What is sadness? Sadness is, contrary to popular belief, a natural emotion or feeling. People feel sadness whenever they lose something that they previously enjoyed such as someone they loved, or something as simple as a stuffed animal. This particular emotion is actually good for you. It offers relief from the pain of the loss and it gives you some measure of the importance of what you’ve lost. In Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury strives to create a society that lives in the absence of sadness. He aspires to give everyone happiness by getting rid of conflict and inequality. However, what the society did not recognize was the value of this gloomy emotion. Guy Montag, the central character in the book, has learned to conform to the idea that the society he lives in is so very rigid and standard.
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However he eventually realizes that the society he lives in is not suitable for a happy life. In an attempt to solidify happiness, society became dehumanized through its abandonment of human instinct, which ironically caused society to become anaesthetized.
In the various attempts to abolish despondency by the elimination of literature, all emotions in society were destroyed. In the past, the society was able to read books, and therefore had no reason to burn them. For this reason houses were not fireproof, and therefore Clarise alludes to the fact that firemen used to put out fires, not start them. (8.) Thus proving that at one point in this society, books were accepted and then eventually were banned. While education doesn’t seem like an awful attribute, it created inequality, which made people unhappy. In order to explain the abolishment of books, Beatty expressed to Montag, Technology, mass exploitation, and minority pressure carried the trick, thank God. Today, thanks to them, you can stay happy all the timeЕФ (58). As Beatty explained, the government utilized technology, mass exploitation, and minority pressure to eliminate sadness. One example to substantiate the statement made by Beatty would be the use of the hound. The government used the hound in order to find and destroy books, which would, according to their society, create equality and peace. They believed that the elimination of books would solve everyone’s problems, and as a surrogate for books used controlled technology. Since there were no learned people, there would not be controversy over the explanations of ideas, or ideas themselves. However, what he did not account for was the fact that without thought, there was no emotion, and therefore no happiness or sadness. Happiness and sadness interplay off of each other, there cannot be happiness without something to contrast it to. Therefore, in the attempt to make everyone happy by eliminating literature, the ultimate outcome was a society that was essentially all robots.
These "robots" were incapable of comprehending personal history, and therefore had no sense of the passed time. The theory behind destroying a sense of time was that if no one were to grasp the idea of time, then they would, among other things, have no awareness of aging, and everyone would be happy. However, unexpectedly in doing so people were not happy nor sad, merely indifferent. In the conversation between Montag and Mildred the morning after the ordeal with Mildred’s blood cleaning, Mildred cannot remember the events of the past night and therefore questions, "Last night- What about last night?" (19). Mildred had no recollection of time or of past events and therefore no one knows whether Mildred was unhappy or just couldn’t remember. The attempt to eliminate sadness did not work, because since she couldn’t remember anything in the past she not only couldn’t remember the bad things, but she also couldn’t remember the happy events. The two therefore neutralized themselves between the happy and the sad causing Mildred to be apathetic or even sometimes depressed. It is extremely hard to live a happy life when you can’t remember any of the past joyous moments because of the dehumanization impressed onto society. Unfortunately, this dehumanization made people even more depressed, because it could cause them physical harm, moreover it could cause them emotional harm because they may not be able to remember joyous moments.
The supreme consequence of the mechanization of society was that the feelings about life and death became more depersonalized. To many, death is a very personal and emotional event. Contrary, though, in Montag’s society, death was absolutely depersonalized. People rarely were affected by death, however, just continued with their standard life because they believed that death was just another "thing" that happened in life. When depersonalizing death, the intent was to eliminate the sadness that went along with it, and therefore make everyone happy. While it did eliminate the sadness, it also eliminated the happiness that went along with life.
People had no reason to cherish life, because they believed didn’t think about the possibility of dieing, since it was such a minor part of life. When probing the idea of death, and looking deeper, it is essentially a culmination of life. However, since the citizens were unable to remember life, the idea of death was changed. In their minds they lived for just a moment, and therefore when someone died, nothing essentially died because nothing essentially lived. Mildred articulates the ideology of society by expressing her feelings about the woman Montag killed. "She’s nothing to me; she shouldn’t have had books. It was her responsibility, she should’ve thought of that." (51). Mildred wasn’t at all concerned that someone’s life was just taken, she was concerned that Montag was sick because of her. This clearly illustrates the ideology of society in that no one cared about death, it wasn’t happy nor was it a particularly sad time. So in the end, since no one understood that death was actually a very catastrophic event, no one therefore cherished life and lived unconcernedly, not happy nor sad.
Eventually Montag grasps the fact that his society is extremely corrupt due to the mechanization and dehumanization. There are various causes, which lead to the demise of a normal society, and lead to the society prevalent in F451, which relies on technology and abandons human instinct. As a result, the citizens have become non-threatening, non-interesting humans who can be easily led and manipulated through fear. The intent was to eliminate sadness but the end result were humans with absolutely no emotions.
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