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Fahrenheit 451 Happiness Quotes: Examples & Analysis

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In 'Fahrenheit 451' by Ray Bradbury, some of the characters have different and conflicting ideas about what makes people happy. Let's take a closer look at happiness in this dystopian community.

Happy Citizens

What makes people happy? In Fahrenheit 451, the government believes that getting rid of books (which give people conflicting ideas, make people worry, and provide superior intellect) will make the citizens happier. Distracting people with fun - fast cars, television parlors, and Seashell devices used to listen to music - keeps them from feeling unhappy. Firemen like Montag, the protagonist, are responsible for burning down the homes of those who keep books, for the good of the community.

Does burning books create happy citizens?
fire

Is Montag Happy?

Montag seems perfectly content with his life until he meets Clarisse, a teenager who asks him if he is happy. He flippantly responds that he is, but up until that point, he hadn't really thought about it. 'Of course I'm happy. What does she think? I'm not?' he thinks. As he walks through his home, he suddenly realizes, 'He was not happy. He was not happy. He said the words to himself. He recognized this as the true state of affairs. He wore his happiness like a mask and the girl had run off across the lawn with the mask and there was no way of going to knock on her door and ask for it back.' Now that he realizes that his happiness has been a façade, what will it take for Montag to find true happiness? Ironically, Montag's wife Mildred (who has overdosed on sleeping pills) proudly talks about how happy she is. Irony is when the opposite of what is expected happens.

Beatty's Definition of Happiness

When Beatty realizes that Montag is beginning to question things, he stops by Montag's home to explain how the firemen work to keep people happy. Books are risky: People could be offended by realism, may get too many incompatible ideas, and some will gain superior knowledge. All of these things have the potential to be destructive. 'Not everyone 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.' Knowledge, debate, and choices keep citizens in a constant state of worry and conflict - so they are much better off having fun.

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