptive that he appears to read Montag's thoughts. Beatty is a ruond/complex character, because he is not what he appears to be at first sight; He is full of contradictions. He demonstrates vast literary knowledge in his arguments against the presence of books in society. Beatty often antagonistically lectures Montag, trying to prevent him from succumbing to the appeal of books. Beatty is CRUEL, RATIONAL and a CONFORMIST.

Beatty is CRUEL because:
-At old woman's house; did not bother if the woman burnt to death "Beatty flicked his finger to spark the kerosene."

-There were hints dropped that he might be involved in Clarisse's death. If
not, kill other non-conformists "We know how to nip most of them in the bud,

Beatty is RATIONAL because:
-He used propaganda instead of force; He brainwashed Montag and make him
felt guilty, so that he confesses. "If he hasn't burned it by then, we
simply come burn it for him" "had a dream of you and I, Montag having debates on
books, yelling quotes at me"

Beatty is a CONFORMIST because:
-He is the Chief fire officer, thus he must be staunch supporter of
totalitarian system.

-He believes deeply in conformity "books say nothing" "we must all be
alike" - Stronly believes in eliminating all books to enforce law, at any cost
E.g.: Killing of old woman. "The world can get by just fine without

The Mysterious Old Woman is one of the victims, who chooses to burn herself to death among her treasured possessions rather than surrending her books and saving herself; She is a martyr. Montag is unable to forget the image of the old woman, and wonders what in books could possibly inspire so much passion.

Faber is a retired English professor whom Montag met in a park long ago. He still possesses a few precious books and desires to have more. He would not speak out against book burning when they still could have stopped it. Faber feels it is safer to live discreetly rather than protest or attempt to change the world. He tries to help Montag think independently and at other times he tries to dominate him. Similarly, he can be cowardly and heroic by turns. He blames himself for being a coward, but he later on shows great courage in his acts.

Granger is the leader of the “Book People,” the group of intellectuals Montag finds in the country. Granger is intelligent, patient, and confident in the strength of the human spirit. He is committed to uphold literature through the current Dark Age.

Mildred's friends: Mrs Bowles and Mrs Phelps are also conformists, just like Mildred.

Mrs Phelps is emotionally seperated from her life, being unconcerned when her third husband is sent off to war. Yet she breaks down crying when Montag reads her a poem, 'Dover Beach', revealing suppressed feelings.

Mrs Bowles, like Mrs Phelps, she does not seem to care deeply about her own miserable life, which includes one divorce, one husband killed in an accident, one husband who commits suicide, and two children who hate her. Both of Mildred's friends are conformists.


The novel takes place in an unnamed futuristic city where technology has transformed ths society into a land of virtual reality and ultra-futurism. In Montag’s world, firemen start fires rather than putting them out and they wear the number "451" on their uniforms because that is the temperature at which books burn.

Books are illegal, no one in the society should be thinking. Mankind has become lazy and stupid because of the excesses of technology.

Fictional creation like the Mechanical Hound, is designed to track and kill violators of the law once it has been programmed with their scent. Houses have built-in alarms that ring when someone has a book in his possession, alerting the firemen to go there and begin burning. Also, the houses are fireproofted and firemen start fires than to put them out.

Montag meets a young girl named Clarisse, who makes him wonder about life. This newfound curiosity gets Montag into trouble when he takes an interest in reading the books that he's supposed to burn. Beatty found out and forced Montag to burn his whole house down. To save himself, Montag kills the fire chief and escapes the city.

Montag met a group of renegade intellectuals, led by a man named Granger, who welcome him. Granger tells Montag how the men in his camp have each memorized literary works so that someday, when it is safe to do so, they can again print books, recreating them from memory. The men went back to the city to help rebuild a society that has destroyed itself.