In Fahrenheit 451, they didn't know what war was. What are some quotes to back that up?

Expert Answers

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

Apparently, people don't really know what war is because no one ever talks about it. The government seems to like the fact that citizens are glued to their TVs while they take care of foreign relations. One might get this feeling when Montag says the following:

"Every hour so many damn things in the sky! How in the hell did those bombers get up there every single second of our lives! Why doesn't someone want to talk about it! We've started and won two atomic wars since 1990! Is it because we're having so much fun at home we've forgotten the world? . . . Do you know why? I don't, that's sure!" (73-74).

Montag mentions the many bombers in the sky, and atomic wars, but it seems as if he really doesn't know what they all mean. He certainly admits that he doesn't know why war happens because no one is talking about it. To Montag, all anyone can talk about are TV programs and fast cars.

When the war does come up in conversation with his wife's friends, Montag is surprised to find out that Mrs. Phelps and Mrs. Bowles aren't very concerned about it. For example, Mrs. Phelps seems to have no clue about the effects of war because of what she says when her husband has been called into the army:

". . . the Army called Pete yesterday. He'll be back next week. The Army said so. Quick war. Forty-eight hours, they said, and everyone home. . . I'll let old Pete do all the worrying. Not me. I'm not worried. . . I've never known any dead man killed in a war" (94).

Not only is Mrs. Phelps not worried about her husband, but she doesn't know anyone who has been killed in war. This suggests that these people have had no experience with it and that the government does not share such information with its citizens. It must be easier for the government to control people while they are distracted with having fun rather than to inform them of serious matters. 

Finally, Faber says something about war while talking to Montag about the issues that their society faces. The two men hear bombers flying overhead and they tremble at the sound. Faber becomes frustrated over the subject matter and says the following:

"Patience, Montag. Let the war turn off the 'families.' Our civilization is flinging itself to pieces. Stand back from the centrifuge" (87).

From his comment, it is unclear if Faber truly knows about the consequences of war. His remark about allowing the war to bring down people's fascination with 'the families' on TV either suggests that he knows that only war can break society of its bad habits, or he doesn't know how war can truly devastate and affect people; so, it is a flippant, frustrated comment. No one probably suspected, though, that the whole city would be leveled by an atomic bomb by the end of the story. Not only does the bomb turn off everyone's TVs, it silences life. Because of war (and one bomb) everything is obliterated and the debate ends with everyone dying.




See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team