Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

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One of England’s greatest literary figures, William Shakespeare, expressed the truth about coveting knowledge by saying that “ignorance is the curse of God; knowledge is the wing wherewith we fly to heaven” (William Shakespeare Quotes). One must assume that Ray Bradbury, Author of Fahrenheit 451, learned from this. Bradbury’s novel shares a similar portrayal towards coveting knowledge. In the novel the protagonist realizes that he is living in a world where knowledge is lost. People abide by rules and restrictions given to them by the government. There is nothing in this society to make people think about how valuable knowledge is, except for books. The protagonist is a fireman whose job is to seek out books and destroy the contents. The mass population believes that books are a waste of time and useless. The protagonist also believes this until a change of heart leads to a journey of identity and curiosity. Bradbury believes that this type of world will eventually turn into our own. Clearly, Ray Bradbury’s outlook for the future of man is grim because he represses intellectual endeavor, lacks critical thinking, and becomes destructive.

First of all, Bradbury shows that when man represses intellectual endeavor, progress cannot be made. In this society, people are not allowed to be creative or make improvements as well as not being allowed to read. This is described by the protagonist Montag when he confronts the chief and explains how easy someone could change the programming of the hound. The chief tells Montag that he’s not being realistic because no one has enough knowledge to do so (Bradbury 27). This explains that people are viewed as normal or plain because no one believes that a person could think like that. Also, this is evident when Montag’s wife is watching television. Montag asks his wife “Why don’t you watch something useful for a change instead of these soaps? Because I don’t need to be useful” (Bradbury 51). This shows how most of the people rely on the government rather themselves. In addition, when the fire chief Beatty visits Montag they begin to talk about books. Beatty tells Montag “What do people see in books? They’re just paper and ink” (Bradbury 30). This shows Beatty’s view on books and how they are of no importance to anyone. Therefore, when man represses intellectual endeavor, progress cannot be made.

Furthermore, Bradbury shows that when man does not think critically, his freedom is reduced.

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This is evident when Montag and his wife are discussing the prior night’s events. He tells his wife “Have you’ve ever seen a woman burned alive? No, but you should have thought of that before you became a fireman” (Bradbury 50). This shows how people accept the role of firemen even if it means burning people alive. This is also evident when Beatty and Montag are talking. Beatty tells Montag “Out of the nursery into the college and back to the nursery; there’s your intellectual pattern for the past five centuries or more” (Bradbury 55). This describes how people have lacked critical thinking for a very long time. In addition, Beatty explains to Montag why people accept firemen in society. Beatty states that “we are custodians of our peace of mind, the focus of our understandable and rightful dread of being inferior. We keep those loaded guns away from houses before they breach man’s mind” (Bradbury 58). This describes the fireman’s role in the society, that they protect the peace of mind of everyone. Therefore, when man doesn’t think critically, his freedom is reduced.

Moreover, Bradbury shows that man’s destruction makes him look foolish. When Montag starts to have doubts of his profession, and his life he realizes something surprising. He thinks to himself “for most of the citizens, the book burning seemed acceptable, even desirable” (Bradbury 27). This starts Montag to realize how destructive and foolish they really are. This is a very big change from how Montag thought about it at the beginning of the novel. Montag states that “It was a pleasure to burn. It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed” (Bradbury 3). Here, Montag enjoys being destructive and burning books. However, by the end of the novel Montag realizes how foolish they all have been when the city is destroyed. Montag says “The city looks like a heap of baking powder. I wonder how many knew it was coming” (Bradbury 162). Montag understands how foolish they all have been and have paid the price for it. Thus, man’s destruction makes him look foolish.

Clearly, Bradbury’s outlook of the future of man is grim. First of all, Bradbury shows that when man represses intellectual endeavor, progress cannot be made. This is shown by Beatty telling Montag that books are just scrap as well as explaining that knowledgeable people are lost. Furthermore, Bradbury shows that when man doesn’t think critically, his freedom is reduced. This is evident as people accepting the role of firemen in society. They also no longer have the right to choose or say why. Moreover, Bradbury shows that man’s destruction makes him look foolish. This is shown as the citizens accept book burning. Ultimately, this leads to the destruction of the city and everyone in it. Bradbury’s depiction of man’s downfall is a warning to all that if one begins to rely too heavily on things, one could slowly be heading down the same path.

Works Cited
Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451. Toronto: Random House, 1996.
Shakespeare, William “William Shakespeare Quotes” Brainy Quote Dec.6, 2006
< www.brainyquote.com >
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