Most unfortunately, we as a people are heading inevitably towards as state of dystopia. What is so unfortunate about this is the fact that many writers, including Ray Bradbury, the author of Fahrenheit 451, predicted this end decades ago.
In Bradbury's novel, the main character is a man named Montag. He is what is known as a fireman. In this book, a fireman is one who sets fire to books and the house they are concealed in. After meeting a young girl, and after a few scenes with his wife, he realizes what has become of society and sets out to change it.
According to Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, the definition of dystopia is as follows: an imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives. What they leave out of course is the fact that it is possible for this to happen.
In his work, Bradbury shows many of the ideals of a dystopian society. The three main ideals are:
1: Control of the media by government
2: The alteration of history for the governments benefit
3. Disposal of all those who refuse to accept the government's set of beliefs and follow them blindly
There are of course many more characteristics of a dystopian nation but the afore mentioned are the main three. It is these characteristics that Bradbury incorporates into his work, Fahrenheit 451.
The first of the three characteristics of a dystopian society is control of the media by government. In Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury shows his take on what it would be like in the following two quotes:
"Granger nodded. 'They're faking it. You threw them off at the river.
They can't admit it. They know they can only hold their audience for
only so long"(Bradbury,148).
"'So they're sniffing for a scapegoat to end things with a bang.
Watch! They'll catch Montag within the next five minutes!'"(Bradbury, 148).
In Fahrenheit 451, the main character, named Montag, has run from the authorities. Because of some of his quick thinking, they have lost his trail, but the don't want the general public to know, because that would take away the feeling in people that the government is all powerful, and consequentially would lead to an increased chance of an insurrection amongst the people.
The quote also shows that a dystopian society would go so far as to conjure up sensationalized accounts of stories so that the general people would continue to believe in the great power of the government, and how without this characteristic, a dystopian society would fall apart because the general people would find out about the how powerless the government really is.
The second of the three characteristics is the alteration of history in order to benefit the ideals of the government. Again in the quote, we have what Bradbury thought it would seem like.
"'Didn't firemen prevent fires rather than stoke them and get them going?'
'That's rich!' Stoneman and Black drew forth their rule books, which also
contained brief histories of the Firemen of America, and laid them out where
Montag, though long familiar with them, might read.
Established, 1790, to burn English influence books in the colonies. First Fireman: Benjamin Franklin"(Bradbury, 34)
The quote clearly shows that history has been altered so that all will think that firemen were never meant to prevent fires but instead to start them and burn books. It also shows that once people believe in a changed version of history, it is often easier to control them.
The third and final characteristic of a dystopian society that is seen is Bradbury's book is the disposal of all those that oppose or contradict the government's set of beliefs. Bradbury shows quite well what this would be like in the following quotes:
"'Something wrong, Montag?'"(Bradbury, 110).
'Why, we've stopped in front of my house!'" (Bradbury, 110)
"The books leapt and danced like roasted birds,
their wings ablaze with red and yellow feathers."(Bradbury, 117)
"'When you're quite through Montag,' sad Beatty, 'You're under arrest'" (Bradbury 117)
The scene in the book that contains these quotes is actually much longer, but the main idea is that Montag, after having books in his house, causes his wife to raise the alarm, which leads Beatty, the captain to his house. After having Montag burn down his own house Beatty tries to get rid o him by arresting him.
This vision of government control of dissenters is extremely vivid as well as surprising. The government in a dystopian society must do this in order to function because the lack of this characteristic would allow for to many dissenters, who could in turn overthrow the government. In addition the general population of the area would see that the government was really not as powerful as it seemed to be, and the society would collapse.
There have been many examples of the dystopian society as well. The Russian government in the early 1900's could be considered a dystopian society as well as the North Korean government today. As long as the government has the three characteristics, it can be considered a dystopian society.
It is these three characteristics we must look for and prevent in our own society. The lack of any one of the three characteristics will prevent the spread of dystopian society.
In conclusion, I believe that the spread of the dystopian society would cause the down fall of the human race and would ultimately lead to the end times that many have foreseen, including, Ray Bradbury.
Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451. 3rd ed. Vol. 1. New York: Del Rey Books, 1991. 3-165.
"Dystopia." Def. 1. Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. 10th ed. 1993
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