What does Capitan Beatty say about entertainment the morning AFTER he and Montag visit the old lady's house in Fahrenheit 451?  What role and purpose does technology and entertainment have in the...

What does Capitan Beatty say about entertainment the morning AFTER he and Montag visit the old lady's house in Fahrenheit 451?  What role and purpose does technology and entertainment have in the story thus far?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Entertainment should keep a society in line, not set it free, according to Beatty.

Montag is a fireman, and his job is to burn books.  Since houses are fireproof, it is usually an easy task.  You just burn the house and everything in it.  The books are destroyed, the person is arrested, and the structure survives.  However, Montag is beginning to question his society because he met a young lady named Clarisse who told him that something is wrong with a world where people never slow down, and asked him if he is happy.  Then he meets an old woman who would rather die than give up her books.

This woman was spoiling the ritual. … She made the empty rooms roar with accusation and shake down a fine dust of guilt that was sucked in their nostrils as they plunged about. … She shouldn't be here, on top of everything! (Part I)

He is shocked.  Montag can’t imagine what could possibly be in those books that would make the woman want to go down with them.  Captain Beatty ridicules her, telling her she knows the law and books don’t “agree with each other” and the people in them “never lived.”  Montag is confused by the scene, and decides to steal a book and find out what the fuss is about.  He comes home to find his wife drugged, and laments about how they have no connection, and how she is “empty.” She tells him that Clarisse died four days ago when a beetle (a car) ran her over.  She forgot to mention it.

Montag feels sick.  He does not go into work, and Beatty knows why.  In one of the great paradoxes of the novel, Beatty seems to know quite a bit about books.  He quotes them to deride them.  Montag literally feels sick because of the cognitive dissonance of facing what his job actually means and the reality of his society, even though he describes himself as afraid, a “child feigning illness.”

Beatty arrives and tells Montag that all firemen have this sickness at one point in their careers, when they get curious.  He explains to him that what they are doing is right, because the books are not what is good for society.  He explains that society has outgrown books. 

Don't give them any slippery stuff like philosophy or sociology to tie things up with. That way lies melancholy. (Part I)

This falls in line with Beatty’s argument to the old woman about the books not agreeing with one another. 

The problem is, according to Beatty, that people want the simple.  If things are simple, and they do not need to think, they are happy.  You can keep a whole society happy that way.

If the drama is bad, if the film says nothing, if the play is hollow, sting me with the theremin, loudly. I'll think I'm responding to the play, when it's only a tactile reaction to vibration. But I don't care. I just like solid entertainment." (Part I)

The televisions that all of the people have in their homes provide vapid, simple entertainment.  This keeps everyone in line, and as a society everyone is happy.  Happiness, after all, is all anyone wants.

As with most dystopias, the role of technology in this book is to keep the people in line.  Montag mentions the mechanical hound, the fearsome paradoxical creature that is used to keep order and enforce the anti-book laws.  Television and the seashell radios do the same thing, by keeping everyone mind-numbingly calm and “empty.”  Since everything agrees, as Beatty says, there is no discussion.  There is no conversation, even.  No one even slows down. 

Entertainment is used to keep the people focused inward and keep them from any kind of togetherness.  This way they can never rebel, or get together in any way.  There is no real friendship, and even husbands and wives don’t feel a connection.  Beatty knows the danger of books, and ideas.  He genuinely seems to feel that society is better off without them. 

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Fahrenheit 451

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