What makes society fair and just in Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451?
By leveling the intellectual playing field and burning books, the society in Fahrenheit 451 is able to achieve social equality. Captain Beatty does a really good job explaining the history of how their society came to accept life without books. He teaches Montag that books did not go away by some government-led censorship program. The fact of the matter is that books went away because people didn't want them anymore. Book publishers slowly had to dumb down books, shorten content, and publish more comic books in order to stay in business. Movies and TVs also helped to take over the entertainment medium, causing people to want to watch rather than to read for pleasure. Without serious buyers, the market for books declined.
As far as informational books are concerned, Beatty explains that they caused more problems than they solved because they contradicted one another. With different authors claiming different philosophies to be true, people were divided into separate groups and minorities popped up everywhere demanding recognition. Arguments ensued and the solution was simple: Get rid of the books that cause the differences. If there are no differences, then no one gets offended and everyone can be equal and happy. Beatty explains the issue of minorities as follows:
"You must understand that our civilization is so vast that we can't have our minorities upset and stirred. As yourself, What do we want in this country, above all? People want to be happy, isn't that right?" (59).
Beatty goes on to explain that the way to keep everything fair and just in society is to give people what they want, which is fun and happiness. Then take away the things that aren't fun. The society took away funerals, for example, because they aren't fun. The best analogy used to explain this is when he says,
"You can't build a house without nails and wood. If you don't want a house built, hide the nails and wood. If you don't want a man unhappy politically, don't give him two sides to a question to worry him; give him one. Better yet, give him none" (60-61).
Ultimately, the rejection of books leads to people understanding the world in one way. If everyone agrees with each other, then there's not fighting; if there's not fighting, then everyone can be happy; if everyone is happy, then everyone is equal and all is fair and just.
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