[Firemen] were given a new job, as custodians of our peace of mind, the focus of our understandable and rightful dread of being inferior; official censors, judges, and executors.
After Montag becomes interested in reading books, Captain Beatty visits him at his house and explains why the role of firefighters changed from saving houses from fires to burning down houses with books inside them. Beatty says that without books, one person can’t be more or less intelligent than another person. He claims this way of living provides people “peace of mind.” While many people in the novel are not interested in books, we come to see that the practice of avoiding books does not keep society peaceful.
Colored people don’t like Little Black Sambo. Burn it. White people don’t feel good about Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Burn it. Someone’s written a book on tobacco and cancer of the lungs? The cigarette people are weeping? Burn the book.
This idea is another excuse Captain Beatty gives Montag for why destroying books is good for society. Since any person can potentially be offended by a subject, he argues that all books are better off destroyed than allowed to incite anger. Beatty uses an example of a book linking tobacco and cancer. He shows the benefit of destroying information about lung cancer to keep cigarette companies happy, but we see the public health risks as people will be less informed of what smoking can do.
If you don’t want a house built, hide the nails and wood. If you don’t want a man unhappy politically, don’t give him two sides to a question to worry him; give him one. Better yet, give him none.
Beatty gives Montag a final reason to explain why society is better off without books. The government and the firemen use censorship to control their citizens. By eliminating information or multiple perspectives on an issue, people will only know what they are told by their televisions or ear pieces. Beatty says that not having to worry about two sides of a question will make people happier. However, it is clear from the rest of the novel that the citizens of this society are not particularly happy.
So now do you see why books are hated and feared? They show the pores in the face of life. The comfortable people want only wax moon faces, poreless, hairless, expressionless.
In “The Sieve and the Sand,” Montag visits Faber. Captain Beatty has already given Montag his excuses for why books are destroyed, but Faber offers another perspective on why books are “hated and feared.” Faber says there is life present in books, and most people are uncomfortable with how truthful books can be. This idea is supported by the characters’ obsession with television and vapid entertainment that we see throughout the novel. Although the government and firemen are the ones destroying the books, the hatred most people have towards books makes such easy censorship possible.
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