Jacob Burke

Ms. Marshall

ENG 4UE

January 08, 2018

Censorship
in Fahrenheit 451

            In
Ray Bradbury’s dystopian novel, Fahrenheit
451, books and literature are illegal and are burned rather than read in a
futuristic society. This leads to people watching excessive amounts of
television, resulting in having almost no emotion for each other, no meaningful
conversations, no independent thinking, and little meaning for life. They also
drive extremely fast due to lack of appreciation for nature and take its beauty
for granted. While Bradbury’s intent in his message through writing this story
was to notify people of how life would have little meaning without literature
and that television could consume society, censorship plays a big role in
contributing to the conformity of the community, and ultimately, how culture
impacts individuals. Many characters of the novel were impacted differently,
but three were impacted on a much greater scale: The wife of the protagonist,
Mildred Montag, was easily drawn to television and had no curiosity or interest
for books, thus conforming to society and complying with the government; a
seventeen year-old girl named Clarisse McClellan who was the opposite of
Mildred, as she had no interest for television and loved the great outdoors;
and the protagonist of the novel, Guy Montag, who burned books as his job, but let
his curiosity get the better of him and realized the importance and value of
books throughout the novel.

            Mildred
Montag is the epitome of entertaining oneself effortlessly. She did not work,
instead she watched television on her wall set for the majority of the day and
did not show any interest for literature or even her husband, and did not even
show concern for much else than her television. While it may not have had a
positive effect on her, government censorship greatly influenced her life
decisions. To begin with, Guy Montag befriended Clarisse McClellan early on in
the story. Her unique personality and style of living puzzled Guy, but also
intrigued him. He could not help but want to learn more about her. Then, some
time passed and Guy had not seen nor heard from Clarisse in a while. He was
wondering what had happened to her and confided in Mildred. She broke the tragic
news to him that Clarisse had been run over by a speeding car four days
earlier, but she was not even phased. “‘No. The same girl. McClellan.
McClellan. Run over by a car. Four days ago. I’m not sure. But I think she’s
dead. The family moved out anyway. I don’t know. But I think she’s dead'” (Bradbury
47). She did not show any emotion for the death of young Clarisse. There was no
news about the event, nor was there any concern from anyone. Clarisse was
different than everyone since she did not conform to society, so everyone,
including Mildred, took her death lightly. Furthermore, Mildred preferred
watching fictional characters on the television, whom she referred to as her
family, because individuality and dissent were considered bad. Books that
offended anyone were outlawed to avoid conflict, resulting in literature
becoming banned altogether. Eventually, being different or creative was frowned
upon. So Mildred, protecting herself from the possible consequences, followed
society and just fit in. She did not care about anything but her television,
her supposed family:

            “Will
you turn the parlor off?” he asked.

            “That’s
my family.”

            “Will
you turn it off for a sick man?”

            “I’ll
turn it down.”

            She
went out of the room and did nothing to the parlor and came back. “Is that
better?”            (Bradbury 48-49).

Also, it is shown how isolated
the public was and how their minds were being controlled by the conformist
government. Mildred watched her wall television, or the parlor, for most of the
day and took in all the propaganda and mindless programming that was being fed
to her by the government. This resulted in her losing a lot of her short-term
memory:

            “Will
you bring me aspirin and water?”

            “You
acted funny last night.” She returned, humming.

            “Where’s
the aspirin?” He glanced at the water glass she handed him (Bradbury 48-49).

Lastly, it was confirmed that
Mildred only cared about herself when she turned in her own husband and left
the house. “The front door opened; Mildred came down the steps, running, one
suitcase held with a dreamlike clenching rigidity in her fist, as a beetle-taxi
hissed to the curb. She shoved the valise in the waiting beetle, climbed in,
and sat mumbling, ‘Poor family, poor family, oh everything gone, everything,
everything gone now…'” (Bradbury 114). She was afraid of what would happen to
her if she had stuck by her husband, considering he broke the law, so she
decided to protect herself and betrayed her husband, thus conforming. It is
without question that Mildred Montag was greatly affected by government
censorship throughout the novel and easily conformed to society.

