Monday, March 12, 2007

Controlled Burn

The strangely sensible rationalization for F451 society's book prohibition is revealed early in the novel--to rid the country of the woes brought on by free thought. The purpose, according to Captain Beatty, is the mental well-being of society. Books make people think, agonize, wonder, realize their differences. "Don't give them any slippery stuff like philosophy or sociology to tie things up with. That way lies melancholy." Montag learns that Clarisse, the young girl who sparked his breakdown, is most likely dead, and he is party to a burning that claims a willing human victim. He steals a novel from this burning and spends the next day in bed, where he is visited by Captain Beatty. Beatty's speech to Montag, quiet, eloquent, and peppered with literary quotes, explains that by giving the people endless entertainment and taking away the thinking consequences of reading knowledge, the government is ensuring that the deepest desire of humanity is met. "Ask yourself, what do we want in this country, above all? People want to be happy, isn't that right? Haven't you heard it all your life? I want to be happy, people say. Well, aren't they? Don't we keep them moving, don't we give them fun?" Montag struggles under the weight of Beatty's chilling logic, the stolen book burning a hole under his pillow.

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This event is part of The Big Read, an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and Arts Midwest.