In the world of Fahrenheit 451, intellectualism and independent thinking had become abhorrent, making anti-intellectualism another theme of the book. From the book: “With school turning out more runners, jumpers, racers, tinkerers, grabbers, snatchers, fliers, and swimmers instead of examiners, critics, knowers, and imaginative creators, the word“intellectual,” of course, became the swear word it deserved to be.” (58)As a dystopian work, Fahrenheit 451 deals with themes of human expression, individualism, and censorship.
While other books in the same genre tend to deal with the oppressive nature of government and how it destroys individuality, Bradbury chose to show how individuals can oppress themselves if indoctrinated properly. The people living in the book’s degenerate future have been given all they think they need for cultural survival, while at the same time, they believe that the written word is somehow evil and subversive. By giving people the tools and the mentality required to self-censor, the government has created a self-perpetuating society of deliberate, self-satisfied ignorance and neglect.Seen in that light, Fahrenheit 451 becomes a cautionary tale that we could learn a lesson or three from, or at the very least stop looking at it as just a book about censorship – which implies government control – and instead look at its warning about a society that’s been doped up so high on technology and so distracted by television that they’ve lost track of reality and independent thought, and turned away from reading books (because they are outraged and offended by everything) and the habits of thought and reflection.
One relevant message of the story shows that society can become so lazy and distracted that the most important elements of an abundant life can be lost. There are two major issues happening in the book. First, the law of the land prohibits the spread of ideas through any type of literature; so, they publicly burn the homes and books of the people who own them. The second problem is that people get so wrapped up in their technology and entertainment that they don’t realize they are missing some valuable aspects of life, such as connecting with other people. “Nobody listens any more. I can’t talk to the walls because they’re yelling at me. I can’t talk to my wife; she listens to the walls. I just want someone to hear what I have to say. And maybe if I talk long enough, it’ll make sense… We have everything we need to be happy, but we aren’t happy. Something’s missing. I looked around. The only thing I positively knew was gone was the books I’d burned in ten or twelve years. So I thought books might help” (82). This passage definitely shows how this book is still relevant in our time, many people are so lazy that there minds entertainment relies on the electronic compared to the wall. When we are fully engulfed in these electronics giving us entertainment which transferred to happiness we don’t realise the importance other things in our lives.While the novel is most often classified as a work of science fiction, it is first and foremost a social criticism warning against the danger of censorship.
Fahrenheit 451 uses the genre of science fiction, which enjoyed immense popularity at the time of the book’s publication, as a vehicle for his message that unchecked oppressive government irreparably damaged society by limiting the creativity and freedom of its people. In particular, the “dystopia” motif popular in science fiction – a futuristic technocratic and totalitarian society that demands order and harmony at the expense of individual rights – serves the novel well and makes it a classic even today.