How is disempowerment depicted in the novel Fahrenheit 451 by Rad Bradbury?
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In Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury, disempowerment is a central theme in the story.
The members of society live in homes with television screens on the walls, robbing them of the desire to engage in meaningful conversation or the desire to develop original thought. At night, as we see with Mildred, she is "plugged" in with the seashell devices which control her subconscious.
Books are banned; houses with books are burned. This removes the power of the public to know of the past and to learn. Knowledge is power, but society has done all it can to rob society of learning. They do not want people to question the world as it is presented by society.
Ironically, Clarisse is empowered by her ability to see beyond the surface of things into the heart of what matters in life: an interaction with one's environment and the opportunity to learn about the world. Clarisse ends up dead, killed by a car. Montag imagines it could have been a car full of wild kids driving at a breakneck speed, but one is left to wonder if she wasn't considered a threat to the numbness that society promotes in its population. It doesn't take long for Clarisse's words to become meaningful to Montag, though the fact that he has already started to secretly collect books shows that he has begun to move away from a controlled environment that society would prefer.
When Montag needs a teacher, he turns to Faber. This is the first overt step Montag has taken to challenge society's power over him. In contrast, Mildred welcomes the loss of power, and thereby, her loss of responsibility to think or work out problems. She is so disempowered that she is like a shadow of a person.
Ironically, those without power to think for themselves are bombed and the civilization wiped out. Many of those who have chosen to define the world on their own terms of power are walking through the woods. Perhaps there they will be able to use the books they have and study the work of many writers to find a way to rebuild society.
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