What is the main problem in Fahrenheit 451?

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teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The main problem in this novel is that the government that has banned independent thought in favor of a mindless conformity that it imposes through trivial television programs and propaganda. Books are banned and firefighters actively seek out and burn any books they can find. Alienation has replaced community in this culture, which is a society where people live wrapped in bubbles of isolated television-viewing. The culture is slowly bleeding away its social capital, meaning it is losing the dynamic force that leads to growth and change through genuine community and the exchange and clash of real ideas and ideologies. By placing too much value on harmony and order, this culture is committing suicide without even knowing it, as symbolized by Montag's wife, who tries to kill herself and then wakes from her coma not even knowing she attempted to die. Limiting people's ability to think and act and isolating them from each other has destructive consequences, Bradbury argues, because humans weren't made to shut off their brains. Change and revitalization will come from those who have dropped out of the dominant social order and decided to engage their intellects in banned books and the preservation of culture.

ms-mcgregor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The major problem of the novel is that the power brokers in the futuristic society portrayed in the book have decided they need to squelch free thinking and encourage "happiness" in their society. Not realizing that often free thinking encourages happiness in addition to the void left when books are banned makes some people question what's in books that makes them so bad. The main character, Montag, a fireman whose job is to burn books is one such person. Through a series of enlightening events, he begins to question basic societal norms, especially the one about avoiding books. As a result, he and others like him clash with the leaders of their society who see Montag and the others like him as a threat. Somehow, the "problem" of Montag's search for answers must be resolved.