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Fahrenheit 451 Research Essay

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The 1950’s were a time of fear and change which were felt by everyone. Changes like McCarthyism, censorship, automobiles and book burning influenced Ray Bradbury in the creation of Fahrenheit 451.
Throughout the 1950’s American society was influenced by Joseph McCarthy and his plan to rid the country from communism. Around this time World War II had just ended and the United States was afraid that there were citizens that felt communism was acceptable. Communism is a political theory derived from Carl Marx, which leads to a society in which all property is privately owned, each person works and is paid according to their abilities and needs (Wisegeek.com) .The purpose of this type of government was to create a classless society. Communism controls goods and services through government that produces only to serve people and strives to create total equality within a society. Joseph McCarthy was an American politician who served as a Republican U.S. Senator in the state of Wisconsin from 1947 until his death in 1957. McCarthy was against communism and fought dirty campaigns to hunt down communists and communist sympathizers. Joseph McCarthy influenced a belief called McCarthyism which makes accusations of disloyalty, subversion or treason without proper regard for evidence. The primary targets of McCarthyism were government employees, entertainers, educators and union activists. While in the Senate, McCarthy claimed he had blacklisted 205 people in the State Department that were members of the American Communist Party, however later reduced this number to 54. Ironically, it is said that if McCarthy was screened he would have been put on the blacklist (Spartacus Educational). Throughout Fahrenheit 451 it is evident that Ray Bradbury was influenced by these factors while writing. The authority in the novel is corrupt similar to the way Joseph McCarthy was. The authority controlled the goods and services of society. As well as limited the information citizens were receiving. The authority in Fahrenheit 451 targeted educators and scholars because of their intelligence. Authorities felt everyone had to learn and know the same amount. This was achieved by burning all books and ultimately creating an equal society. In a way it seems as if Ray Bradbury used Joseph McCarthy as a doppelganger to Montag. Montag realized the authority needed to change by doing what was best for society’s sake. Whereas, Joseph McCarthy wanted to keep society as it was but eliminate people who wanted change by taking a more drastic and sinister approach towards the issue. Montag realized the shallowness of society without books and puts action towards it similar to what the government of the United States did towards the plans of Joseph McCarthy.
Automobiles in the 1950’s were becoming a growing commodity with the advancement of technology and the ever increasing economy. Throughout the 1950s engine power and vehicle speeds rose, designs became more integrated and artful, and cars spread across the world (en.wikipedia.org). The advancement in automobiles made transportation easier for people. Because of this families moved to the suburbs to start the “Ideal life” (YAHOO! Answers). Car engines became more powerful allowing the vehicle to move faster. This resulted in communities becoming more spread out. With the increase in travel in the United States there was a need for a quicker route to travel so the government put in Interstate Highways. Automobiles gave people a sense of freedom and the ability to explore things around them. Strip malls and stand alone grocery store became more common and drive inns became popular. The 1950’s also saw advancement in television production. The television got larger and more companies chose to broadcast through television then through radio. Television became a must have item and everyone wanted one because it was a cheap and simple source of entertainment. Citizens in the United States felt they earned a television because of the hardships dealt with during World War II (Buzzle.com). These advancements influenced Ray Bradbury when writing the novel. Bradbury’s creation of the character Mildred is an example of this. Mildred portrays an average American citizen during the 1950’s. The character of Mildred is a woman who is caught up in the advancements in technology and feels she has earned the right to obtain them. It is evident that Ray Bradbury was influenced in writing through the obsessive, careless personality of Mildred. Mildred seems obsessed with television because she feels she needs a “fourth wall” TV put in. It is evident that Bradbury did not think highly of televisions or cars because of the attitude presented towards them in the book. Bradbury explains through Guy Montag how he feels TV’s are a waste and that cars are dangerous. Ray Bradbury shows that cars are dangerous through Mildred’s character. Mildred purposely tries to hit things and everything is “game” according to her. Some researcher’s during the 1950’s believed that “people who watched TV more and read less showed difficulty in paying attention or concentrating” (Buzzle.com). It is evident that Ray Bradbury agreed with this statement and used his opinion to create characters in the dystopian society of Fahrenheit 451.
During World War II book burning was a common practice amongst Nazi sympathizers. Book burning is the practice of destroying books or other written material and media (Holocaust Encyclopedia). In 1933 Nazi authorities strove to synchronize organizations with Nazi ideology. They did this by burning the books of well known philosophers, researchers, playwrights, and authors. In 1821 Heinrich Heine stated in his play Almansor “Where they burn books, they will also ultimately burn people to” (Heinrich Heine, Almansor). This quotation is ironic because during World War II not only did the Nazi’s burn books but burnt people too. At a book burning in 1933 Nazi commander Joseph Goebbels said “The future German man will not just be a man of books, but a man of character. You do well in this midnight hour to commit to the flames the evil spirit of the past. From this wreckage the phoenix of a new spirit will triumphantly rise” (Joseph Goebbels). Goebbels along with other Nazi followers felt that if books were burnt, they would be able to hide the wrong doings of history and right them with Nazi ideology. This practice appears to have had a large impact on the way Ray Bradbury portrayed the world of Fahrenheit 451. The authority in the novel burnt books to have power because it was thought books were evil and were sources of unintelligible jargon. Ray Bradbury was influenced by Heinrich Heine’s quote as in Fahrenheit 451 people were burnt if they did not hand over their books. Bradbury created authority in the novel that had the same mindset as the Nazi. The authority wanted to succeed in their ways and would do whatever it took to achieve it. John Milton once said “…Anyone who kills a man, kills a reasonable creature, God’s image, but he who destroys a good book, kills reason itself” (John Milton). This sense of philosophy influenced Ray Bradbury when writing this novel because society in the book has lost all reason. Fahrenheit 451 society’s depth of thinking is similar to that of a shallow pothole; everything skims across the top but nothing ever sinks in. Ray Bradbury acknowledged that without books a person becomes one-dimensional, never seeing the consequences’ to their actions, never thinking about the bigger picture and never seeking to find the deeper meaning in things. Captain Beaty’s character portrayed the people who were pro-book burning; who knew the knowledge a book contains but figured society was better off not knowing the information that could be obtained. Bradbury formed Guy Montags character around the people of society who wanted to make a difference. Guy Montags character realizes that society is better off with books and strives to rebuild the importance of books. In a way it seems as if Guy Montag was created to resemble Bradbury and the way in which Ray Bradbury felt about the changing of society.
The changes and factors of the American society in the 1950’s impacted the way many people looked at the world. Ray Bradbury was one of the many people influenced by these changes. These influences were evident through Ray Bradbury’s attitude in the creation of the novel Fahrenheit 451.

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