Power Struggles Between Government and People In Fahrenheit 451 Essay Example

During the burning of the Library of Alexandria by Julius Caesar 40,000 scrolls were destroyed, the estimated damage set humanity back 1,000 years. When books are burned knowledge is lost, such as in the library of Alexandria, and the state in Fahrenheit 451 where all books were hunted down and burned by firemen under the instructions of the government. Because the government would burn the books people who liked books would hide them or memorize them, creating a power struggle between them and the government they were revolting against. The government type in Fahrenheit 451 is totalitarian, and its control over the media is substantial, allowing the government to get away with finding, stealing, and burning all of the books. Through the realization of the government’s dishonesty and manipulative behaviors, it is shown that people in the state struggle with the power over themselves between themselves and the government.

First of all, once people learn about the corruption in the government people start to push against it and make risky personal choices to pursue personal reformation in the form of power over themselves rather than being controlled by the government, resulting in a struggle between the people and the government. For instance, in François Truffaut’s film, Fahrenheit 451 Montag realizes the government has been lying about what happens at the book burnings that he participates in and realizes that it is untrustworthy (Truffaut 1966). Because of this Montag begins to steal and read books from the places he is supposed to burn down, despite books being strictly forbidden by the government.

Montag is trying to take back power over himself from the government and is doing this by rebelling behind closed doors. Another example of this comes from Joseph Hurtgen’s The Archival Domination in Fahrenheit 451 as it discusses the major consequences of harboring books in your home in the state such as imprisonment and death. Even though Montag is well aware of these consequences because he is a fireman who helps deal out these punishments, he still steals books and reads them establishing that he is willing to break the law and fight the government to gain control over himself. Also in Fredrik Mäki’s A Discourse Study of Fahrenheit 451, it discusses Clarisse and Montag’s first conversation, “Her conclusion, which Montag at first has a difficult time accepting, is that “People don’t talk about anything”[sic]” (Mäki 14).

Clarisse brings up how people in the state don’t ever talk amongst each other and by her talking about it with Montag, a stranger, whenever she sees him is her act of rebelling against the status quo set by the government. Furthermore, also from the Archival Domination in Fahrenheit 451, it is stated “Beatty ultimately confronts Montag, forcing Montag to burn the books he has collected and his own house.“(Hurtgen 2). Not only is Montag aware of the consequences he accepts them face to face and ultimately revolts against them as well. 

However, once people obtain power over themselves when the government tries to control them more they struggle to keep their new-found control. In François Truffaut’s film, Fahrenheit 451 Montag is instructed to burn all of the books he owns by Fire Chief Beatty, even though Montag does begin to do so when he is forced to burn the single book he has left he refuses and instead turns the flame thrower towards Beatty, burning him alive (Truffaut 1966).

Montag struggled with the power over himself and the government elected fire chief Beatty, In the end, Montag gained the power that he had sought after. Also, in Fredrik Mäki’s A Discourse Study of Fahrenheit 451 it is stated, “Clarisse tells Montag about how her uncle has been arrested multiple times for doing things such as driving at moderate speed on the highway, and for being a “pedestrian” (7)” (Mäki 14). Clarisse’s uncle has taken control of his actions and life from the government and in doing so has broken the law. He is doing what he believes to be right and despite being arrested it is said he did it multiple times, showing he is actively rebelling against the government to be able to keep power over his actions. In the film it is also against the law to have an “ununiform haircut” and in one scene an unnamed teenager is confronted by officers for having long hair and there is a fight present as the boy tries to escape (Truffaut 1966). This is a prime example of a literal fight for independence from the government between an individual and government workers. The struggle continues for multiple minutes and another officer joins to suppress the rebellious team, emphasizing how hard the young man was trying to keep his hair and his expression that the government so desperately tried to strip away from all of its citizens.

Finally, once people struggle with power over themselves between them and the government they begin to form large networks of people to work as a whole to fight totalitarian government control. In François Truffaut’s film, Fahrenheit 451, Clarisse and her family have an active library and keep in contact with multiple people who contribute to the library (Truffaut 1966). The library is a key part of the rebellion against the government due to the network of people that are involved in it because it establishes that there are many people even in the local city that is ready to come up against the government as a whole when the time is right. Another group that has begun to build up their members is the nursing moms seen at the beginning of the film.

The mother’s hide books with their infants and read to them when officers are not sniffing around. Because they are reading to the children they will most likely grow up with books and continue the cycle of preserving books to give and read to their children, creating a new generation that is comfortable with books again to someday take back control from the government to keep their books alive. However, the best example of this is the book people, best described in Fredrik Mäki’s A Discourse Study of Fahrenheit 451, “The people in Granger’s network are agents of counter-power (van Dijk) working to slowly overthrow the present ruling-class, in order to recreate a society that once was”(Mäki 14). The book people or Granger’s network is a group of people who live in the rural part of the state where they dedicate their lives to memorizing the books that the government had been trying to erase from existence so that one day they can gain the strength to make society back to how it had been where people had control of themselves and where books were allowed. The book people exist to resist the manipulative restraint of the government and to one day overthrow it with the help of the other underground networks.

In conclusion, through the examination of works by Hurtgen, Mäki, and Truffaut there is a massive expression of how people in the dystopian world of Fahrenheit 451 fight to gain control of themselves from the totalitarian government. Not only are there solo power struggles among the people and their government, but there are also groups that strive to bring the government back to the rationality that it had before. Though the fighting comes in different forms, these struggles exist for the sole purpose of bettering humanity for the future of the state, knowing that the fighting is inevitable and necessary for the better future they wish for. 



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