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What is the culture of forgetting? The culture of forgetting is one in which society indulges in activities that sub-consciously make them forget. Activities that are outlined in Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 such as listening to seashells and watching the parlor walls which keeps them busy "twenty-four/seven" and makes them forget about the important things in life. We can perceive from Fahrenheit 451 that the culture of forgetting is very dominant in the society that Ray Bradbury has created in his book.
What is wrong with the culture of forgetting?
The downside to the culture of forgetting is that people forget everything that happens and don't look back upon past events or their own actions. This is why most of the society in Fahrenheit 451 is "messed" and make the same mistakes over and over. Since people have little or no time to look back on their actions they don't recognize the mistakes that they have made or are making and the harm or damage that they have caused.
The following excerpt from Fahrenheit 451 Illustrates this point: "... I always like to drive fast when I feel that way (mad or depressed). You get it (the car) up to ninety-five and you feel wonderful.
Sometimes I will drive all night and come back and you don't know it. It is fun out in the country. You hit rabbits, sometimes you hit dogs. Go take the beetle. " (Ray Bradbury, pg. 94). We can see from this excerpt the amount of ignorance and abhorrence that was put into the advice of Montag's wife to him.
One can easily see the level of understanding and humanity that exists in the society of Fahrenheit 451. Mildred is so preoccupied with her parlor walls and sea shells that she doesn't have time to think about the poor animals she runs over every time she feels frustrated or down.
She keeps on doing this over and over without even recognizing the immorality of her actions. If one were to think about it, putting the blame of the culture of forgetting solely on the individuals of the society is wrong because the government is also to blame. This is because the government in the Fahrenheit 451 society encourages activities that help promote and encourage the culture of forgetting. Some activities encouraged by the government help promote the culture of forgetting are stated in the following excerpt: "an hour of TV. lass, an hour of basketball or baseball or running, another hour of transcription history or painting pictures and more sports... and us sitting their for four more hours of film teacher ..... They run us so ragged by the end of the day we can't do anything but go to bed or head for a fun park to bully people around, break windowpanes in the Window Smasher place or wreck cars at the Car Wreakers place with a giant steel ball..... or go out in cars and race on the streets..... playing "chicken" or "knock hubcaps"...... " (Ray Bradbury, pg. 29-30)
Another proof that the government is to blame for the culture of forgetting comes from the fact that the government removed history as a subject that should be thought in schools. The government doesn't want its citizens to know its history or the history of their country. This is what Beatty tells Montag concerning some of the activities of the government. "Let him forget there is such a thing as war" (Ray Bradbury, pg. 61). "School shortened, discipline relaxed, philosophies, histories, dropped, English and spelling gradually neglected" (Ray Bradbury, p. 5). From the above excerpts one can see that the government wants its citizens to forget what war is and the harms that is can cause and also the government wants its citizens to be uneducated in philosophy, literacy, and history. The government just wants their citizens to live a life in which they look forward to the events of the day ahead of them and not what happened yesterday or the day before yesterday. "And we could use the honest rage of those historians who haven't written a line in forty years" (Ray Bradbury, pg. 87).
To make sure that no new historic materials and literatures can be written or published the government has banded historians from writing anything for forty years! As good as it may seem there are many downsides to the culture of forgetting. This is a culture in which people don't think about any thing that is not present and happening in the moment. Unfortunately the practice of this culture also leads people to think only about themselves. In the society that Bradbury has created in Fahrenheit 451, the only thing that is on everyone's mind is "Me," "Myself" and "I" and with this on their mind they forget about anyone else.
The following two paragraphs are excerpts of the answers that Montag got after he strikes up a conversation with Mildred's friends and asks about their husbands and kids. "I plunk the children in school nine days out of ten. I put up with them when they come home three days a month; it's not bad at all . you heave them into the parlor and turn the switch. It's like washing clothes: stuff the laundry in slam the lid......... thank God, I can kick back" (Ray Bradbury, pg. 96). One can see from the above statement that Mrs. Bowles doesn't care about her kids.
She wants them to be away from her as much as possible and forget about them so she has put them in a school which relieves her for 27 days a month and when they return for 3 days she just puts them into the parlor room so that she can kick back, relax and "Enjoy life". When asked about her husband Mrs. Phelps says that Mr. Pete has gone to war and that the army called yesterday and said that the war will be quick and over in forty eight hours. She then says "I am not worried.... I'll let old Pete do all the worrying... I'll let old Pete do all the worrying.... Not me.... I am not worried" (Ray Bradbury, pg. 4).
Moreover her friend Mildred encourages her to forget about her husband who is in the middle of a war and who may be in grave danger by saying, "Yes..... let old Pete do the worrying". One can see from the above quotes that the culture of forgetting is so prevalent in Fahrenheit 451 society that the wives of soldiers don't even care about their husbands who are fighting in a war! Due to the negative side effects of the culture of forgetting the family structure of the society in Fahrenheit 451 is far different from the average family structure that most people in today's society know.
People in the Fahrenheit 451 society get divorced as fast as they get married. In the Fahrenheit 451 society being married and divorced more that three times is normal but in today's society it would be looked down upon and dishonorable. In the Fahrenheit 451 society people just get married because they feel it as being a burden on them that they have to get rid of and don't care about their partner or truly love their partner. That is why if a couple decide to get divorced or if one of them dies the other one will just go and marry some one else. This point is illustrated in the following excerpt: "...
Pete and I always said, no tears, nothing like that. It's our third marriage each and we're independent. Be independent we always said. He said if I get killed off, you just go right ahead and don't cry, but get married again and don't think of me". (Ray Bradbury, pg. 95) Another unfortunate side effect of the culture of forgetting is that people want to get rid of their dead as fast as they can and they want to forget them as quickly as possible. People in the Fahrenheit 451 society have no respect what so ever for their dead and consider funerals as a pagan ritual.
Ten minutes after someone dies they are shipped by helicopter to the Big Flue and thrown into the incinerator where they turn into ashes. Also they do not have memorials or ceremonies to honor the dead because they don't want anything that will remind them of a dead person. This is illustrated in the following quote: "Better yet into the incinerator. Funerals are unhappy and pagan. Eliminate them too. Five minutes after a person is dead he is on his way to the Big Flue..... Ten minutes after a person is dead he is a speck of black dust. Lets not quibble over individuals with memoriums.
Forget them. " (Ray Bradbury, pg. 60) Here is another quote which illustrates the fact that people don't care about their dead and forget about them: "I have meant to talk to you bout her... strange..... her (Clarisse)... I meant to tell u... forgot.... Forgot..... I think she's gone... hr family moved out... but she is gone for good.... same girl... run over by a car four days ago... I am not sure... but I think she's dead" (Ray Bradbury, pg. 47 ). Mildred tells Montag about Clarisse's disappearance four days after she was run over a car.
If one were to think about it and analyze the mood and tone of Mildred voice when she mentions this, they would notice that she doesn't seem to care or be in any way affected by Clarisse's death. Instead of being heartbroken and mournful of her neighbor's death she just tells Montag and then puts on her seashells (which is more important to her than most of the things in her life besides her parlor "family") One can see from the above paragraphs that the way we treat our deceased. In today's society people try to remember our deceased and try to commemorate them.
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