Potter Stewart once said, “Censorship reflects a society’s lack of confidence in itself”(Brainyquote.com). Ray Bradbury wrote a book called Fahrenheit 451. In Fahrenheit 451, the government has banned books, making those that live in this society ignorant of the ways of the world. Books and knowledge are looked at as things that just cause more confusion and distress; therefore, they should not exist. The main character Guy Montag is a fireman who’s job is to burn the censored books. Later on, in Fahrenheit 451, Guy Montag starts noticing how unhappy life is and tries to stop the censorship that is occurring. Ray Bradbury employs the use of literary devices and figurative language to develop his theme that censorship causes more harm than good.
To start, Bradbury shows that censorship causes more harm than good by his use of metaphors. In Guy Montag’s society censorship is the main source of control. The government has control because it censors anything that can give people more knowledge. After a call, where a woman chooses to burn to death with her books, Guy Montag gets a visit from the Chief of the Fire Department. Fire Chief Beatty tells Guy Montag about the history of the Fire Department. As Chief Beatty talks to Guy Montag he says,“‘So! A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it. Take the shot from the weapon. Breach man’s mind. Who knows who might be the target of the well-read man”’ (Bradbury 56). Bradbury employs the use of a metaphor to help support the idea of censorship and its ability to cause harm. By comparing a book to a loaded gun, he makes the book look like a dangerous weapon. Once society took the “weapon” away from the public, it brought a false sense of control and happiness to the civilian population. Therefore, demonstrating that censorship can cause more harm than good. As Guy Montag and Chief Beatty continue to talk, Guy brings up his old neighbor Clarice McClellan. Guy Montag has been wondering why Clarice was not like the other teens her age. Chief Beatty tells Guy Montag about some of the rebellious people that the government can not stop from reading books. In the text, Chief Beatty says, “You can’t rid yourselves of all the odd ducks in just a few years”(Bradbury 57). Bradbury uses a metaphor to show censorship and its ability to cause harm. By comparing the smart people and the people who read to be odd ducks. When society takes the “odd ducks” away, it made every single person the same and no one is unique. This metaphor makes these people seem like the outcast of what the government wants in its society. These two examples help Bradbury explain that censorship can cause more harm than good. It can make people think that knowledge is bad and can make people outcast each other.
Also, Bradbury shows censorship can cause more harm than good by his use of similes. The government in Guy Montag’s society likes to be in control of everyone and everything including people’s emotions. By taking control of people’s emotions the government can gain control of everything. At the beginning of the book, Guy Montag is walking home from a shift when he meets Clarice McClellan. As he continues to walk home he starts talking to Clarice. While talking to Clarice she makes Guy Montag starts to question the government and his happiness. As Clarice goes back to her house she leaves Guy Montag thinking. In the text, it shows what Guy Montag was thinking, “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”(Bradbury 9). Bradbury uses a simile to show censorship and its ability to cause harm. By comparing Guy Montag’s happiness to a mask. Bradbury shows that society is not truly happy and the government is providing false happiness. This simile shows that censorship is causing more harm than good if people are not truly happy. Later when Guy Montag gets back home he notices an empty bottle and his wife unresponsive on her bed. In a hurry, he calls the emergency hospital. Two men show up with two machines to work on his wife. In the text it explains what the machines do, “One of them slid down into your stomach like a black cobra down an echoing well looking for all the cold water and the old-time gathered there … This machine pumped all of the blood from the body and replaced it with fresh blood and serum”(Bradbury 12). Bradbury uses a simile to support the idea of censorship and its ability to cause harm. By comparing the machine to a black cobra Ray Bradbury shows that the government is a gross, sneaky, and slimy snake. The machine that looks like a black cobra dispenses a serum that makes people forget what has happened. This gives the government more control by making people think everything is normal. Therefore, demonstrating that censorship can cause more harm than good if they are trying to overdose and attempt suicide. These two examples help Bradbury explain that censorship causes more harm than good. These similes help advance the theme of censorship and how much it has brainwashed the whole community to think that it is okay not to have self-thought.
To review, Ray Bradbury uses metaphors and similes to show that censorship causes more harm than good. By using metaphors and similes Bradbury can get his message across that the government censors the people. Bradbury used metaphors to show censorship by comparing books to “loaded guns” and rebellious people to “odd ducks”. By comparing the two items together it shows that the government wants control over people’s knowledge. Bradbury then used similies to show censorship by comparing a machine to a “black cobra” and happiness to a “mask”. By comparing the machine to a “black cobra” it shows that the government can not be trusted because they will stab you in the back like a snake. Also, by comparing an emotion like happiness to a “mask” shows that the government does not truly care about how the citizens feel. Overall Ray Bradbury was practically predicting the future because every single person in that society follows what someone tells them to do they can not be unique or smarter than the government and if you are you get punished for it. Every single person listens to what the government tells them or they stare at screens all day long as Mildred does. The government censored every single person’s ability to be different, unique, and smart just because it could mess with the power the government has over the people, and all this shows is that censorship causes more harm than good.
- Bradbury, Ray, and Neil Gaiman. Fahrenheit 451. Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2013.
- “Potter Stewart Quotes.” BrainyQuote, Xplore, https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/potter-stewart-quotes.