            While
government censorship worked accordingly for Mildred Montag, the effects were
the opposite on seventeen year-old Clarisse McClellan. Unlike society, she did
not watch television and she took the time to appreciate nature. The foremost
reason for this being that she rebelled against the government censorship. She explained
to Guy that she preferred going for walks and enjoyed smelling things and
looking at things, and did not watch television. “‘Isn’t this a nice time of
night to walk? I like to smell things and look at things, and sometimes stay up
all night, walking, and watch the sun rise'” (Bradbury 7). “‘I rarely watch the
‘parlor walls’ or go to races or Fun Parks'” (Bradbury 9). She did not care
what the norm was, nor did she care that she was an outcast, because she was
happy with the way she lived. To add on, Clarisse still rebelled even though
all her peers had conformed to society. She was afraid of them because some of
them had been killed at the expense of other friends. Especially due to driving
fast, as they did not appreciate nature like Clarisse did. “‘I’m afraid of
children my own age. They kill each other. Six of my friends have been shot in
the last year alone. Ten of them died in car wrecks. I’m afraid of them and
they don’t like me because I’m afraid'” (Bradbury 30). To end with, despite that
Guy was a fireman, Clarisse still shared all of her thoughts with him. She
introduced him to the world’s potential for beauty and meaning with her gentle
innocence and curiosity. Guy learned a lot about himself from Clarisse and she
helped him find true happiness. Had he not met her, he never would have
continued to be curious about literature and he never would have helped rebuild
civilization. “Before he crossed paths with her, Montag walked, talked, and
lived as if desensitized and numb to the degradation of individual freedom
around him. He was part of the problem to use a contemporary phrase, but
Clarisse awakens him and he is now becoming part of the solution – at least for
himself and those who think like him” (Ugulini). Clarisse McClellan was
different than everyone else and decided not to conform to society, as she
realized that life would be happier living more freely and not being controlled
by television or by the government.

            The
way government censorship affected Guy Montag was much like the way it affected
Mildred Montag near the beginning of the story, but changed greatly throughout
the novel. Firstly, Guy was a fireman who claimed that he was content with his
job and his life. However, after meeting Clarisse McClellan, she asked if he
really was happy and if he really was in love. Guy immediately thought of these
as stupid questions, but then really thought about them and questioned his
whole life with Mildred. “‘Of course I’m happy. What does she think? I’m not? He asked the quiet rooms'”
(Bradbury 10). Guy saw that Clarisse was happy with her life and realized that
there was some sort of emptiness in his. He discovered that it was because he
had conformed to society and she did not. Secondly, Guy was traumatized after
burning a woman alive on one of his missions. He was puzzled at why the woman
would give up her life for books and became more intrigued with literature,
wondering how she had so much passion them. However, he also thought it was
wrong to burn the woman just for keeping books, as if firemen had too much
power or authority. “‘She was as rational as you and I, more so perhaps, and we
burnt her'” (Bradbury 51). Finally, near the end of the story when Guy became a
fugitive, a massive war broke out as well. He was running from the law, as he
was caught keeping books and then burned Beatty. In their attempts to catch
him, the law nearly tore apart the city and wreaked absolute chaos, resulting
in a war. They even killed an innocent man whom they posed as Guy Montag so
they did not have to tell the public they failed. “‘They’re faking. You threw
them off at the river. They can’t admit it. They know they can hold their
audience only so long. The show’s got to have a snap ending, quick! If they
started searching the whole damn river it might take all night. So they’re
sniffing for a scapegoat to end things with a bang. Watch. They’ll catch Montag
in the next five minutes!'” (Bradbury 148). Guy thought that if humankind is
this uncivilized without books and literature, then he would help rebuild
civilization with books and literature. Censorship really had an impact on Guy
Montag throughout the entire novel. At first, he was part of the problem, then
he realized the wrong he was doing.

            Ray
Bradbury certainly comments on the excessive use of and dependence on
technology nowadays in writing Fahrenheit
451 and predicts what society could become if technology continues to
dominate lives. Bradbury takes Guy Montag on a journey to find true meaning in
life through books and literature. Censorship plays a big role in contributing
to the decisions made by many characters throughout the story, especially Guy
Montag.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

Gray, Kerry. “Censorship Quotes
in Fahrenheit 451: Examples & Analysis.” Study.com,             Study.com,
study.com/academy/lesson/censorship-quotes-in-fahrenheit-451-examples-            analysis.html

Boggs, Christina. “Clarisse
McClellan in Fahrenheit 451: Character Analysis & Quotes.”          Study.com, Study.com,
study.com/academy/lesson/clarisse-mcclellan-in-fahrenheit-          451-character-analysis-quotes.html

Ugulini, Michael. “What Is
Clarisse’s Function in Fahrenheit 451, and How Does She Affect       Montag?” Enotes.com,
Enotes.com, www.enotes.com/homework-help/what-clarisse-s-   function-fahrenheit-451-how-does-17319

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