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The book Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury, deserves more space than is allotted here to adequately analyze it. I am not attempting to explain the whole book, all of Mr. Bradbury's points and purposes, or even necessarily his main point. For this application, however, this summary should suffice.


Mr. Bradbury forsees a time when firemen are used to start fires, instead of stop them. They are used for the opposite of their original intention. In the book, it is the government that decrees that all books (with an emphasis on classic literature in the story), should not exist. So the firemen do their job of starting fires to eradicate the illegal novels and such.

The government does make the law that owning or reading a book is illegal. The point is made, in the history lesson by the local chief fireman, that the government did not truly originate the ban of books. Society, by progressing to a faster pace of life, and with material possessions becoming bigger, better, faster, and brighter, placed less emphasis on things that took time (namely books). It was the culture that prized the shallow aspects of life, and discarded the meaningful ones. The government merely followed society's whims in order to keep the people happy.


When Mr. Bradbury wrote the book, he did not know how the future would unfold. Back when he wrote the story, and still today, the concept of firemen's starting fires to burn books is such a contrast to the way things actually are.

Mr. Bradbury's basic concept was correct, but he used the wrong profession. Back when the book was written, and for as long as people existed before that, doctors were used to heal people, to enable them to live longer. Recently, the role of the doctor has begun to change. Also, it did not start to change because of the government. Once individual people, then the society, thought it was what they wanted, and what was good, then the government became involved in order to secure the whims of the people.

As in the book, the change is born from people's tending toward the shallow and easier ways of life. If a pregnancy occurs (note the nice, neutral tone of that statement. However, in real life, pregnancies do not just occur. They happen as the result of a conscious act, and two people are responsible for that.), then the societal way to handle it is to have a doctor perform an abortion. In doing that, the doctor no longer is a healer, but just the opposite. Also note that societal way means the quick and easy way to keep life going as usual, without having to think about anything, and without causing unhappiness.

The other prominent reversal of a doctor's role is at the other end of life. The opportunities for elderly and terminally-ill people who have tired of their life to end it are becoming more widespread these days. This is a newer issue here in the United States, but is an established practice in some European countries (and maybe elsewhere as well). Currently, the ending of peoples' lives by doctors has some opposition by the government (depending on the situation and method). It remains to be seen whether the government will follow the fringe of society that recommends killing people when their quality of life does not meet certain minimum (arbitrary?) standards.

In the fictional account of the future, the people are told that firemen had always burned books, never put out fires. It never occurred to most of them that the past could have been different. Those to whom it did occur were quickly quieted. May the day never come when the people of the United States cannot believe that doctors were once used to heal.