Summarize Beatty's explanation of how the need for firemen arose in Fahrenheit 451.

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When Captain Beatty visits Montag to enquire about his well-being, he tells him that all firemen, at some point in their careers, go through what Montag is experiencing. To get them back on track, he says that they "need to know the history of our profession."

He continues to tell...

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When Captain Beatty visits Montag to enquire about his well-being, he tells him that all firemen, at some point in their careers, go through what Montag is experiencing. To get them back on track, he says that they "need to know the history of our profession."

He continues to tell Montag that their profession started after the Civil War. With the increasing mass production of radio, film and television, the majority of people began to lose interest in books. Why would they read something like Hamlet when they could watch a shortened version of it on television?

People's need for quick instant gratification was being reflected in society. They were shying away from intellectual pursuits to pursue physical ones. Students for example were starting to look to become sportsmen. Anyone seen as intellectual, basically people that read, were hated

Their books, in depth and uncensored, were upsetting various groups, and if people were getting upset that meant people were unhappy. So it was at that point the government decided that it was just easier to burn the books causing the controversy. Beatty states that people are much happier watching titillating thoughtless television that tells them everything is ok in the world than reading challenging philosophical books that questions their position in life.

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In Ray Bradbury's novel, Captain Beatty uses several lines of reasoning to try to convince Montag that firefighters's primary role is making fires rather than ending them. He both refers back to their rule book, which dates the profession's founding by Benjamin Franklin to 1790, and contradicts it by saying it began around the Civil War (1860s). The later period makes more sense to him because of the emergence of photography in that era. The printed image, Beatty believes, undermined the written word, ultimately rendering it unnecessary. The ever-increasing speed of access to information and entertainment greatly contributed to making books useless. Even more important was the need to avoid controversy and dissent, as reading encouraged thinking and ultimately made people unhappy. Houses were by that time fully fireproof so firemen's efforts were freed up to burn the distracting, harmful books. They became "custodians of our peace of mind."

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Beatty says that since everything was fireproof, there was no more need for firemen to put out fires. However, schools were graduating people who could run, jump, and swim. The word "intellectual" became a swear word because intellectuals made people uncomfortable. All people wanted was pleasure and books contained ideas that confused people and "caused conflict". Beatty says, "A book is a loaded gun in the house next door." People believed that everyone should be equal and equality meant that everyone should be alike. No one should be smarter than another. Books contained things that made people feel unequal. So firemen were made "guardians of people's comfort". They burned the awful books that made people unhappy. With books gone, everyone could be happy and equal.

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Beatty explains that society needs the Firemen to protect it from itself.  When people read they get ideas, and some of those ideas can make people unhappy and even cause wars and violance. The Firemen keep people from ever having to face a thought or idea that would disturb their world view.  

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Beatty explains how the need for firemen arose when he goes to visit Montag at home in part 1 of the novel. Although Beatty's argument is not always coherent and linear, we can summarize his views in the following manner:

  1. The fireman profession began in the early twentieth century. The population was increasing, and technological advances like the camera and radio ushered in modern times.
  2. As a result of the population growth, the media had to adapt its content and messages because it wanted to reach a wider audience. Instead of focusing on content and quality, as books do, the media opted for “snap endings." This allowed it to quickly capture viewers' attention and keep them entertained.
  3. This focus on entertaining the masses began to spread to schools and colleges. There was less interest in academia and more focus on sports and leisure.
  4. The population growth had also increased the number of minority groups in society, with their own values and cultures. Society did not want to offend these groups, so publishers and media companies continued to avoid controversy by focusing on clean and positive messages.
  5. Because books encourage thought and reflection and often contain negative or potentially controversial messages, the people wanted to get rid of them. This led to the introduction of the firemen, with the sole purpose of burning books.
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As Beatty presents it, the anti-intellectual, book-burning society depicted in Fahrenheit 451 was not actually imposed from the top down. Rather, it came out of a result of technological and societal changes. With the advance of technology came new forms of media⁠—radio, film, and television⁠—and from those advances arose a consumerist culture, with artistic expression giving way to commercialism. Pandering to the masses and avoiding controversy became more and more important within a society that detested being challenged and primarily desired mindless entertainment. This resulted in a deterioration of culture itself.

It was out of this context that Fahrenheit 451's firemen emerged. The firemen fulfilled a need arising from within a radically hedonistic society, which detested literature for being too challenging and/or controversial. In a culture obsessed with instant gratification, books themselves became viewed as dangerous. Thus, society itself demanded that books be destroyed, and the firemen emerged to answer that need.

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According to Beatty, the fireman’s job started around the time of the Civil war, but according to the fireman’s rule book, the profession started much earlier. Initially, many people read books, but with developments in film and photography came the need for short and precise information. Soon after, people lost interest in books and instead opted for other sources of media that were deemed to be entertaining. Books were believed to contain information that sparked differences among the people who in turn ended up being unhappy as others thought themselves to be superior to others. Everybody was supposed to be equal; this was the only way to ensure happiness. Because man sought happiness and books were a cause of unhappiness and inequality, they had to be eliminated. Once all houses were made fireproof, the fireman’s role changed. Unlike his previous role of putting out fires, the fireman in the new order was charged with the responsibility of guarding everyone’s peace of mind by eliminating all books.

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Many different segments of society were offended by ideas that were in print. Authors attempted to mollify those various segments to the point that most all printed matter ended up being much the same. After a while, a decision was made simply to burn books.

Beatty explains that society needs the firemen to protect them from unhappiness and discontent caused from independent thought and reading contradictory ideas found in books.

Beatty's explanation twists history to allude that even Benjamin Franlkin burned books.

By eliminating free thought, books, and alone time, society is more ordered and controlled. Everyone is equal because they are made equal by the social constraints that are in place.

 

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Beatty explains that conflicts and confusion kept arising within society, causing society to break into factions and groups, dividing against themselves. Books that promoted those philosophies that caused dissensions began to be burned, in order to unity society. In Beatty's mind, its the government's way of making everyone equal, uniform, the same. Books promoted individual thought, which promotes individuality, which is against equality. The firemen were made to unite the communities by eliminating independent thoughts.

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