English II PAP
Prominent Themes of Fahrenheit 451
In Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, “A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it,” censorship is king, and complacency rather than individualism is promoted (36). Thus, Ray Bradbury gives emphasis to the themes of identity, technology, and false happiness in Fahrenheit 451.
At first glance Fahrenheit 451 seems one-sided, the main character seems 2D and unchangeable with fixed viewpoints, but as authors Moss and Whitson note, “[the] crisis of identity is at the core… the main character learns from mentors and sees his own identity along the way”(73). This rollercoaster of self-examination within the protagonist lends a hand into the theme of identity as something that must be discovered through strife and self-reflection. Guided, the protagonist discovers that self-reflection conflicts with the safety of the mindless and demur conform (de Koster, Ed., 59) To conform is to be safe; the idea of being thinking differently would cost one dearly, however self-examination leads to finding one’s own individuality. Thus self-examination enables one to find what makes them an individual, and with the help of mentors it can go even further. In a sense, Bradbury’s exploration in self-examination expresses that individuality is a unique and hard-to-achieve treasure that must be worked for, rather than given to by neither the government of mass media.
Today technology is seen mostly as a positive influence, from sharing information to connecting individuals. However in Bradbury’s dystopian future technology destroys free thought, and over-stimulates population coercing violence. It is interesting to note that while Bradbury’s future does not have a government where tyrants use technology to conspire against the public; rather mass culture created by the complacent populace hamper and impede individuality and free thinking (Reid, 59). Ironically technology’s ability to share information has created a pseudo-collective thinking that kills off new or deviant ideologies much like the shade of jungle canopies kill of budding plants. Additionally popular culture is taught in schools as well as entertainment creating social norms that people are afraid of leaving. Those that leave are considered deviants and out casted. The incentive to remain liked is reason enough for individuals to avoid deviant attitudes, effectively killing off free thought as society becomes techno-centric (Reid, 60). Bradbury uses the dilemma of social acceptance to show how morally weak humans are when it comes to becoming socially acceptable. When technology connects everybody with a single cultural idea, individuality is shattered as everybody becomes everybody else. Moreover the abundance of technology creates many distractions; as such people are unable to sit still long enough to reflect actions and ideas creating an overly-stimulated society with the inability to reflect consequences and morals leading to an excessively violent world (Moss and Winston, 110). A overly stimulated society from fast cars, fast music, ,and the like leads to very little room for slow self-reflection(Beete and Nizmeyer, Ed., 51). Bradbury creates a tone where technology destroys free thought by, effectively, creating a complacent society that indivertibly creates violence due to over-stimulation.
"Are you happy?” asks a character from Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, starting off the main character’s self-questioning journey (7). A society of false happiness is met with censorship which bans objectionable materials which limits free thought effectively leaving people in a state where ignorance is bliss. The firemen in Fahrenheit 451 promote ignorance in an effort to keep society content (Beete and Nizmeyer, Ed., 51).Bradbury uses this to get across that, in an effort to keep everybody happy, censorship has banned material that “minority groups” find offensive (Reid, 60). Although this serves to keep a group from becoming angry it hardly makes them happy, for in what way can denying entertainment to others give anybody happiness. Therefore Bradbury creates a society in a false sense of happiness by making them simply unable to get upset, where in fact Bradbury suggest that by sheltering minds from objectionable material secludes them from any ideas or philosophies that can truly bring one happiness. In Fahrenheit 451, the main character shatters the veil of happiness by simply pointing out critical faults with his wife’s friends (Bradbury 41). Using character dialogue Bradbury has shown the theme of false happiness by showing the ease in shattering the people’s “happiness.” The lack of free thought that came about from censorship also disables the ability for any deviant ideas to cause unhappiness in the general populace, so in fact ignorance is bliss (Beete and Nizmeyer, Ed., 50).
In conclusion the Bradbury emphasizes the themes of identity, technology, and false happiness to give a glimpse of the future where they morals and ideas are impeded by the desire to remain in social norms. Technology only helps to spread mass culture that further demotes individual thought. These simple themes expressed throughout Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, give the reader glimpses into real-life issues. Bradbury attempted to warn his readers on the dangers of complacency and censorship that will come as mass media becomes massive.
Beetz, Kirk H., and Suzume Nezmeyer. Beacham’s Guide to Literature for young adults, V. 4 Vol. 4. Washington D.C.:Beacham Publishing Inc.,1990.Print. Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1967. Print. De Koster, Katie, ed. Readings on Fahrenheit 451. West Port: Greenhaven Literary Companion to American Literature, 2000. Print. Reid, Robin Anne. Ray Bradbury: A Critical Companion. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2000. Print. Moss, Joyce, and George Winston. Literature and Its Times, Vol.4: World War II to the Affluent 50's. Detoit: Gale, 1997. Print.