Knowledge plays a critical role in the development of any society. This importance has been effectively highlighted in the book “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury, published in the 1950s, in which the author has explained the growing aspect of the totalitarian society by utilizing the theme of knowledge. Fahrenheit 451 describes the temperature of the fire ignited by burning the books which the author has symbolized as the source of knowledge necessary for the development and effectiveness of society. The primary focus of the author was to highlight the negative aspects of the technological advancements which took place in the overall oppressive political structure of 1940-1950 (Emrah). In this regard, the following paper effectively discusses the importance of knowledge in the novel and its implications in today’s modern society.
The novel provides a critical discussion about the role of brutal society in the destruction of knowledge when the whole society is involved in burning the books without considering their importance. The story revolves around the main character Guy Montag who was a fireman and was strongly involved in this destruction process. By providing an excellent description of the dystopian society, Ray Bradbury has emphasized that the modern society forgets the difference between knowledge and ignorance when individuals abandon books and utilize different technological tools to access knowledge, and even do not comprehend their intellectual loss while destroying the books (Smolla and Bradbury). The author has further described two different types of knowledge i.e., destructive and constructive. The destructive form of knowledge emerges when individuals are subjected to censorship and technological control. This dimension of knowledge will also be discussed in the essay while highlighting the importance of knowledge as an essential part of a person’s life.
IMPORTANCE OF KNOWLEDGE
The main theme presented in the novel is the differentiation between knowledge and ignorance that by any definition are contradictory to each other. For example, one of the characters in the novel, Millie portrays her ignorance by listening to the Seashell radio every night and takes an overdose of pills to forget the whole ordeal. She also watches TV and finds those programs very interesting that do not have an element of creativity to influence their audience positively. In this way, the government was able to control society by restricting their access to constructive knowledge and information. A very similar depiction of the dystopian society is present in the short story “The Pedestrian” where the author has pictured an individual who unlike all other persons in the community tries to walk on the streets when TVs were used to mesmerize people in their homes. In the words of Bradbury, “…faces appear and an entire street is startled by the passing of a lone figure, himself, in the early November evening” (Bradbury, Bradbury Stories: 100 of His Most Celebrated Tales). His knowledge of walking finally became the reason for his arrest as he did not adapt to modern life, and therefore he was admitted to the “Psychiatric Center for Research on Regressive Tendencies”.
It highlights the precise manipulation and constant monitoring as the fundamental source of ignorance in the society as individuals begin to adopt misinformation when they are forcefully subjected to certain kinds of information for years using administrative power. This ignorance cannot be eliminated unless people acquire authentic information. It makes it imperative to access the constructive knowledge from an environment free oppression to sustain productivity and creativity. It is evident from the novel where the author has described how people were unable to make mistakes and errors in the society that is the fundamental source of development and exploration but characters in the book did not have diverse encounters to grasp the versatile information. Therefore, when Montage encountered Clarisse, it opened his heart, vision, and perception to develop a constructive approach towards understanding human behavior and knowledge. Consequently, he begins to make an impact on the society by delivering his knowledge to others. It finally leads him to join the intelligent people and become different from the vast majority of ignorant people in society.
In this way, the character of Guy Montage helps us to comprehend the significance of true knowledge and its difference from ignorance to determine the paradigm of our growth and development. Only this true form of knowledge can equip people with the necessary background and mindset to critically review the different concepts and ideas prevailing in the society. This knowledge is further improved when people have diverse opportunities to apply their information in various situations and learn from their experiences. Therefore, when Guy Montage critically understood the dominant standards in the society and found them destructive for the intellectual development of the society, he detached himself from burning the books and finally decided to revitalize the knowledge by utilizing his approach of self-discovery.
An important aspect that the author has highlighted to describe the importance of knowledge is books that are the most critical factor for knowledge, wisdom, and the paradigm of intellectualism. When individuals in society are inclined to different technological tools, they reject the constructive knowledge that can be attained from books. It finally limits their ability to differentiate the constructive and destructive forms of knowledge and live a happy and prosperous life. As described by Vonnegut in his book “Harrison Bergeron”, technological tools such as TV have immense power to sedate, rule, and terrorize society as George and Hazel two main characters of the novel are constantly distracted from the information being presented on the screen to develop a strong conscience of their presence and the surrounding environment (Vonnegut). Therefore, in the dystopian society of the novel, people were unable to comprehend the benefits of books that made them completely irrelevant. To highlight this, the author wrote; “Books aren’t people. You read, and I look all around, but there isn’t anybody…” (Bradbury 73).
However, as quoted by Bradbury, “…our path is simpler; we think better. All we want to do is keep the knowledge we believe that we will require”, knowledge is an integral component of the society because it always endeavors to maintain even the little that it possesses (Bradbury 152). But if the purpose and direction of the society are ruined, its ability to preserve knowledge is diminished which ultimately leads to its ignorance.
The novel Fahrenheit 451 remarkably describes the importance of knowledge to construct a productive society where individuals can live a very happy and prosperous life. But as highlighted by the author, this knowledge can only be obtained through books that were banned by the government in the dystopian society of the novel that led to ignorance and euphoria. These aspects of ignorance and intellectual degradation of the society without books can be observed in today’s world when people like Millie in the novel are more inclined to social media and other technological mediums and are unable to develop intellectual insights. This supports Bradbury’s arguments about the adverse effects of innovation and technological advancements where people are now deprived of even basic knowledge. Thus, it becomes significantly important to acquire knowledge through readings and make effective decisions in our life for which books are the most influential medium.
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Smolla, Rodney A, and Ray Bradbury. “The Life of the Mind and a Life of Meaning: Reflections on ‘Fahrenheit 451.’” Michigan Law Review, vol. 107, no. 6, 2009, pp. 895–912. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/40379842?seq=1. Accessed 15 Jan. 2021.
Vonnegut, Kurt. Harrison Bergeron. New York, Mercury Press, 1961.