As an actor working in a stage production of Fahrenheit 451 (currently running at The Hippodrome Theatre, Gainesville, FL through Sept. 18, 2022), I am able to spend time experiencing more than the surface themes of the play (and the book).
The story is of the battle between individual knowledge and mass ignorance and conformity. In Fahrenheit, censorship is used to control society, and society has chosen conformity because life is easier when everyone is the same. That really struck me. That this dystopia is of their own making. Bradbury says (through the character of Professor Faber, a recluse academic in hiding) that “people stopped reading of their own accord”. The constant bombardment and the sheer accessibility of media gives the characters in Fahrenheit the illusion of living while becoming an indiscernible drop in an ocean of sameness. If it’s easier not to swim against a current, why do it? As in the fable of the fox and the grapes- that which is difficult is not desirable and therefore not worth the effort to strive- to achieve those grapes- that knowledge, those feelings. We choose between individuality and knowledge or life without thinking or making individual choices. Indeed, in our country now, people are offended so easily that the media opts to censor things that they feel will upset their audience. But that reaction of taking offense has been fed to them by their chosen sources of media, of controlled information. Libraries are getting closed down, books are treated with disrespect- even thrown away- or burned as public show. In 2022, the United States is back in the business of banning books. Government (or something more dangerous, perhaps) is again telling the people that it knows what is best for our minds, our bodies, the lives of children. How far are we from Bradbury’s night terrors now?