Explain the images of death, suicide, and murder in Fahrenheit 451. What are their relationships to the totalitarian society?

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MaudlinStreet eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Well, beginning with death & murder, which often tend to be linked; we see several different forms in the novel. The most prominent are the deaths by cars. Teenagers (and later, we find out through Mildred, adults as well) blow off steam by racing in super-fast cars and mowing down animals and people alike. Mildred talks about how great it feels to kill rabbits and dogs, & at least once it mentions how people who take walks are considered fair game, seeing as how they are seen as abnormal. These incredibly violent deaths are a result of the complete lack of emotion perpetuated by the totalitarian society. Similarly, Montag openly murders Captain Beatty, as well as other members of his squad. This act is a direct response to the oppression and lies that characterize the government and culture of the novel. Montag feels that his only recourse is violently attacking another human being.

Finally, images of suicide appear twice in the novel. First, Mildred attempts suicide by overdose. She has her stomach pumped, & can't remember anything afterward. This leads Montag to begin questioning the purpose of their lives, & the true happiness (or lack thereof) in their marriage. It also shows that material possessions cannot guarantee a fulfilling life, & that the absence of love can drive anyone to the ultimate decision. The second image is that of the woman who chose to burn herself with her books. Having been forced by the government to give up what she cherished, she chose to leave the world of tyranny and ignorance.

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Fahrenheit 451

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