Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 sends a number of messages about rebellion and its place in changing a society’s laws and social norms, such as the censoring of books since the beginning, the importance of them and knowledge they spread, and the overall unhappiness of everyone who chooses not to take action.
When Montag’s boss, Captain Beatty, comes to visit him, he begins to tell him how books initially became a problem in the older society. Beatty states that “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.”
His example of the harms of tobacco pushes the argument that people could be offended by any subject, so it was best that all books were destroyed.The old society constantly pushed at being upset at what content was being written and shared, so eventually, the majority of books that incited idea or opinion were banned. Montag’s boss also says “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 claims that not giving people two sides to a story or even the option to have a different opinion keeps the peace. Later we see that this type of censorship and sheltering is what makes people unhappy, seen by the amount of suicides that happen.
After Montag watches an old woman chose to burn in her home instead of leaving her books, he realizes that “There must be something in books, things we can’t imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there. You don’t stay for nothing.” Although Mildred does not have a care for her husband’s statement, It is clear that this event gets him thinking about what could possibly be so drawing about books that are illegally kept. He begins to read alongside his wife the ones he’s kept hidden away.
While they read, they hear bombers in the sky above them, which infuriates Montag because he does not know much about the outside world, and no one seems to care. “Maybe the books can get us half out of the cave. They just might stop us from making the same damn insane mistakes” shows that It is then that he understands that books are important because they provide knowledge and history, past events that should not be repeated, such as the war going on around him.