The theme of Distraction vs. Happiness in Fahrenheit 451 from LitCharts | The creators of SparkNotes

Fahrenheit 451

Themes and Colors
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Conformity vs. Individuality Theme Icon
Distraction vs. Happiness Theme Icon
Action vs. Inaction Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Fahrenheit 451, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Distraction vs. Happiness Theme Icon

Why has the society of Fahrenheit 451 become so shallow, indifferent, and conforming? Why do people drive so fast, keep Seashell ear thimbles in their ears, and spend all day in front of room-sized, four-walled TV programs? According to Beatty, the constant motion and titillation is designed to help people suppress their sadness and avoid any kind of intense emotion or difficult thoughts and experiences. The people of Fahrenheit 451 have to come to equate this motion, fun, and distraction with happiness.

However, Fahrenheit 451 makes the case that engaging with difficult and uncomfortable thoughts and experiences is the only routes to true happiness. Only by being uncomfortable, or experiencing things that are new or awkward, can people achieve a real and meaningful engagement with the world and each other. The people in the novel who lack such engagement, such as Mildred, feel a profound despair, which in turn makes them more determined to distract themselves by watching more TV, overdosing on sleeping pills, or letting technicians use a specialized machine to suck away their sadness. The result is a vicious cycle, in which people are terrified to expose themselves to any kind of emotion or difficulty because doing so will force them to face their pent-up despair, though in reality it's their avoidance of those thoughts and feelings that creates their despair. Only after he acknowledges his own unhappiness can Montag make the life-changing decision to find Faber and resist his society's oppressive "happiness" and thought-suppression that he, as a fireman, once enforced.

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Distraction vs. Happiness ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Distraction vs. Happiness appears in each chapter of Fahrenheit 451. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Distraction vs. Happiness Quotes in Fahrenheit 451

Below you will find the important quotes in Fahrenheit 451 related to the theme of Distraction vs. Happiness.
Part 1 Quotes
"Are you happy?"
Related Characters: Clarisse McClellan (speaker), Guy Montag
Page Number: 7
Explanation and Analysis:
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"I'm antisocial, they say. I don't mix. It's so strange. I'm very social indeed. It all depends on what you mean by social, doesn't it? Social to me means talking to you about things like this."
Related Characters: Clarisse McClellan (speaker), Guy Montag
Page Number: 26
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"Speed up the film, Montag, quick... Uh! Bang! Smack! Wallop, Bing, Bong, Boom! Digest-digests, digest-digest-digests. Politics? One column, two sentences, a headline!... Whirl man's mind around about so fast under the pumping hands of publishers, exploiters, broadcasters that the centrifuge flings off all unnecessary, time-wasting thought!"
Related Characters: Captain Beatty (speaker), Guy Montag
Page Number: 52
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"The important thing for you to remember, Montag, is we're the Happiness Boys... you and I and the others. We stand against the small tide of those who want to make everyone unhappy with conflicting theory and thought. We have our fingers in the dike. Hold steady. Don't let the torrent of melancholy and drear philosophy drown our world."
Related Characters: Captain Beatty (speaker), Guy Montag
Page Number: 59
Explanation and Analysis:
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"At least once in his career, every fireman gets an itch. What do the books say, he wonders. Oh, to scratch that itch, eh?"
Related Characters: Captain Beatty (speaker)
Page Number: 59
Explanation and Analysis:
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Part 2 Quotes
"We have everything we need to be happy, but we aren't happy. Something's missing. I looked around. The only thing I positively knew was gone was the books I'd burned in ten or twelve years. So I thought books might help."
Related Characters: Guy Montag (speaker)
Page Number: 78
Explanation and Analysis:
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"It's not books you need, it's some of the things that once were it books....The same infinite detail and awareness could be projected through radios and televisors, but are not."
Related Characters: Faber (speaker)
Page Number: 78
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"We are living in a time when flowers are trying to live on flowers, instead of growing on good rain and black loam."
Related Characters: Faber (speaker)
Page Number: 79
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"Those who don't build must burn. It's as old as history and juvenile delinquents."
Related Characters: Faber (speaker)
Related Symbols: Fire
Page Number: 85
Explanation and Analysis:
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He would be Montag-plus-Faber, fire plus water, and then, one day, after everything had mixed and simmered and worked away in silence, there would be neither fire nor water, but wine.
Related Characters: Guy Montag
Page Number: 99
Explanation and Analysis:
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"They are so confident that they will run on forever. But they won't run on. They don't know that this is all one huge big blazing meteor that makes a pretty fire in space, but that someday it'll have to hit."
Related Characters: Faber (speaker)
Related Symbols: Fire
Page Number: 99
Explanation and Analysis:
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Part 3 Quotes
"We're nothing more than dust jackets for books, of no significance otherwise."
Related Characters: Granger (speaker)
Page Number: 146
Explanation and Analysis:
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"...We're going to build a mirror factory first and put out nothing but mirrors for the next year and take a long look in them."
Related Characters: Granger (speaker)
Page Number: 157
Explanation and Analysis:
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