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In the dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451, the government has taken measures to secure their utopian world. Things like having men going from house to house burning books because they think the knowledge in those books is dangerous to their cause. If anyone hears of someone with a book, they turn them in out of fear. The government brainwashed people into thinking books are bad, and nothing good can come out of them, just as Senator McCarthy did with Communists in the 1950’s. If anyone in this world speaks out against the government they would disappear so they can not tell anyone their ideas and ruin their perfect society. The government is totalitarian and will do anything to keep their world that way.
Fahrenheit 451 follows Guy Montag, a fireman who doesn’t put out fires, but burns books. In the world he lives in, books are illegal, and if anyone is found with any the firemen will come and burn the books and their house. Montag has an encounter with his new neighbor, Clarisse, and starts to question his job. Clarisse mysteriously disappears and Montag suspects it was not an accident. One night, Montag steals a book from an old woman who would rather burn alive than live without her books. Montag’s wife turns him in for hiding books and their house gets burnt to the ground. Montag escapes the city just as the atomic war breaks out and joins a group of people who memorize books to preserve them.
How it works
In a totalitarian government, the citizens have no freedom. This type of government is a system that is centralized and is dictatorial. Citizens have to do whatever the government tells them to do. The government will also censor things from the people to hide things that they don’t want them to know. One of the things that they censor in this society is literature, which is suppressing intellectual thought and discourse. The totalitarian government in the book uses firemen to censor literature by arresting anyone possessing books, burning them on the spot along with the house they are discovered. They threaten people to turn in anyone they know who is in the possession of any books. The fear they put into the hearts of the citizens does this. The old women would rather die with her books than live in a world where she is in constant fear. They told the citizens to think of a book as a loaded gun, would you want that in your neighborhood. They think they are making a utopia, but they made a utopia. A dystopia is a place where everything is unpleasant and the people in it are dehumanized.
The second way the government is totalitarian is the use of propaganda. Along with the use of censorship of literature, they use the media to distract the citizens from the true conditions of the state. When the nation is at war, the government will use the media to entertain the people and keep them misinformed. They tell them that their nation is winning and that things are not that bad. The government will tell them lies in order to keep their trust. Citizens remain docile and passively accept the conditions of the state through constant entertainment and psychologically debilitating drugs. ( 6 enotes) Their authority and ability to turn all the TVs to the police chasing Montag indicates that the state controls everything. This is just like a totalitarian regime. control the people.
The last way a totalitarian regime can control the people is through the economy and military. Faber, who Montag looks to for advice, talks throughout the novel about the consumer culture. This encourages individuals to spend money on things that they don’t need, like mindless entertainment. Citizens will continually buy the newest things such as: high-speed beetle cars, tickets to sporting events and the best TVs. Every dollar that people spend tightens the government’s group on the freedoms and rights of the individuals. They would also be fighting numerous wars. When Mildred’s friends came over to the house, Mrs. Phelps says that her husband was in the service. She says that her husband was fighting another quick war. This means that they have wars so often that it is not really a big deal because of how they show the wars in the media, the war is shown as a piece of cake. The emphasis on the military mirrors how the totalitarian regimes attention towards the armed forces in its place.
In the book, it predicts what would follow the Joseph McCarthy era and the fear of spreading Communism. McCarthy was afraid that communists were everywhere and that they were trying to get information to use against them. This wasn’t the case though, with all the accusations he made, he didn’t catch anyone who was really a communist. He ruined people’s lives this way, even though they were not guilty. This relates to the way the government in the book view books. They see them as dangerous and need to be destroyed. If someone is even said to have a book in their house, they are reported to the government out of fear.
The government in the book acts the same way Senator McCarthy did in the 1950’s. Instead of fearing communists they are fearing books. The way McCarthy ruined peoples lives accusing them of being communists is the same way the government in Fahrenheit 451 destroyed Montag’s life. When someone was accused of being a communist, they would lose their job and not be liked by the community. Montag’s life was ruined by the government because he was caught hiding books and the government burned his house down and tried to kill him. Now he has nothing but the people who were excluded just like him. The mechanical hound in the book is like McCarthy. He goes after anyone who is on the run. Someone accuses a person of hiding books and the hound with the firemen come to get them. The hound does something a human being can not go after someone without any remorse for the person.
The society wasn’t always like this when they were taken control of by something. The government took control of society by telling people what to think and not letting them think for themselves. They did this in a brutal manner, burning books. The government thought that without their guidance the whole society would be lost and helpless. Because of this, the government went on with a program of total conformity. They made people believe that books were bad and that they only lead to bad things. …the books by the great authors, or even newer authors in society, would not assist them in keeping the populace under control ( 5 enotes). Fear was the major thing they used to control society. Fear of what would happen to them if they did not comply. Before the government came into power the people were able to be free thinkers, but now they are all drones. All programmed to do what the government wants.
Now just because the government had a stronghold on the people does not mean that no one revolted. At the end of the book, Montag had to flee the town. When he does he finds this group of people who read books. Instead of keeping them, once they read them they burn them. The book is it their memory forever and no one can take it from them. This isn’t this one group there are many like them, along the river. They fled the town because they did not agree with the governments’ beliefs. They are outside the town because they are considered dangerous to the government’s goal. The group is remembering all this knowledge from the past in order to pass it onto the next generation. They are a symbol of hope that there might be a way the end the reign of the government. The people who were compliant and participated did just what the government wants, turn in anything that goes against their system. When he first met the group, said, All we want to do is keep the knowledge we think we will need intact and safe. We’re not out to incite or anger anyone(Bradbury 152). They share the same sentiment that the citizens of the U.S did during the reign of Senator McCarthy.
As you can see, the novel Fahrenheit 451 is what would have followed after Senator McCarthy and his hunt on communists. In this dystopian world, the totalitarian government controls all the thoughts and actions of its citizens. Controlling them by telling them what to do and what they can not do, like read books. Out of fear, they would obey the government and do whatever they wanted. If they did not comply, the government would hunt them down and make sure that their free thinking does not spread. If it did, people would start getting suspicious of what their government really was, and all their work would come undone.
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