A hedonist's main goal is find pleasurable activities or experiences as often as possible. In Fahrenheit 451, most people do not believe that forming strong relationships with friends and family will bring happiness. Nor do they believe that making and achieving one's professional goals will bring happiness. They believe that happiness comes from being stimulated in entertaining ways such as, watching TV, listening to the radio, or driving fast cars. Since people believe that happiness is gained through seeking out pleasurable experiences, rather than accomplishing personal educational or professional goals, then education is also not valued. Captain Beatty explains to Montag how society changed its values from education to hedonism as follows:
"Classics cut to fit fifteen-minute radio shows, then cut against to fill a two-minute book column, winding up at last as a ten- or twelve-line dictionary resume. . . Hamlet was a one-page digest in a book that claimed: now at last you can read all the classics; keep up with your neighbors. . .
"School is shortened, discipline relaxed, philosophies, histories, languages dropped, English and spelling gradually, gradually neglected, finally almost completely ignored" (54-55).
Beatty continues to explain that schools started to focus on sports rather than academics. Games became more important than academia. As a result, people read fewer books which caused publishers to lose money. Without money to fuel a declining market, books became obsolete. Beatty also explains how education continued to decline as follows:
"With school turning out more runners, jumpers, racers. . . the word 'intellectual,' of course, became the swear word that it deserved to be. . . So! A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it. Take the shot from the weapon. Breach man's mind. Who knows who might be the target of the well-read man? Me? I won't stomach them for a minute" (58).
The above passage explains how books and education apparently turned from obsolete and meaningless things to weapons that might destroy society. Smart people don't rise to the top of education and careers anymore, hedonists do. Beatty defines true happiness in his society as follows:
"Any man who can take a TV wall apart an put it back together again . . . is happier than any man who tries to slide-rule, measure, and equate the universe, which just won't be measured or equated without making man feel bestial and lonely. I know, I've tried it . . . But I don't care. I just like solid entertainment" (61).
The theme is that hedonism brings happiness and education does not. In fact, Beatty says that education brings loneliness because for him it didn't provide the answers that he was looking for. He probably would have found the answers and support to his reading that he needed if he had been able to consult professors and other educators about his books; but without some guidance and learning communities, some difficult texts can leave a reader feeling lonely and confused rather than happy and accomplished.