Censorship in Fahrenheit 451 Book Review
Censorship is a commonly debated ideal that plays a significant role throughout Fahrenheit 451. Throughout the story, it becomes clear how censorship affects the ideals and values of the characters. It also clearly impacts how the characters in this story view government and authority. Some characters in this story view censorship as necessary to protect and improve the lives of people. Others view it as an oppressive regime designed to silence opinions, thoughts, facts, and ideas that may be controversial. The biggest question in the story is who will choose to oppose censorship and why.
The character Beaty, clearly view censorship as needed. He was never exposed to the idea that books were positive and he doesn’t seem to be bothered by it. He tells Montag, the main character, that censorship was needed for a stable society and for people to coexist. For example, when lecturing Montag about censorship and why books are burned he says this “So! A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it. Take the shot from the weapon. Breach man's mind. (pg. 56)” He claims books are dangerous and even goes as far as to compare a book to a loaded gun. He seems to believe that censorship keeps everyone safe. Montag, despite previously supporting censorship, is opposed to the idea of censorship and it is clear his values changed as his views on censorship changed. For instance, in the beginning, Clarisse asks him, "Do you ever read any of the books you burn?" He laughed. "That's against the law! (pg. 5)". Later in the book, when talking about the books he hid in his vent, he says, “We can't do anything. We can't burn these. I want to look at them, at least look at them once. (pg .63)” He completely changed his ideas about censorship and as a result, felt he should be able to read books and so should everyone else. It seems that from this point on he will have to defy authority to achieve what he wants.
Some people appreciate the government because of censorship, others oppose the government because of censorship. Beaty blames censorship on the people rather than the government. For instance, when lecturing Montag, he says, “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! (pg. 55)” He claims that the consumers wanted shorter and quicker information which is why books were pretty much useless. While Montag’s views on government aren’t certain, it is clear what his current opinion about the firemen is and the firemen are in many ways considered a form of authority. To illustrate, he shares his thoughts on firemen by saying, “But I kept putting her alongside the firemen in the house last night, and I suddenly realized I didn't like them at all, and I didn't like myself at all anymore. And I thought maybe it would be best if the firemen themselves were burnt. (pg. 64)" Unlike Beady, Montag believes that censorship is a result of authority. Regardless of how the characters feel about censorship, it is clear it affects them in many ways.
All of the characters in this book react differently to censorship and an oppressive government in general. The character Beady doesn’t acknowledge the faults of society and just continues to live his life and in fact, appreciates these faults, which he doesn’t really view as flaws. To illustrate, when explaining the history of society to Montag, he says, “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. (pg. 55)” He seems to believe society would be in absolute chaos if it wasn’t for censorship which is opposite to Montag. Montag seems to be one of the only people, other than Faber and Clarisse (who passed) that recognizes that there is something strange about society and wants to change it. For example, after a woman burns herself alive with her books, he is angry and confused and says, "I'm going to do something," said Montag. "I don't even know what yet, but I'm going to do something big. (pg. 62)" Though he may not have initially recognized something is wrong, he eventually does realize something is wrong, but only with some help from Clarisse. The impact of the other characters on Montag is what builds the plot in this story and his anger towards the way things are.
Fahrenheit 451 is a book that debates what factors that make a dystopian society. The characters in this book display how living in a dystopian society can impact their relationships, ideals, values, and the way they interact with other characters throughout this book. Censorship and repressing information is a clear factor in dystopian society but is also hard to recognize and even harder to take action against it.