How is the theme of censorship developed throughout Fahrenheit 451?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Bradbury develops the theme of censorship through his protagonist, Montag, whose views on censorship evolve across the course of the novel.

In the dystopian society Bradbury envisages, reading and owning books is illegal. As the novel opens, Montag revels in his work as a fireman, a professional who burns books for a living. He both enjoys and is proud of his work.

Meeting Clarisse, however, starts Montag on a path of questioning if he is fulfilled--and deciding he is not. Compounding this, he is shaken by Mildred's suicide attempt and the suicide of woman who dies rather than be without her books. At this point, Montag moves from an unthinking acceptance of censorship to actually taking a book from the woman's house. He goes from pride in his job to not wanting to go back to work.

As he grows closer to the former Professor Faber, Montag comes to actively hunger for the substantial knowledge to be found in books. He begins to oppose censorship and book burnings. From an obedient fireman, he becomes a political subversive who wants to undermine the current system. He begins to gather books and hide them in his house. He even tries to share reading with Mildred. He evolves from being terrified and ashamed of his interest in books to embracing them.

In a final step in his evolution, Montag realizes that it is not books themselves, but their content, that is valuable. He moves from not wanting books censored to a broader vision of not wanting ideas and information in any form censored.

Opening his eyes and learning from his experience, Montag travels a long way from his unquestioning acceptance of censorship to a complete rejection of it.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Bradbury develops the theme of censorship by gradually introducing the ways in which society chose to neglect literature and the government's reasons for censoring intellectual thought. Initially, Bradbury describes how the government decided to censure knowledge by destroying books. As the novel progresses, Captain Beatty explains to Montag how society's wish for immediate entertainment and the population's distaste for criticism led to the censorship of books. Essentially, the dystopian society sought to eliminate any type of uncomfortable discussion regarding their lives. As the novel progresses, Montag reaches out to Faber who explains to him the significance of books. Through their conversations, Bradbury examines the dangers of censorship. Montag eventually escapes the authorities and joins a band of traveling intellectuals who find a way to avoid censorship regulation by remembering novels. Overall, Bradbury gradually examines the theme of censorship by exploring how and why the government chose to censure intellectual thought, as well as the dangers attached to censoring literature.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial