Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury in 1953 depicts a society where books are outlawed, as are the people encouraging them. Fahrenheit 451 is a perfect example of control and authoritarianism that the government can place on its citizens. From the perspective of Guy Montag, a fireman who burns books, multiple key events are used to show the effects on society in this dystopian future, without the influence of literature and books. Events such as Mildred’s overdose caused by her undivided attention to the virtual reality in her home, Montag meeting Clarisse, his 17-year-old neighbor, and her description of life altering Montag’s way of living, the elderly woman choosing to be burnt alive with her library due to the controls and legality of literature, Montag being threatened and chased by the hound, and the war.
Mildred Montag’s overdose in the story can be seen as a symbol of brainwashing and ignorance that the characters are faced with every day. Mildred is too busy with the technology that fills her home and her “family”, the virtual reality people she talks to. These interactive TV shows are seen as an escape or another reality to distract the citizens and Mildred from the truth about what the government is doing, and the fact that she was distracted to the point that she was unable to remember a number of pills she had taken, shows the lack of independent thought that there is in their society. Montag describes Mildred as “a little girl lost in a forest without trees” this describes how oblivious she is to her circumstances.
Montag meeting Clarisse changes Montag’s narrow-minded perspective on life when asked: “Are you happy?”, Montag begins to question his way of thinking and the lifestyle he has chosen. This makes him realize that he is not happy with life and wonder what is causing this. This is another symbol of people in this society being brainwashed and manipulated by the government.
During a fire call, Montag and the other men arrive at a house with an elderly woman and her books, Montag is faced with burning the books and demands for the woman to get out of the house, as they are about to light it on fire. She replies “I want to stay here.” ultimately leaving her to be burnt alongside her books. This leaves Montag in a state of confusion, that the woman would rather be dead than live without her books. The fact that she was unable to think of a life without her books made Montag wonder what could be on the books that would cause someone to die for them. In a society where materialistic and time-filling things are used to stop people from thinking for themselves, the fact that someone is willing to die for a book/outlawed thing is an interesting thing to Montag. This is a symbol of how book censorship controls people.
The mechanical hound in the text is a six-legged robot used to track down perpetrators. The hound is an advancement in the technology, in this future dystopia, hounds are used not to save people instead to hunt whom that do not follow society’s rules. In the novel, the hound chases Montag by tracking him from his scent, to avoid the hound Montag wades out into the river where the hound cannot track his scent. The hound is a symbol of the government use of fear as a form of control.
Throughout the text, there are obvious signs of war such as jets flying over the city but details such as who they are at war with or why is left unknown showing few interest people in this society have on what’s happening with the outside world. Montag seems to be one of the few people who look into these occurrences. This can be seen in the quote: “Every hour so many damn things in the sky! How in hell did those bombers get up their every single second of our lives! Why doesn’t someone want to talk about it?”
In conclusion, it can be clearly seen throughout the text that control and authoritarianism are something which can be used by the government as a distraction. This was shown through the fact that Mildred Montag was so brainwashed that she was unable to manage her own intake of pills, the surprising fact that a woman was willing to burn with her books, the mechanical hound and its use in the dystopian society, and the ignorance to an entire war. Many people within the text are so distracted by their routine and entertainment through television, that their eyes are not open to the reality of what the government is doing.