Censorship in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451

In a world where speeches, comments, books, and posts are made about everything from illegal to offensive acts, it is difficult for the public to imagine society being censored. The society in Fahrenheit 451 is the opposite of this. The totalitarian government blocked virtually every form of creative and free speech. Ray Bradbury showed the theme of censorship throughout the story by including the government banning books and banning most freedoms.

The government in Fahrenheit 451 does not allow those living amongst it to read or possess books. “‘Do you ever read any of the books you burn?’ He laughed. ‘That’s against the law!’” (Bradbury 5). At the beginning of the story, Montag sees no issue with this form of censorship. It is his duty to carry it out. Ray Bradbury most likely did this to show Montag change and realize that what he had been carrying out was unnecessary censorship. Bradbury also gave a warning to the readers to not let government have excessive control. “In looking at censorship in Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury sends a very direct message showing readers what can happen if they allow the government to take total control of what they do (or do not) read, watch, and discuss. For example, the government in Fahrenheit 451 has taken control and demanded that books be given the harshest measure of censorship – systematic destruction by burning” (Cliffsnotes). Once Montag grasps this, he begins to attempt to stop it by stealing books. The government censored books because people kept getting offended by some of them and the government thought it would be ideal to solve the problem by entirely banning them. “”‘Now let’s take up the minorities in our civilization, shall we? Bigger the population, the more minorities. Don’t step on the toes of the dog lovers, the cat lovers, doctors, lawyers, merchants, chiefs, Mormons, Baptists, Unitarians, second generation Chinese, Swedes, Italians, Germans, Texans, Brooklynites, Irishmen, people from Oregon or Mexico.

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The people in this book, this play, this TV serial are not meant to represent any actual painters, cartographers, mechanics anywhere. The bigger your market, Montag, the less you handle controversy, remember that! All the minor minor minorities with their navels to be kept clean. Authors, full of evil thoughts, lock up your typewriters. They did. Magazines became a nice blend of vanilla tapioca. Books, so the damned snobbish critics said, were dishwater. No wonder books stopped selling, the critics said. But the public, knowing what it wanted, spinning happily, let the comic books survive. And the three-dimensional sex magazines, of course. There you have it, Montag. 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. Today, thanks to them, you can stay happy all the time, you are allowed to read comics, the good old confessions, or trade journals’” (Bradbury 54). For most people in the novel’s society, the censorship is not a problem. The government tricks those naïve people into believing that it is for the greater good. Montag sees the downside of this, and as the story progresses, readers see that more than just books are banned.

Aside from books, the government also censors the people’s freedoms. Things such as going to court, choosing what to watch on television, and even thinking are banned. “What was it Clarisse had said one afternoon? ‘No front porches. My uncle says there used to be front porches. And people sat there sometimes at night, talking when they wanted to talk, rocking, and not talking when they didn’t want to talk. Sometimes they just sat there and thought about things, turned things over. My uncle says the architects got rid of the front porches because they didn’t look well. But my uncle says that was merely rationalizing it; the real reason, hidden underneath, might be they didn’t want people sitting like that, doing nothing, rocking, talking; that was the wrong kind of social life. People talked too much. And they had time to think. So they ran off with the porches. And the gardens, too. Not many gardens any more to sit around in. And look at the furniture. No rocking chairs anymore. They’re too comfortable. Get people up and running around. My uncle says . . . and . . . my uncle . . . and . . . my uncle . . .’ Her voice faded” (Bradbury 60). Characters throughout the story such as Clarisse and her uncle had trouble remembering things or thinking because that’s how they lived under the government. The government didn’t want people to think because the people could therefore realize new things and perhaps wouldn’t be equally as smart as everyone else. After all, censorship is the act of limiting information and ideas.

Bradbury showed what a society would look like without social media, books, posts, and ways for people to express themselves, and he showed that it would take censorship. The theme serves as a clear warning to not let the government be overloaded with power and control as it was in the novel.

Works Cited

“What Is the Role of Censorship in Fahrenheit 451?” Cliffsnotes, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, www.cliffsnotes.com/cliffsnotes/subjects/literature/what-is-the-role-of-censorship-in-fahrenheit-451.

Bradbury, Ray, and Neil Gaiman. Fahrenheit 451. Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, an Imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2018.

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