Up@dawn 2.0

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Section 8- Fahrenheit 451- A Glimpse at Book Burning and Other Horror

Hello, classmates and fellow heretics. My group chose to do our midterm report on Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. We decided to choose this work because of all the recent political controversy that has ensued over reading books with the most recent being that our own president does not read books. With that being said, I would like to introduce my group’s central project theme: book burning.  

Image result for book burning photoIf one does not take away anything much from Bradbury’s 451, they will, at the very least, understand that this book is set in a dark, dystopian future in which firemen start fires to burn books instead of preventing fires to stop destruction. With this being said, it is only natural that we chose book burning as our central theme.  Furthermore, we chose to tie together this central theme with three characters taken from the book and how those characters relate to the main protagonist. Namely, we wanted to convey how these characters aided the protagonist, Guy Montag, in his personal growth as he comes to the realization of how he himself is and what his actions mean. By showing character growth, we, ourselves, can come to understand how burning books (or burning the past) may lead to our own destruction and added mistakes. 

To go along with the theme of three, our presentation is split into three sections: Clarisse McClellan ("Censorship"), Captain Beatty ("Book Burning"/"Change"), and Faber ("Enlightenment").  The questions for each section will be split up at the end.

Section I:

Fahrenheit 451 pages 1- 7:

The problem and/or concept of "censorship" has been around for ages. Throughout history, it has been used as a means of controlling or of limiting information. One example that comes up from our class was from the death of Socrates when he was poisoned by hemlock for corrupting the youth of Greece. Another example of "censorship" has to do with our own First Amendment rights and what is too "free" when it comes to freedom of speech.

In Fahrenheit 451, the character, Clarisse McClellan, turns out to be one of the main examples of censorship being taken too far. She is also pivotal in the awakening of new ideals in the main protagonist, which causes the overall chaos of the book to ensue as Montag learns that his world is upside down. Clarisse herself will be "censored" permanently by the end of the book.

Clarisse McClellan is a kind, peculiar girl that starts off as the mysterious neighbor of Montag. She has a brief, yet crucial part in opening Montag's eyes before she becomes an ideal herself. Because before her (and as the book opens), he thinks this:

"It was a pleasure to burn."

As the change in Montag occurs as the fire does to a book, he learns that it "was" just a pleasure. Because throughout the book, he becomes slowly consumed by the idea that he is going to be consumed by the fire that he used to create. He also realizes that he is not happy with who he is and what he does. However, none of this would have been possible if he had not allowed himself to take Clarisse's words to heart as well as open his own eyes to what is going on. (Luckily, he was not snuffed out for his message as Clarisse was for hers.)

Section II:

Fahrenheit 451 pages  51- 58, 103- 4, & 107- 13:

The most infamous subject of Farenheit 451 is the book burning.  The book's title is a reference to the temperature of the fire that burns the books.  History has many moments of books burning, often for political uses, personal statements, or in most cases, religious purposes, often destroying other books that blaspheme. 

In the book, Guy Montag, the main character, is a fireman, whose job is to burn any books they can find in a person’s home.  His boss, Captain Beatty, has served a fireman for decades, and in pages 51-58, he visits Montage in his home and explains the formation of the firemen and how books have caused people to develop their own personal opinions and beliefs.  As a result, people began to disagree with each other’s opinions because it clashed with their own and thus books have everyone.  When the firemen were created and began burning all of the books, the population began to become less conflicted with each other and more complacent.  In other words, everyone started being happy.  

While reading, one can pick up that Beatty has a vast knowledge of literature, especially when he explains to Montag in pages 103-104 how he had a dream about the two of them having a debate over book burning.  In it, he describes how Montag quotes verses from books at him, and he calmly refutes them back by quoting other lines from books.  Despite his knowledge, he continues to work as a fireman.  Beatty thinks that by ridding everyone of books, they become happier and more focused on their lives instead of fighting with each other over opinions.  In one quote, Beatty says, “Give a man a few lines of verse and he thinks he’s the Lord of all Creation.”  When the firemen figure out Montag has books inside his home, Beatty orders him to burn all of the books in his house by himself as an attempt to recognize his errors before being placed under arrest.  

In pages 107-113, Beatty describes how fire is beautiful and mysterious with its “perpetual motion” as it burns the pages of books into ashes.  In return, Montag burns Beatty to death and flees from the authorities.  Before being burned, when Montag pointed the flamethrower on him, Beatty begins to taunt him to quote Shakespeare at him, and quoting from Shakespeare, “There is no terror, Cassius, in your threats, for I am arm’d to strong in honesty that they pass by me as an idle wind, which I respect not!”  He eventually tells Montag to pull the trigger, resulting in his demise.  

Although book burning continues on today, it is not as prevalent as it was decades ago.  You don’t see politicians or pastors ordering entire cities to burn all of their books on a particular subject or list.  This does not stop the censoring of books, however.  Many books are being placed onto banned lists that tell people not to read them, including Catcher In the Rye and the infamous Captain Underpants novels.  Some books have been outright banned in some countries, often for criticizing governments and officials or for religious reasons.  Though these are not as extreme as book burning, they are still just as effective.  Ray Bradburry, author of Farenheit 451, as once stated, “You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”

Section III:

Farenheit 451 pages 166- 176:

Faber is an old professor who proves to be a challenging intellectual and one of the main mentors of the story. He is able to see far beyond the immediate issues plaguing society in the novel. He is the one who points out that it is not just simply the lack of books which makes the task before them daunting but also the public’s unwillingness to read at all.

