How did the government in Fahrenheit 451 gain control of this society?

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Michael Ugulini eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, the government eventually gained control of society by telling people what to think, instead of letting people think for themselves. The government actually enforced this mindset in people in a brutal manner. The totalitarian, repressive government saw that people, left to their own views, ideas, and initiatives, would be out of control (in the government’s mind), whereby said government would no longer be able to direct the thought processes of these people.

Consequently, the government embarked on a program of total conformity. People would be encouraged to believe in and do what the government decided was right. They would either sheepishly conform, or be forced to conform. Therefore, the government discouraged individual thought that was not in agreement with the stated norm – governmental decrees.

Government leaders, in their arrogance and greed for power, saw that ideas, values, and such espoused in books by the great authors, and even newer authors in society, would not assist them in keeping the populace under control. They needed the populace to be under control so they could move forward with their agenda. Therefore, they deemed books and what books taught to be unprofitable and banned them from society.

Fear of the punishment that would come to those who still harbored books was a major way that the government eventually gained control of the citizenry. A select few would not conform, which is the thrust of the drama in Fahrenheit 451. However, the majority did conform and allowed themselves to be controlled by the government.

It is interesting that most people made a conscious choice to allow themselves to be repressed by the harsh regime. They could have resisted, which would have been difficult and even deadly, but they chose not to. They took the path of least resistance to maintain their lifestyles.

The government knew that most would conform rather than face punitive discipline (burned homes and even imprisonment and maybe even death). Therefore, they gained control of society by vanquishing individual thought and playing on the fears of the people.

clane eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The government gained control over the people through a process in which they eliminated, over time, literature and media which could be deemed offensive or thought provoking. The government began noticing that the society was becoming unhappy about anything that wasn't staunchly politically correct so they began eliminating those things which aroused distress among the people. Eventually the government began making reading any unapproved literature illegal and burning books which caused people to feel emotional. The government figured the people would be easier to control is they emitted very little emotion and the government decided to give people the illusion of being smart and happy rather than giving them the tools to actually be and feel that way.

Read Captain Beatty's speech in the Hearth and the Salamander for more information.

poetrymfa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The government in Farenheit 451 gained control over the society by slowly and strategically limiting the public's right to think for themselves. This was slyly done under the auspice of promoting equality and political correctness, urging others to conform.

One of the largest ways that the government "leveled the playing field" of the public mind was by banning certain books. This was made palatable to people through the introduction of mass media, sports, and other forms of entertainment that would draw people away from critical thinking and intellectual dialogues. As modern life sped up and became full of opportunities for distraction, books were abridged and then eventually burned.

Ultimately, this movement toward total authority was not difficult, as people were all too willing to give up their power.