Author: Ray Bradbury
Genre: Science Fiction
My Rating: 4 out of 5
As I read Fahrenheit 451, I was startled by how relevant it is to the world that we live in today, with its censorship of topics that can be offensive to smaller groups and the frightening influence that the media has over us.
My understanding of how this novel is usually interpreted is as a commentary on the evils of censorship. This makes sense to me, since the primary motif of Fahrenheit 451 is the burning of books. However, this was not the main message that I came away with.
I believe that Bradbury is commenting not just on book censorship but also on the impact of mass media. When we allow mass media to influence how we interpret the world, we lose the opportunity to form views of our own. So many of the characters in the book were too busy paying attention to the televisions in their “parlours” and listening to their “families” on the screens than communicating with one another. Trusting the media to supply all of the necessary information leaves people in the dark about their true situation and inexperienced with asking questions to improve their situation. As true testament to this, the city was attacked in a nuclear war that the citizens did not know much about and were unprepared for. The city was leveled by the end of the book and it is unclear how many, if any, survivors there were from the attack. However Montag, the main character, did know about the war and had asked throughout the book why no one was talking about it or asking about it. The group of intellectuals that he ran into after swimming down the river were informed about the war and anticipated the nuclear attack because their lives were not overly influenced by the media.
It was also interesting that Bradbury not only painted the media as controlling but also manipulative. When the chase was on to find Montag and he was nowhere to be found, the media lied to the public. They cornered and killed an innocent citizen while claiming that it was Montag. They did this in order to give viewers a conclusion to the ordeal that showed them in a good light. They did not want the people to know that they did not have control of the situation. They also wanted to be able to get people back to their “regularly scheduled programming” and “live as usual” to continue their control of them.
I believe that the books were banned because the content in novels, generated by free-thinking individuals, is not something that the media can control. The more people who have access to books, or anything that promotes creativity and freedom of thought, the less able the media will be to control them. Interestingly, tabloids were still a legal form of communication, containing articles no longer than a page in length and, more than likely, content that was filtered and manipulated to conform with the overall agenda of the media.