Faber’s part in all of this is that he provides a sort of microscope into the underlying issues of the world. He does this through the example of having only one student in his class before he had to leave his job as a professor. It is not just the lack of books, it is the lack of consumer curiosity. He opens up an entirely new perspective on the topic of censorship. The common citizen simply does not know what they are missing out on by not reading and spending their entire lives seemingly avoiding knowledge at all costs.
He is simply what appears to be a scared old man who wants nothing more than to see a world where people do not simply hold utter disdain for their fellow human, and are enlightened by the very knowledge that they have outlawed. As one who sees himself as an intellectual, Faber understands far better than most what the true value of a book is. The true value of the written word is not simply any knowledge that it may gift you, but the scope that it provides. Seeing the world from a new perspective does more than give you knowledge, it gives you a taste of what the true experience of being human is. To be human is to open yourself up to the infinite questions of the universe and let those questions ignite your latent curiosity.
Faber has spent most of his life attempting to ignite the curiosity of others. He understands that true enlightenment lies not in answers but in questions. He acts as a foil to what children are taught in the schools of this society, seeing as the schools teach you how instead of to ask “why?”.  He believes that this one change would flip this society on its head and bring about the end of this dystopia. He sees the world for what it truly is. He understands that in order to have complete control over a population, you need not oppress them outright, you must simply cause them to stop asking questions. He yearns for the day to come when once more man asks questions.

In direct relation to Montag, Faber acts almost like a foil to the main character. Montag is a man who was once silent and decides to one day be heard. Faber was once a metaphorical bastion of knowledge and learning. Now he is an old man who is simply trying to survive in a world that no longer seems to want him or his kind. On the other hand, Montag is one of his society’s heroes; being one who burns books and therefore is upheld by his community. Meanwhile, Faber is ostracized by a society which at one time would revere him and his ilk. These two characters represent two sides of the same coin. Montag is one who once lived in ignorance and decides to seek knowledge and enlightenment; Faber is one who holds the knowledge and is reluctant to share it. Faber is a hero who has been defeated and broken, while Montag is a person who is tired of acting as a drone and decides to become the hero of his own narrative.

Quiz Questions:

Section I: 

1.) What is a pleasure?
2.) What does Montag think that Clarisse smells on him initially?
3.) What does Clarisse's uncle tell her to say when anyone asks for your age?
4.) What is the question that Clarisse asks Montag before she goes back into her walk?

Section II:

1.)  What does book burning signify?
2.) Why do the firemen burn books?
3.) If Beatty has this vast knowledge about books, why does he work to burn them?
4.) Why does Beatty believe that books divide people?
5.) Are there forms of censorship occurring today like in Farenheit 451?

Section III: 

1.What is the inherent meaning of "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" ("Who watches the Watchmen?")?
2.) What is the definition of a distopia?

Discussion Questions:

1.) Would you risk your own safety for your ideals?
2.) How important are books to you? Do you have something of importance that influences your life?
3.) How important is freedom of speech in our own society?
4.) Are you happy with your life and beliefs as well?
5.) Why does the character Beatty know so much about books?
6.) Do you think Beatty wanted to die? Why or why not? (How can this be related to Socrates situation?


  1. Hey guys!

    I apologize for taking so long to post this. Life happened, and I was not able to post until now.

  2. 8 - DQ responses
    1. I might risk my safety for my ideals. I guess it would depend on which one, and how strongly I felt about it.
    2. Books are super important to me! Ever since I was a child I have been buried in books of all kinds. There is so much to learn, know, and visit in your mind in a book!
    3. It is important to me, but lately I am not sure about the rest of our society.
    4. I am.
    5. He was once curious like Montag, but didn't want to explore/think differently once he fed that curiosity.
    6. I think he did. He pushed Montag to do it. I think, being as well read as he was and as stubborn in his way of thinking, that he may have lived for a long time with struggling and conflicting thoughts.

  3. Devin Willis11:42 PM CST

    Devin Willis-8
    1. I would risk my own life for my ideals because I believe they are morally right.
    2. Books are very important in my life, I learn so much from reading books and magazines.
    3. It is very important in our society.
    4. I am content with life so therefore I am somewhat happy but there are issues I need to solve.
    5. Because he was once eager to read at one point of his life
    6. I think he did, because he knew too much

  4. 8-DQ Lucy Haston

    1. That's a difficult question to answer because I've never been in that situation. However, that could change very soon. Who knows? I like to think that yes, I would risk my safety.

    2. Books are incredibly important to me, and being an English major, they sort of have to be. There are so many kinds of books out there on any topic you could possibly think of. They are a tangible source of information that we really need to keep around. And it's such a nice feeling to get sucked into a book.

    3. In our society, especially recently, freedom of speech is only important to those who agree with what is being said.

    4. I am happy with my beliefs; however, my life is still missing some things. I'm not entirely happy with it.

    5. It is likely curiosity. He looked into these things. He can quote so many things exactly.

    6. There's a part of me that thinks yes, Beatty wanted to die because he was exhausted. Likely exhausted by the book burning and the censorship tangled up with the fact that he has such vast knowledge of books.