Social Criticism In Fahrenheit 451 Essay, Research Paper
Ray Bradbury wrote the novel Fahrenheit 451, which is a story about a society that believed books were for burning and where thinking was discouraged. Throughout the novel there are several incidents that can be considered a social criticism for today?s standards. Subjects that refer to 1) schooling knowledge, 2) the way society is conformed, 3) the diminishing of family values and 4) the ways the books are perceived are all examples of social criticisms in this novel. These incidents help establish the atmosphere for the society in Fahrenheit 451.
There are several examples from the novel where circumstances refer to school and knowledge that are socially criticized. The first example involves the schooling in this society.
?An hour of TV class, an hour of basketball or baseball or running, another hour of transcription history or painting pictures, and more sports,…we never ask questions, or at least most of us don?t; they just run the answer at you, bing, bing, bing, and us sitting there for four more hours of film teacher.? (Ray Bradbury, 1953, p.29)
This quotation refers to social criticism because at school the so-called teachers, (ex. Film teacher) fills the students heads full of facts and makes them remember only things that they want their students to know. ?School is shortened, discipline relaxed, philosophies, histoires, languages dropped, English and spelling gradually gradually neglected, finally almost completely ignored.? (Ray Bradbury, 1953, p.55) This refers to the depreciation of school and knowledge. In today?s society school and everything taught at school is essential for our futures. In their society, technology has become more important. Also, they see less educated people easier to control. At school,
?the word, ?intellectual?, of course, became the swear word it deserved to be…the boy in your class who was exceptionally ?bright?, did most of the reciting and answering while the others sat like so many leaden idols, hating him. And wasn?t it the bright boy you selected for beatings andtortures after hours? We must all alike. Not everyone born free and equal…not everyone made equal.?
(Ray Bradbury, 1953, p.58)
This quotation refers to the philosophy of their society. It is socially criticized because it gave everybody access to the same information and therefore not allowing anyone to think freely. In their society, intelligence means nothing. Referring to the first quotation, if they are told to know something, then they will not ask questions, and therefore everyone will be equal in their knowledge. In this civilization, one is not allowed to be intellect because someone who is stronger in that area has more to offer, like the ?bright boy?, who is hated by others who are not as strong. The society wants children to attend school earlier, ?we?ve lowered the kindergarten age year after year until now we?re almost snatching them from the cradle.? (Ray Bradbury, 1953, p.60) This is an example of social criticism because the younger the children are attending school, the easier it is to mold them into the normal fashion of society. School is also socially criticized because it has replaced the tradition role of a parent in the area of raising and socializing a child. ?I plunk my children in school nine days out of ten. I put up with them when they come home three days a month.? (Ray Bradbury, 1953, p.96) There is not any time for a parent to be involved with the growth of their child. The parents have no interest in their child?s education, and let the school teach them whatever they please. This means that the majority of children will miss out on the fundamentals of life.
There are several different ways in which society is conformed that relate to social criticism. The people in the civilization are manipulated into believing that everything that goes on around them is the way it is supposed to be. No one questions it. The definition of social and antisocial is reversed to our culture. In the novel Fahrenheit 451, antisocial pertains to people who want to listen, talk, learn, care, and feel things. The character, Clarisse McClellan is considered abnormal and antisocial, ?Being with people is nice. But I don?t think it?s social to get a bunch of people together and then not let them talk…? (Ray Bradbury, 1953, p.30) She does not participate in usual means of social expression which others find at the Fun Park or the Window Smasher or the Car Wrecker Place. Her idea of what it means to be social is obviously very different of that of her society. To be social means to interact with friends and share thoughts and ideas. To be social means to be moving constantly and never taking the time to think. This is social criticism because in our culture we define the definitions of social and antisocial opposite to Clarisse?s society. The second example concerns the way the society is manipulated into believing that suicides are common. ?…I?ve never known any dead man killed in a war. Killed jumping off buildings, yes, like Gloria?s husband last week, but from wars? No.? (Ray Bradbury, 1953, p.94) The world portrayed in Fahrenheit 451 is an unhappy world. Suicides and meaningless deaths are very common and therefore relate to social criticism. The people of this world are manipulated to the point where they do not know intense emotions or how to express them. The third example relates again to the unhappiness of society but concentrates on the devaluation of life. Clarisse McClellan says she?s, ?…afraid of children her own age. Did it always used to be this way? My uncle says no. Six of my friends have been shot this year alone. Ten of them died in car wrecks.? (Ray Bradbury, 1953, p.30) This is social criticism because young people are dying on a regular basis and it seems normal and acceptable to everyone else except Clarrise who is considered abnormal. The last example refers to the way people vote in the society.
?I voted last election, same as everyone, and I laid it on the line for President Noble. I think he?s one of the nicest-looking men ever became president.? (Ray Bradbury, 1953, p.96)
?What possessed the ?Outs? to run him? You just don?t go running a short little man like that against a tall man. Besides-he mumbled. Half the time I couldn?t hear a word he said. And the words I did hear I didn?t understand!?
