Technology And Censorship In Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451

1786 words - 7 pages

Advances in technology have been used to modernize our lives, yet this same technology can alienate members of society from each other and even alienate individuals from themselves. Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 explores the use of technological advancement as an instrument of government censorship and population control.
To fully understand the message of Fahrenheit 451, it is important to understand the social and political climate of the United States after World War II. One author suggests that this book “is discussed in terms of the world’s problems at large when it is essentially bound to the reality of the early 1950’s in America” (Zipes). During this time a major issue was the McCarthy trials that questioned citizens’ loyalty to the United States and censorship. There was also a preoccupation with the threat of war and the rise of military technology to wage war, the reliance on television for information, and finally anger and dissatisfaction of the younger generation. Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 falls within a genre of literature that is considered dystopian in that it he “… wished warn readers against cultural changes that he feared would lead to ruin” (Brown). All dystopian literature is political (Zipes). In addition, Bradbury uses a scientific-fiction (sci-fi) format “…which allows him to exaggerate, intensify, and extend scientific, technological, and social conditions from a current real situation to the most extreme point while convincing the reader that everything which occurs in the fantasy world is feasible in the distant future (Zipes). Thus, the book is a harsh critique of the social and political context of the 1950s as well as a warning to future generations. It is set in a futuristic 24th century unspecified city in the United States after “starting two atomic wars since 1990” (73). The story is “a deception of a society so dominated by censorship that a firemen burn books and the word intellectual is profane” (Lancto).
Censorship is a major theme highlighted in Fahrenheit 451. According to Dictionary.com, censorship is defined as “the practice of officially examining books, movies, etc., and suppressing unacceptable parts (dictionary.com). Historically, books have been censored for containing content considered: obscene, immoral, vilifying the family, communist, conflicting with community values, frank or revealing, containing violence, mature themes and biased” (Lancto). Bradbury connects “the burning of books which dealt with socialism, eroticism, and sexuality of the early 1950’s” (Zipes) with the practice of book burning in the futuristic society of Fahrenheit 451. Bradbury’s created a society that would rather use technology than read “as a result, society has become more vapid, more interested in mindless entertainment than, knowledge, understanding and critical thought…”(Brown). Evidence of Bradbury’s concern is reflected in results from a 2008 study conducted by the National Endowment for the Art’s...

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