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Censorship in Fahrenheit 451: Examples & Analysis

Censorship in Fahrenheit 451: Examples & Analysis
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  • 0:00 Censorship
  • 0:40 Banned Books
  • 1:16 Altered and Restricted…
  • 2:15 Justification
  • 3:46 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lauren Posey

Lauren has taught intermediate reading in an English Language Institute, and she has her Master's degree in Linguistics.

In this lesson you will look at examples of censorship in Ray Bradbury's 'Fahrenheit 451'. You will examine these examples and their significance within the novel.

Censorship

In today's world we enjoy amazing access to information from all over the globe. Using the Internet, books, and other means, we can easily find answers to important questions on any subject, or look up information just for fun. But imagine if the government said you couldn't have access to this information. This leads us to a practice called censorship. Censorship is defined as restricting or hiding information so it cannot be accessed. Science fiction writers for decades have been concerned with the idea of censorship and how it might show up in an alternate, usually futuristic, society. Author Ray Bradbury does this in his novel, Fahrenheit 451.

Banned Books

One way that censorship shows up in Fahrenheit 451 is through the banning and burning of books. The main character, Guy Montag, is a fireman whose job it is to burn the libraries of people who have collected these banned books. Montag references the list of millions of banned books that is hung at the firehouse where he works, implying that few, if any, books are allowed at all. There are also multiple scenes throughout the novel where the reader sees Montag or the other firemen setting fire to piles of books in people's houses. These books, and the knowledge contained in them, have been forbidden, or censored, and they are burned to prevent anyone else from reading them.

Altered and Restricted Information

Censorship also shows up in Bradbury's novel when specific information is clearly restricted. In some cases, commonly known history, or commonly known to us in the audience, is altered to protect the censorship in place in the novel. For example, a historical record referenced by the firemen shows that firemen have, since 1790, been used to burn books, and nothing else. The reader knows this is not true, and Beatty, the captain of Montag's squad of firemen, confirms later on that this is actually false information. By altering the records, the government has censored the history most people are aware of.

There are several points where Bradbury illustrates how far this censorship has gone. Liberal arts colleges have all closed, and the entertainment that is allowed, none of which involves reading, is all strictly controlled by the government. In the end of the novel, even though Montag escapes from the police, the televised chase scene is faked so that the government does not appear to have failed. These examples show how information that the public can see is all very carefully controlled.

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