par Louise Labé
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1."We must all be alike. Not everyone born free and equal, as the Constitution says, but everyone made equal. Each man the image of every other; then all are happy, for there are no mountains to make them cower, to judge themselves against." (p.59)
Are we all truly born equal? Should we be? If trying to level differences, shouldn't something be done about differences in intelligence? On the other hand, aren't differences in intelligences healthy for competition?
Second, how does one judge intelligence? Social psychologists perceive intelligence as encompassing a wide range of factors. There are differences in social intelligence, emotional intelligence, financial intelligence, and other capacities of the mind. Should these qualities be categorized as "intelligence," too? Are they learned or innate? If they are innate, then shouldn't these differences in "intelligence" be leveled, as well?
2. "People want to be happy, isn't that right? Haven't you heard it all your life? I want to be happy, people say. Well, aren't they? Don't we keep them moving, don't we give them fun? That's all we live for, isn't it? For pleasure, for titillation?" (59)
Is the purpose of life happiness? If it is, what if the goals of happiness contradict? In Fahrenheit 451, for example, citizens gained pleasure by driving over sentient beings. These same creatures, on the other hand, no doubt, felt unhappy in being killed. Whose happiness takes precedence? As another example, parents in the story took little pleasure in extending themselves for their children. Observed Mrs. Bowles: "They'd just as soon kick as kiss me. Thank God, I can kick back." (96). The children surely would have preferred to have been treated in a respectful, altruistic manner. In the final analysis, whose happiness is more important? Who is the one that should suffer, and who should be the one to benefit? How does one decide, and what measures are used to do so?
Should one censor artistic masterpieces that offend the sensibilities of a minority? Bradbury's "Coda" elaborates on this point, mentioning criticism that he received for one of his Martian stories, in which a reader complained that he make his Blacks more likable. In another incident, fearful editors eliminated the descriptive terms "God-light" and "the Presence" in one of Bradbury's tales in order to avoid controversy on religious grounds. There is the principle of free speech, but there is also the prohibition against bigotry; how does one decide when one challenges the other? Should great books be censored, as they are in some institutions, when they seem by some to diminish a particular gender or race?
4. "I just want someone to hear what I have to say. And maybe if I talk long enough, it'll make sense." (p. 81)
This is the rationale behind psychotherapy, and particularly behind the psychodynamic approach that believes that the problem is buried within the individual. This approach asserts that the analyst should let the client talk; give him unbridled permission to talk to himself without interruption. The psychiatrist, meanwhile, practices active listening, allowing the client to ramble, and perhaps, by doing so, come to his own conclusions (though psychoanalysis does practice interpretation). Montag finds his situation of being by himself unendurable. He needs to talk to another—to be instructed by another—in order to make sense of his situation.
Isolated meditation is supposed to be a harbinger of wisdom. Sages are commonly portrayed as ascetics who withdraw from society, contemplate in a monastic retreat for a number of years, and return to share their wisdom with their followers. Might the reverse not be true? Could it be that since we live with others, wisdom is more likely to be gained by interacting with others, learning from others, and sharing one's thoughts with others in order to check their veracity and substantiality? Solitary meditation, meanwhile, is only a regurgitation of one's subjective and slanted reflections.
5. "With school turning out more runners, jumpers, racers, tinkerers, grabbers, snatchers, fliers, and swimmers instead of examiners, critics, knowers, and imaginative creators, the word 'intellectual,' of course, became the swear word it deserved to be." (p. 53)
To what extent do you think that this exists today—particularly in North America? If it is to an inordinate extent, then what do you think its solution should be? What is the ideal situation? Should legislation be made to reverse the situation, or would you recommend other action?
6."What traitors books can be! You think they're backing you up, and they turn on you. Others can use them, too, and there you are, lost in the middle of the moor, in a great welter of nouns and verbs and adjectives" (83).
Truth seems to be relative, depending on the perspective of reader/interpreter/observer. The same text can be understood in manifold ways. If truth is relative, then what is truth? What need is there for books if relative truth leads only to conflict and dissension? Fahrenheit 451's Civilization may be correct: Books that deal with the hard sciences should be spared because civilization is mostly in agreement on their claims, but books that deal with controversial subjects, such as metaphysics, should be abolished. After all, no hard truth can be garnered by them anyway, and strife is their historical outcome. What do you think?