When a community stops asking questions, people stop thinking for themselves and are unable to identify right from wrong. This prevents them from gaining new information and eventually all communication and relation to others will stop. The society stops caring for one and other and people are then isolated, people who do not think, who do not discuss their opinions become vulnerable for manipulation.
This illustrates a perfect example of the intention of author Ray Bradbury in his novel Fahrenheit 451, he envisions a society where the people have become brainwashed by an ideology which prohibits them to question authority and law. The community has narrowed their opportunities to inquire and think independently because of constant bombardment by television, radio advertisements and audio information. The community is forced to deal with occurrences which distract from the opportunity to establish their own thoughts.
The world is so overloaded with information that people are unable to think for themselves. The author tries to emulate the effect of distraction by incorporating huge amounts of descriptive language which in parallel to the story, distract the reader from the bigger picture.
I feel the major concept the author conveys is the notion that the people have brought on the isolation and robotic way of life themselves. They asked everyone be equal, equally treated, equally educated. This is evident on pages 58 and 59 of the novel, when Chief Beatty and Montag are conversing;
“What more easily explained and natural? With school turning out more runners, jumpers, racers, tinkerers, gabbers, snatchers, fliers and swimmers instead of examiners, critics, knower’s, and imaginative creators, the word ‘intellectual’, of course, became the swear word it deserved to be. You always dread the unfamiliar. Surely you remember the boy in your own school class who was exceptionally bright, did most of the reciting and answering while the others sat like so many leaden idols, hating him. And wasn’t it this bright boy you selected for beatings and tortures after hours? Of course it was. We must all be alike. Not even born free and equal, as the constitution says, but everyone made equal. Each man the image of every other, then all are happy, for there are no mountains to make them cower, to judge themselves against.”
In this imagined society people acquired their ‘desire’. Reflecting on the unit question that asks, what happens when people stop gaining information and become unable to think for themselves. The immediate response is who does think for them? There is no leader or ruler of this society, because the protest against individuality and independence amongst citizens was unintentionally forgone by the population itself. There is no dictator who forbids the property of books; it was the people within the community who fought for equality.
However, despite the lack of a leader, there are few people who have control. Chief Beatty is one of these people. In the passage quoted above, he tells Montag what is going on, of the reasoning behind the burning of books. This alludes to his power, and shows his ability to make decisions based on this power. He may not be free in his mind and the way he thinks, but he is able to experience a different kind of freedom. He has control of what occurs, it is his job to keep the peace, to keep people within their mindset of equality, to maintain happiness within the society.
Inside the society, no one feels inferior or threatened, everyone has identical knowledge. It was books that disturbed this peace, because they provoked people to see different sides of a story, it gave them knowledge, which destroyed the balance of equality in the community. This would then result in disagreements and a questioning of people’s opinions over important events like war.
This is where the new role of a fireman was developed. The community was in need of submissive workers to maintain and enhance the restriction against books, by burning them. The peace within the society would be kept, by eliminating all sources of intellectuality. This is perceptible in the quote taken from page 58, shown below;
“A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it. Take the shot from the weapon. Breach man’s mind. Who knows who might be the target of the well-read man? Me? I won’t stomach them for a minute. And so when the houses were finally fireproofed completely, all over the world there was no longer need of firemen for the old purposes. They were given a new job, as custodians of our peace of mind, the focus of our understandable and rightful dread of being inferior; official censors, judges and executors.”
Mildred’s character in the novel is used to represent all the members of their community; she allows the reader to understand the norm of the society. Unlike Montag, Mildred has been bought into the ideology by which the entire society lives; she is vulnerable to manipulation. Her mind is so focused on this constant attack of information, that she has no way of thinking individually. It is shown in the first dozen pages that this lack of judgment makes people unhappy and depressed. All people are equally unhappy and the revelation that a specific employment exists to resurrect people from drug overdoses confirms the discontent of the norm.
The mechanical hound is the ultimate product of this society. The hound is unable to think, or make choices or question is judgment. It has been programmed to think a specific way, to act a specific way. He is a representation of what the entire community has become, because the people are unfamiliar to the concept of individuality and having unique opinions, they have become accustomed to acting and thinking routinely, robot like.
Montag fears this hound, because he suddenly recognizes the disturbed behaviour of the people whom he lives with and has to frequent every day. He finally understands that the people no longer have control; they have let themselves grow into this robot-like life. They have no choice over what they think, feel or even believe. Hence, when a community stops asking questions people become accustomed to a routine, and they are programmed to follow this routine without change in what they feel or do. People are powerless to think or feel.
The society presented in the novel Fahrenheit 451 is described as robotic, and powerless. Ray Bradbury has taken the realistic concept of equality, and wants everyone to be equal, and translated it into a population of robot like beings. The people have a mindset, where everyone should have equally knowledge and equal wants and needs, this converts into elimination of thinking, and individuality. This is shown through the character of the mechanical hound, who is a representation of what all society has become, programmed to think and act, with no opportunity to develop its own opinions. People are no longer capable of asking questions, due to the inability of judgment and belief.