Fahrenheit 451: Analyzing the Use and Relevance Of Censorship and Government Surveillance
Did you know that in North Korea the government has eyes and ears everywhere and knows where every citizen is at any moment. Sounds crazy right? Well it is true, they also control virtually every aspect of a person’s life. For example, they censor out all the news and media from outside the country.
This is almost identical to the world in the classic novel, Fahrenheit 451. The book takes place in an unnamed city in the United States. It centers around Guy Montag, the protagonist that lives in a world where books are illegal due to their ability to make people think about life and the world around them. Montag is a firefighter whose job is to burn outlawed books. The themes of government surveillance and censorship are the two most relevant in the story because they are mentioned, hinted at, and developed from beginning to end.
As the novel begins, the reader notices how many things are censored from the people. For instance, within the first eight pages it is heard, Don’t you ever read any of the books you burn? That’s against the law! (Bradbury 8). This shows that people are not allowed to own or even read books even though they know how to read. The government and all the higher ups do not want people to have their own true beliefs and opinions because this can cause people to rebel and disrupt the peace. The government in this universe is more of a totalitarian structure because they want the people to be under control and not try any form of rebellion/unhappiness. This further ties back to the article, Total Control in North Korea which states, The police can monitor all digital communications, including phone calls and text messages, and a complex surveillance network lets them know the whereabouts of any citizen at any time. What are they watching for? They want to make sure no one is doing anything that might jeopardize the unity of the country (McBirney 1). This is basically how the government works in the novel. Books are seen as the one thing that could truly disrupt the unity of the city and cause what they believe to be mass chaos. That is a part of the reason that books are banned because just like the Korean government, they do not want people to have ideas or opinions.
This idea of censorship further develops as you delve deeper into the story. You quickly find out that the censoring of books was more so society’s fault in the beginning, as explained by Beatty in the following statement, Authors, full of evil thoughts, lock up your typewriters. They did. Magazines became a nice blend of vanilla tapioca. Books, so the damned snobbish critics said, were dishwater. No wonder books stopped selling, the critics said (Bradbury 57) Solely based on his words, we learn that people got bored of the books and their boring and controversial contents. Magazines, with their bright colors, big fonts and big headlines, ended up becoming more liked and so books stopped selling and in turn were banned altogether. This also relates so much to our world today as we see people becoming more sensitive and one-sided which leads to media being more censored. Everything from books to music, tv, news, movies has become a bit less thought- provoking and out there. Of course nobody wants to believe that it’s their fault so we just blame the government, who only plays a small role in this situation.
Around the end of the story, the small group have memorized books to pass down to their kids in hopes that humanity will regain interest and bring them back. Bradbury makes the following statement, To everything there is a season. Yes. A time to break down and a time to build up. Yes. A time to keep silence, and a time to speak (Bradbury 165) this quote can be applied to most everything in life including our cycle of censorship in our world because people were not always the way we are now. It is the most prominent example that shows how the themes of government surveillance and censorship are the two most relevant in the story.
The entire book centers mostly around censorship and government surveillance with a few other themes in the mix. The idea of the events of the book are not far off from what is possible in the real world. North Korea has already been living like this for years. The themes of government surveillance and censorship are the two most relevant in the story because they are mentioned, hinted at, and developed from beginning to end.
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