Fahrenheit 451 introduces a new world in which control of the masses by the media, overpopulation. The individual is not accepted and the intellectual is considered an outlaw. Television has replaced the common perception of family. Books are considered evil because they make people question and think.
Strict rules and order are forced upon the society. The government has taken away the citizens’ ability to dissent and veiled all dissatisfaction with a cheap version of ‘happiness,’ like TV. This means that little external regulation is required, as the citizens conform contentedly to the status quo. Books are illegal, free thought is essentially prohibited, and activities are tightly organized. They drive very fast, watch excessive amounts of television on wall-size sets, and listen to the radio on “Seashell Radio” sets attached to their ears. The weird part is that much of the restrictions on the general populous are self-enforced.
Censorship is shown in nearly every aspect of the reality imagined by Bradbury in his novel Fahrenheit 451. Primarily, censorship is shown as a harsh act of law enforcement carried out by the ‘firemen,’ the governmental agency of which several of the principal characters are a part. Their job is to enforce the law, which forbids not only literature but any sort of reading material which has not been approved by the government. Those who disobey or are found to be in possession of illicit reading material are punished swiftly and brutally. A fireman team is dispatched to their residence, where they proceed to burn it to the ground with all reading material inside.
Montag represents rebellion. Despite the resistance and danger he faces, Montag questions the everyday norms and steals books. Many of his actions can be read as resulting from personal dissatisfaction, such as angrily lashing out at his wife and attempting to make others see his point of view. He does not share the knowledge he gains from the books he hoards, and does he seem to consider how he might help others. When he leaves the city, and he saves himself not because he foresaw the war, but because his instinctive and self-destructive actions have forced him to run. Montag’s actions are not thoughtful and purposeful. They are emotional and shallow, showing that Montag is as much a part of society as anyone else.
Wisdom is recognized at the beginning of “The Sieve and the Sand,” Montag and Mildred are reading the books that Montag stole from fires he had been called to. He hears bombers in the sky, wonders why they are up there, and recalls there have been two atomic wars. Montag is angry to realize how little he knows of the rest of the world and its history, and even angrier that no one else is interested in learning more. Montag reaches a key understanding of the benefit of knowledge: preventing society from repeating past mistakes.
The crisis of identity is at the core of Fahrenheit 451.The main character learns from a series of mentors and teachers, he sees his own identity melding with that of his instructors. This is also a means of scapegoating—if your identity is not entirely your own, then you are not entirely responsible for your actions. The novel explores the question of how to define oneself.