How did the firemen in Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury ensure that rules were enforced in the society?

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sarahc418 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The firemen in Fahrenheit 451 rely on people to help them police the censorship rules in society. Remember, the burning of books was allowed by people - nobody stood up and requested that books be kept. Society was sick of books for a number of reasons. 

1. People were sick of competing and trying to look the smartest. If someone had read all of Canterbury Tales by Chaucer it made others look bad. So they kept coming out with shorter and shorter abridged versions so everyone could access the material. Finally, they decided to do away with the classics altogether. It spiralled down from there. 

2. As Beatty points out, literature is contradicting. There are no universal truths, and reading author's contradicting views is confusing and offensive. When censors tried to edit information from texts that offended people, it became too much to manage. He says the

"Bigger the population, the more minorities. Don't step on the toes of the dog lovers, the cat lovers, doctors, lawyers, merchants, chiefs, Mormons, Baptists, Unitarians, second generation Chinese, Swedes, Italians, Germans, Texans, Brooklynites, Irishmen . . . All the minor minor minorities with their navals to be kept clean. Authors, full of evil thoughts, lock up your typewriters. They did. . . . But the public knowing what they wanted, spinning happily, let the comic books survive."

Beatty then says that it worked perfectly for the government because it didn't have to come from them at all but rather "Technology, mass exploitation and minority pressure carried the trick, thank God."

Therefore, if the firemen have the support of people, all they have to do is wait for tips to come in about people squandering away books. That is how the woman who commits suicide's house is discovered, and this is how Montag's books are discovered. There were other people who reported their friends and neighbors for keeping books in their own homes. The firemen have little to do because very few people keep books. Very few people want to keep books!

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