In his novel Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury is clearly against censorship. Why is censorship so dangerous in Bradbury’s futuristic world?

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In Bradbury's dystopian society, literature is censored and intellectual pursuits are considered illegal. There are numerous examples of how censoring literature negatively impacts the story's society, beginning with the intellectual malaise that results from an unintelligent, ignorant populace. The citizens in Bradbury's dystopian society are completely ignorant and engage in destructive, unhealthy behaviors. Instead of exercising their minds, the majority of citizens prefer to watch their interactive parlour walls, listen to Seashell radios, and take prescription medications. Without the intellectual capacity to understand and exercise diplomacy, their society is engaged in continuous wars and is eventually destroyed by an atomic bomb.

Censoring literature also oppresses individuality and promotes conformity. Citizens do not have the freedom to express themselves artistically, socially, or politically and are prohibited from criticizing the authoritarian regime. The government also uses censorship laws to strengthen its control over society, manipulate the population, and avoid criticism. These laws also make it easier for the government to control the flow of information, which ensures its stability and promotes its self-serving agenda. In addition to giving the government complete authority, citizens resort to destructive hobbies, distance themselves from each other, and lack essential communication skills. The censorship laws dissuade individuals from communicating about meaningful topics, which has a devastating effect on their psychological health. For example, Mildred refuses to engage in meaningful conversations and ruins her marriage. She also attempts to commit suicide and lives in complete denial.

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In his novel titled Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury satirizes censorship in a futuristic society for a number of reasons, including the following:

  • Censorship of books encourages intellectual complacency. The less people read, the less they think for themselves. The less they think for themselves, the easier they are to manipulate and control. The easier they are to manipulate and control, the less likely they are to resist the government, especially when it commits acts of violence and engages in war.
  • Censorship of books and other reading materials encourages people to define happiness in very shallow and superficial ways, ways mainly centered around material desires and satisfactions.
  • The less often that people are able to choose their own reading materials and thus think for themselves, the more likely society is to become uniform and homogeneous. People will have fewer independent thoughts, innovation will be stifled, and fewer and fewer people will be either willing or able to operate as individuals. This kind of social sameness and stultifying equality is, of course, the ideal of the society Bradbury depicts.  As Beatty explains at one point,

“We must all be alike. Not everyone is born free and equal, as the Constitution says, but everyone is made equal. Each man the image of every other; then all are happy, for there are no mountains to make them cower, to judge themselves against. So! A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it.”

  • Censorship of books and other reading material cuts one off from the great minds and great thoughts of the past. People thus operate in an intellectual vacuum (to the extent that they even think at all). They are unable to profit from the worthy thoughts of the past and are unable to avoid the mistakes made in the past.
  • Censorship cuts people off from sources of beauty, especially the beauty preserved in great works of literature. To the extent that contact with beauty enriches the lives of people who read, the people Bradbury depicts are people who live greatly impoverished existences.

 

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