What major moral and social problems are explored in Fahrenheit 451?

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missy575 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Socially, Fahrenheit 451 exposes the relational voids that a world filled with technology will produce. Mildred is a perfect example of this. She needs her sea shells in her ears and she needs the parlor walls to be her family. What she fails to realize is that she has a husband in front of her longing for engagement. However, their distance is so routine that he doesn't even know how to initiate relationship with her. Clarisse is an example that demonstrates the value of human relationships, but her character is treated as odd and distracted in this society. She longs to have relationships and talks with people. Having her character mysteriously disappear further demonstrates Bradbury's attitude that relationships were becoming increasingly unimportant in a society longing to become more dependent on technology.

Morally, thought is restricted and discouraged in the society presented in Fahrenheit 451. This book is often touted for the censorship issues uncovered, but beyond that is the right to think. It is inherently wrong to not allow someone to think. We see this at work as the firemen burn every book they discover. Books offer perspective. Thoughts other than what the establishment had to offer were not allowed in this society. Those, like Mildred, who chose to be uninformed were completely accepting of this.

Fahrenheit 451 is an important and relevant text to consider today because of the moral and social problems presented.


kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Fahrenheit 451 explores the social problems associated with the repression of individuality and the promotion of conformity.  Remember that in this society, it was not the government who made people stop reading books and start pursuing entertainment. In contrast, the people made this decision. This has created a society in which individualism is frowned upon. Clarisse McClellan, for instance, chooses to maintain her own sense of individual liberty and is, therefore, perceived as a danger to society (and placed under surveillance) because she would rather pursue her own interests than conform by spending hours in front of the parlor walls like everyone else. In truth, however, the reader knows that Clarisse poses no danger whatsoever to society, but society cannot have somebody who refuses to conform because it threatens the social order.

Morally, you will notice that there is a lot of violence in Fahrenheit 451 and that, more importantly, people have become completely desensitized to it. The popularity of the White Clown television program, for instance, shows that violence is both widespread and widely-accepted in this society. Moreover, Clarisse's death in a hit and run accident shows that society is no longer concerned with safety. In other words, society has lost its sense of responsibility and replaced it with a need for mindless entertainment.