In Fahrenheit 451, why are books hated and feared in Montag's society?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "Fahrenheit 451" Montag's escape from the purportedly infallible Mechanical Hound demonstrates that the human mind is superior to technology.  As one who has read, Montag's mind has developed the ability to think critically and analytically; in any situation he is able to think for himself, a danger in a society that would control people.

In his novel, Ray Bradbury depicts overdependence on technology as a threat to intellectual development.  Bradbury feels that television, for example, destroys interest in reading literature which in turn leads to a distorted perception of knowledge as "factoids," partial information devoid of context.  Sound bytes, advertisements, commercials all lead to the ability to concentrate.  Without independent thought, there can be no intellectual freedom.  Bradbury is concerned with this oppressiveness of modern society, even perceiving censorship of language offensive to a certain group or ethnicity as a restriction of free speech, the first step to book burning.

Restricting a person's access to knowledge as only "factoids" and sound bytes is an effective way to control people.  Similarly, in Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World," the various castes are conditioned with a technique called "hypnopaedia," or sleep-conditioning.  The Director himself admits that this wordless conditioning cannot instill complex behavior.

As in "Brave New World," also, books are not allowed so that people do not learn of the past, and, thereby, their thoughts can be controlled. As Bradbury himself has remarked, "You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture; just get people to stop reading them."