(Ray Bradbury, 1953, p.97)
This is an example of social criticism because the women vote for the best looking candidate for the job instead of the best qualified for the job. Not only do they judge the candidates by the way they look, but as well as the way they speak. It does not matter what they speak about because the women do not understand anything due their ignorance.
There are various ways in which the family relationship in the society is criticized. Family values are diminishing while a unique look at the family is appearing. The main character, Guy Montag has come accustomed to the characters on the parlor walls as family members. ?He had taken a calling them relatives from the very first. ?How?s Uncle Louis?? ?And Aunt Maude?? (Ray Bradbury, 1953, p.44) This is social criticism because the characters are made up, they are not real. People of this society have been pressed into thinking that characters on the ?wall screens? are really their family. This goes to show that these people do not have an understanding of life or an understanding of what a family really is and what it involves. Montag starts to question the value of his wife?s ?family?. ?Does your ?family? love you, love you very much, love you with all their heart and soul Millie?? (Ray Bradbury, 1953, p.77) This is where Montag is beginning to be confused on the value of love and caring in a family situation. In today?s society most families included children. In their society many people see children as an inconvenience. Montag stated, ?…my wife, she…just never wanted any children at all.? (Ray Bradbury, 1953, p.28) Other women besides, Millie had their views about children. Mrs. Phelps stated, ?No one in his right mind, the good Lord knows, would have children!? (Ray Bradbury, 1953, p.28) This could be looked upon as social criticism because without children the life cycle of human beings would deplete. Also, ?the good Lord? promotes love towards all children but especially in a family atmosphere. This may also contribute to the Phoenix cycle, where the people destroy themselves. Mrs. Bowles also alludes to this idea about family and children. She had her babies by a Cesarean section and sees her children only three times a month,
?I plunk the children in school nine days out of ten. I putup with them when they come home three days a month;it?s not bad at all. You heave them into the ?parlor? and turnthe switch. It?s like washing clothes: stuff laundry in and slam the lid…They?d just as soon kick as kiss me.?
(Ray Bradbury, 1953, p.96)
Mrs. Bowles? comment is an obvious example of social criticism. The content of the comment can be perceived that Mrs. Bowles? family is meaningless to her, almost non-existent. Like other women in her community, she puts no effort or feelings towards her family members and especially her children. This is the deterioration of her family that symbolizes the other families in the society.
Books are perceived in different ways in this society that relate to social criticism. To some people such as the character Captain Beatty, ?A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it. Take the shot from the weapon. Breach man?s mind? (Ray Bradbury, 1953, p.58) This is an example of social criticism because all men are not created equal but made equal through school and government. Nobody is to have something that somebody else does not have. In this case this would refer to knowledge. In their society, ?People want to be happy…our civilization is so vast that we can?t have minorities upset and stirred.? (Ray Bradbury, 1953, p.59) Therefore as a response, the society tries to remove the stimulus, books. Beatty goes on to say, ?I?ve had to read a few in my time, to know what I was about, and the books say nothing!? (Ray Bradbury, 1953, p.62) This is socially criticized in their society. The character Faber tells Montag that, ?…books are so important because they have quality,…they show the pores in the face of life.? (Ray Bradbury, 1953, p.83) There is an erupt reaction whenever the people of the norm are faced with a book, like Mildred.
?He caught her, shrieking. He held her and she tried to fight away from him, scratching… ?No, Millie, no! Wait! Stop it…You don?t know…He slapped her face,he grabbed her again and shook her?
(Ray Bradbury, 1953, p.66)
Mildred is the typical product of her society. Referring to social criticism Mildred and the rest of her society are manipulated into seeing books as evil. The books are only removed to make the society feel equal and happy in all ways by not providing anything to stir their imagination. But in this case, ignorance equals happiness. They do not know what they are missing in the books because they are kept in the dark, that way, they will be happy. Books also have a spiritual side to them. The old woman who had possessed her books. She obstinately stated, ?You can?t ever have my books,? (Ray Bradbury, 1953, p.38) but the firemen continued on with their work. ?The woman…reached out with contempt to them all and struck the kitchen match against the railing,? (Ray Bradbury, 1953, p.40) resulting in her death with all her books. Not only does she die with her books, she even lights the match that ignites the kerosene. This is an example of social criticism because the firemen let somebody commit suicide for the love of knowledge. But you have to remember, the firemen themselves are not unaffected by the manner of her death. On the way back to the firehouse they are silent. In this society men and women die for their faith; they believe in books and knowledge.
The society that is situated in the novel Fahrenheit 451, revolves around social criticism. They burn books to create a ?happy? world, but ironically they have a very ?unhappy? world where people are the result of a loss of values and self-worth. Suicides, violence and deaths are very common in this so-called ?happy? world. People who are not manipulated into the norm of the society through school and the government are thriving for life, freedom and knowledge. Many of these thrivers will go to any great extents to reach peace.