In "Fahrenheit 451", why are the people encouraged to eradicate the past from their memories?

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pmiranda2857's profile pic

pmiranda2857 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

In this world that Bradbury created in Fahrenheit 451, emotional attachment, family, passion, curiosity, education, literature and books are all censored.  The past is included in this censorship, as it creates conflict for the present where order and sameness are to be maintained at all cost.

Mildred refers to the actors on the giant screens as the family, this is who she is attached to, actors, who are paid by the state to include her in their daily soap operas.  So real family has no value, relationships have no value, anything that would remind people of the past, or the way things were before books were burned would be considered a threat to social order, therefore, it needs to be suppressed.

In this world, alienation and loneliness are addressed through the use of state run media, both radio and television.  With the help of the state authority, Mildred Montag has her make-believe family, the actors on her soap operas and the Seashell radio that is always playing in her ears.  There is no past, there is only now, the past has been erased to insure the equality of society, so that everyone will be equal, that is what the society in Fahrenheit 451 strives for social, economic and academic sameness.

Mildred and Guy Montag are married, yet they appear to have no real connection, she turns against him with ease, when she decides that she wants the books out of her house and calls in the fire alarm which leads to the house being burned and Montag and Mildred parting ways permanently.

akannan's profile pic

Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

The answer to such a challenging and tough question is to begin with the presupposition that our past and our memories define who we are.  These experiences form the basis of our unique and individual identity.  My experiences are different than yours, and the situations and predicaments you confronted are vastly divergent from my own frame of reference.  This is how we are fundamentally different.  We can appreciate one another's past, but our pasts are out own.  Our memories are only ours.  In any world, this is all we know and all we have (and some would say, "all we need to know.")  However, this helps to define how we are different.   In a society that seeks homogeneity or "sameness," eradication of an individual's past is a critical step.  The thinking here is that if people can eradicate their past, then they will have nothing to define them as different, and thus, all can be treated as the same.  If people's individual past is removed, then their individual voice is gone.  This is because a new past will be supplanted for them, one that everyone shares.  For example, when the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia and rid the nation of all foreign influences, the ruling regime created "the Year Zero" in their first year, where they sought to retell history for everyone who was there.  This eradication of a political or national past from memory hoped to achieve a sense where everyone was the same, had the same experience, and thus could be controlled in the same way.  When we lost our past, lose our memories, we lose a part of ourselves because those experiences, good or bad, defined who we are.  When the people are encouraged to eradicate their past from their memories, it is government's attempt to make everyone who was once different, distinct, and unique, the same- bland and easier to manipulate and control.

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