Why, according to Faber, are books hated and feared in Fahrenheit 451?

Quick answer:

In Fahrenheit 451, books are outlawed because they are viewed as instigators of social discontent.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

According to Faber, books are hated and feared because they "show the pores in the face of life." In other words, books do not portray a uniformly positive view of the world: they show every aspect of the world and depict every possible emotion, both good and bad.

Remember that...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

this is a society which tries to suppress anything negative. People are encouraged to watch the parlor walls, to drive fast in their cars, and to focus only on the positive. They are taught to be superficial.

Books, however, do not censor the world in this way. They do not shy away from the truth, no matter how ugly it is.

As Faber points out, people in this society only want "wax moon faces" that are "poreless" and "hairless." They only want to know things which make them happy and to escape the realities of life. But books, by their nature, will never conform to such standards. It is for this reason that Faber says books are hated and feared.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Montag turns to Faber for answers to his questions about his society, brought up by his relationship with Clarisse. He remembers his afternoon in the park with Faber, and knows that he holds the key to understanding why life is the way it is. He asks Faber why books are banned, and what about them makes people so uncomfortable. Faber replies:

They show the pores in the face of life. The comfortable people want only wax moon faces, poreless, hairless, expressionless. We are living in a time when flowers are trying to live on flowers, instead of growing on good rain and black loam. Even fireworks, for all their prettiness, come from the chemistry of the earth. Yet somehow we think we can grow, feeding on flowers and fireworks, without completing the cycle back to reality.

Thus, people fear books because they show the truth of life. They show ugliness and and hurt, death and tragedy. The people in Montag's society have no use for such reminders of the dark side of life. They want happiness and only happiness. Faber understands that this is no way to live, and it goes a long way to explaining why Mildred tries to kill herself.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Why are books outlawed in Fahrenheit 451?

In the world of Fahrenheit 451, books are regularly confiscated and burned by firemen like Montag. The reason for their being banned is complicated, but it all comes down to social control.

As Captain Beatty tells Montag, the government did not meet with much initial resistance over this ban. Culturally, attention spans became so minimal that people often did not want to take the time to read any books more complicated than comics or "three-dimensional sex-magazines." As a result of a fast-paced world and an emphasis on easy pleasures, television and other more immediate mediums replaced literature in this setting.

Books are also viewed as troublesome because not everyone understands all books at the same level, making some people feel bad or stupid, and the diversity of ideas present in so many books makes the ruling elite uncomfortable. Different ideas also have the potential to make people unhappy when they challenge their view of life.

So, the book ban is allegedly about keeping people happy by making sure no one feels alienated, challenged, confused, or unintelligent. The complicated part of this is that the public indirectly encouraged such a perspective on literature. The book burnings by the government only made the ban official.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

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

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."

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Ray Bradbury's science fiction novel Fahrenheit 451, how does Faber explain why books are hated and feared?

In Ray Bradbury’s classic of science fiction literature, Fahrenheit 451, the main character, Montag, is a fireman.  His job in the dystopian society in which the story takes place is to burn books, and the buildings in which they are located.  During the course of the story, he begins to question the morality of his occupation and the legitimacy of the regime governing the country.  It is Montag’s interactions with Professor Faber, initially portrayed as the personification of moral cowardice, that provide an intellectual framework for Montag to better understand the role the latter has played in enforcing the totalitarian system that surrounds and controls them.   It is in his visit to Professor Faber’s home that Montag learns the importance of books, which lies not in the structure of the item, but in the knowledge they contain.  The relevant passage from the story is as follows.  As Faber explains the importance of books to Montag, he states:

“It’s not books you need, it’s some of the things that were once in books. . . Books were only one type of receptacle where we stored a lot of things we were afraid we might forget.  There is nothing magical in them at all.  The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us.” 

In expanding on the significance of books, and why they are hated and feared, Faber applies a metaphor associated with life:

“This book has pores.  It has features.  This book can go under the microscope. You'd find life under the glass, streaming past in infinite profusion. The more pores, the more truthfully recorded details of life per square inch you can get on a sheet of paper, the more `literary' you are. That's my definition, anyway. Telling detail. Fresh detail. The good writers touch life often. The mediocre ones run a quick hand over her. The bad ones rape her and leave her for the flies. "So now do you see why books are hated and feared? They show the pores in the face of life. The comfortable people want only wax moon faces, poreless, hairless, expressionless. We are living in a time when flowers are trying to live on flowers, instead of growing on good rain and black loam.”

Faber is explaining to Montag that books are a threat to the government because they represent knowledge and wisdom, the proliferation of which would undermine the government’s ability to control the masses.  The information contained in books refutes the government’s justification for its rule and provides a window into alternative worlds that are within reach of those with the courage to strive for them.  

Last Updated on