The Importance of Literature to Humanity
“Literature speaks the language of the imagination, and the study of literature is supposed to train and improve the imagination” (Frye 134). According to Northrop Frye the imagination is the combination between emotions and intellect in every individual. The more an individual is exposed to literature the better that person is at expanding their imagination, which he calls the educated imagination.
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Having an educated imagination helps one to think for themselves and create their own ideas and opinions. The educated imagination is a necessity of life in a political world, the study of literature is not an “elegant accomplishment” but a means of entry into a “free society” (Frye 147). With an educated imagination one is able to distinguish between moral and aesthetic truth, this is extremely important when it comes to politics. Politicians or simply people in a higher authority often use rhetoric language to manipulate and brainwash people with lies.
In the novel Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury shows the negative effects rhetoric language can have on those with an uneducated imagination and that without literature society produces a world filled with ignorance. The absence of books in Fahrenheit 451 creates darkness within the society. In literature darkness is a symbol of ignorance, evil, falsehood, oblivion, despair and the unknown. Light on the other hand represents goodness, life, knowledge, fame and hope. During the entire novel the author constantly relates to darkness and night, “In the late afternoon it rained and the entire world was dark and grey” (Bradbury19).
Books represent light; it provides people with knowledge, exposes truths and educates the mind. In this society books are illegal and the job of a fireman is to burn any house that contains books in it. Due to the burning of these books there is a lack of light in this society, just utter darkness. Because of the ignorance within the civilization the politicians are able to manipulate and convince the population that books and everything else that causes one to think is evil. This way they are able to easily influence and lead the population.
Those that have been exposed to books realize that they are living in darkness and that their only way to get out of the darkness is through books, ”Maybe these books can get us half out the cave” (Bradbury 74). All the darkness within the society has blinded the people into being unaware as to what is going on around them. The population is unconsciously being brainwashed and forced to conform without even knowing it. “We must all be alike. Not everyone born free and equal, as the constitution says, but everyone made equal” (Bradbury 58).
Watching television became the major replacement for literature. This is because watching television does not require one to think but influences their thoughts which later influences their actions. The subconscious believes television is real. Watching television physically damages the brain and reduces intelligence. It also switches brain activity from the left side of the brain which is responsible for logic and critical analysis to the right side of the brain that is responsible for emotional responses.
This allows each viewer to be heavily influenced and brainwashed by what they see and hear on TV. By restricting the population from literature and replacing it with televisions, they are decreasing the intelligence within the population making it easier to have full control over the society. Without the education one receives from books these people are simply sheep in a herd following their Sheppard. “The man who does not read books has no advantage over the man that cannot read them” Mark Twain. The society is afraid of being inferior to those who read and understand.
All books have meaning. Reading gives people time to think and reflect on not only the text, but their lives as well, “So now do you see why books are hated and feared? They show the pores in the face of life” (83), books reveal the truth about the world. By burning books the firemen are destroying knowledge and promoting ignorance. This is the reason for all the ignorance and darkness within the society. Due to the lack of literature the people have an uneducated imagination and are therefore unable to see past the governments’ use of rhetoric. the first thing our imaginations have to do for us, as soon as we can handle words well enough to read and write and talk, is to fight to protect us from falling into the illusions that society threatens us with” (Frye 60). Those who are caught reading books are exterminated or taken away to reduce the chances of them spreading their wisdom to others. Those that read are smarter and are seen as a threat to society.
These individuals are able to see past society’s use of rhetoric, “We can see here how the ordinary use of hetoric, which attempts to make society presentable, is becoming hypocritical and disguising the reality it presents beyond the level of social safety” (Frye 61). The rhetoric use of language in this society is to persuade the population into believing that being intellectual is a sin, and books are the cause of this sin, “So! A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it. Take the shot from the weapon. Breach mans mind. Who knows who might be the target of the well read man? Me? ” (Bradbury 58). Those that did read were able to oppose the use of eloquence.
Clarisse was considered abnormal and a threat because she thought about things and often asked why, “She didn’t want to know how a thing was done, but why. That can be embarrassing. You ask why to a lot of things and you wind up very unhappy indeed, if you keep at it. The poor girl’s better off dead” (Bradbury 60). Once again rhetoric language is used to justify the death of Clarisse and criticize the use of imagination. The main character Montag is a fireman who also reads books and is smart enough to see the flaws in his society. For this he is considered a burden and wanted by police.
Those that read are able to see that there is more to life than pleasure and titillation. “Forgive a child who is afraid of the dark, the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light” -Plato. The people in this novel are afraid of the light. They are afraid of literature and the truth, knowledge, and all goodness that comes with it. Due to the lack of literature in this society, the population is ignorant and unable to think individually. Because of the ignorance within the population the government has full control over their lives.
Each individual deserves the right to live imaginative and free lives. “The fundamental job of the imagination in ordinary life, then, is to produce, out of the society we have to live in, a vision of the society we want to live in” (Frye 60). Without literature the imagination becomes limited and people are unable to vision the society they want to live in. As the world becomes more modern and grows further, away from literature, society beings to look more like Fahrenheit 451 where citizens are nothing but a sheep in a herd.