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Mindless and Obeying
Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 features a fictional and futuristic firefighter named Guy Montag. As a firefighter, Montag does not put out fires. Instead, he starts them in order to burn books and, basically, knowledge to the human race. He does not have any second thoughts about his responsibility until he meets seventeen-year-old Clarisse McClellan. She reveals many wonders of the world to Montag and causes him to rethink what he is doing in burning books. After his talks with her, the society’s obedience to the law that bans knowledge, thinking, and creativity also increasingly distresses him. In Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury shows conformity in the futuristic America through schooling, leisure, and fright.
The children in the society are never actually taught during school hours. Captain Beatty, another firefighter, tells Montag that the schools ” Cram them full of non-combustible data, chock them so damned full of “facts” they feel stuffed, but absolutely “brilliant” with information” (61). The “teachers” (actually film) stuff the students with “knowledge”, making them feel smart, but they are never taught to question any of the information or form their own opinion on matters. Clarisse says, “Do you know, we never ask questions, or at least most don’t; they just run the answers at you, bing, bing, bing, and us sitting there for four more hours of film-teacher” (29). In being taught not to question anything, including the law, education supports conformity. In a similar way, entertainment encourages obedience as well.
In the culture that Montag lives in, it is expected in everyone to participate in the civilization’s entertainment sources: mindless television, the “shell”, and violent games. Television (a.k.a. parlor walls) are made up of a flat screen on a wall; sometimes it fills all of the walls instead of just one, and is made up of fast-moving, mindless flashing images of people known as the “family”. Every second they are on, they are screaming nonsense. Faber, Montag’s mentor, says, “The televisor is “real”. It is immediate, it as dimension.
It tells you what to think and blasts it in. It must be right, it seems to be right. It rushes you on so quickly to its own conclusions your mind hasn’t time to protest” (109).The residents are provided with too much “excitement” at one time and do not have enough time or space in their minds to think. The walls are addicting. Therefore, more people take more time to sit down and watch the “family” rather than focusing on developing their own creativity and thinking. Whenever citizens are off the parlor walls, they listen to the “shell” which is based on the same concept of the parlor walls: to limit thoughts. The only difference between the two is that the shell is far more compact. Otherwise, the two are similar. In limiting access to time for feelings, television and the “shell” promotes conformity to the law.
Games in the society work in a comparable way as the parlor walls and the “shell”. They show aggression and gore in every single one of them; whether or not it is a real life game or a video game. Seeing so much violence numbs their minds to all of the happenings around them. Clarisse mentions, “I’m afraid of children my own age. They kill each other. Did it always used to be that way? My uncle says no. Six of my friends have been shot in the last year alone. Ten of them died in car wrecks” (30). Even if mass genocide were happening around them, they would brush it away like shooing away fly. Being apathetic, they would not question anything happening around them, which encourages conformity to the government. Reinforcing entertainment and education, fear produces a foolproof obedience in the society.
Even though most citizens are brainwashed by their schooling and leisure, some, like Montag, Faber, and Clarisse still rebel against the law. Therefore, the government creates severe punishments to be dealt out to generate fear in the rebels so that rebellions would not be staged. One of these punishments is to burn down the rebel’s house and put the resident in a crazy asylum. Another, the one Montag fears most, is the mechanical hound. It is made to force support from the citizens using the fear that the mechanical hound produces.
Conformity is depicted in Fahrenheit 451 through tutelage, entertainment, and terror. The people should have access to knowledge and should think with their own minds. The book shows that having creativity and opinions, like Clarisse, is better than just being, quite literally, a robot. Fahrenheit 451 shows the citizens in the fictional society being controlled by foolish teachings, mind-jumbling amusement, and forced fear. Being mindless and obeying is not a choice. Everybody has to have a viewpoint of his or her own in life.