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Soviet Union And The Spread Of Communism History Essay

After the defeat of Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan, Americans began to focus their attention on the growing power of the Soviet Union and the spread of communism. Due to the growing fear of communist espionage, historians labeled this era as the Second Red Scare. Many Americans experienced constant anxiety due to the Soviet presence in Eastern Europe, the Berlin Blockade, the Chinese Civil War, the confessions of spying for the Soviet Union given by numerous high-ranking US government officials, and the Korean War. Then the scare was only exacerbated when Senator Joseph McCarthy decided to undertake a very public hunt for communist activists within the government. The nation was essentially in a state of frenzy in an attempt to keep America safe from communism. Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 functions as his response to the actions taken by the government during the Second Red Scare in an attempt to destroy communism in America [1] .

When the US government began to worry about the possibility of communist uprisings, they decided to use censorship in order to avoid any communist ideas from rising in the minds of American citizens. They quickly suppressed any criticisms and created the idea that it was treasonous to criticize the government. The government even began to send out spies and investigate those who were suspected of having communist ties. If someone was believed to be a communist activist, they were quickly blacklisted. This caused anyone who spoke publicly experienced constant anxiety of saying something that would cause the government to investigate them [2] . Therefore the government managed to succeed in suffocating the flow of individual ideas within the United States.

In Fahrenheit 451, the citizens lack any individual thinking which reflects America, where opinions were not allowed to be voiced. In Bradbury’s novel, the government exercises strict censorship in order to prevent offending opinions from spreading. Beatty says, “You must understand that our civilization is so vast that we can’t have our minorities upset and stirred” (59). The government does not want one party to get it any conflicts with each other, even if it means robbing the people of their right to learn. The government utilizes its public servants in a way that blatantly suppresses the ideas of individuals [3] . When firemen such as Guy burn the books that still remain hidden in the community, they are literally destroying all the individual opinions left in their world. And when rebel groups continue to resist their authority, the government suppresses them, so that they cannot stir up any thoughts in the minds of the citizens. All that remains for the people are television and other developments which are controlled by the government and lack any individual thought [4] . Clearly Bradbury disagrees with censorship, for he has his own protagonist ignore the laws of the government and indulge himself in literature and therefore individual ideas.

Once America entered the McCarthy Age and experienced the Second Red Scare, the government began to make efforts to halt the possible spread of communism. The government desperately wanted to halt any communist uprisings from occurring. Therefore they were willing to do things that might seem a bit more unusual in present day politics. Senator Joseph McCarthy went out and led a hunt on all communists interfering in the American system. In a speech he held up a piece of paper which he claimed held the names of 205 Reds within the government [5] . Throughout his hunt Senator McCarthy publically announced that hundreds of men were secretly communist activists. At his peak 69% of Americans approved of his actions [6] . The government used its unquestionable force to go after anyone who seemed to act against the government. And while they did this, the citizens of the US approved of it without hesitation.

In Bradbury’s novel, the government implanted the use of alarms which resemble the actions of McCarthy against the supposed communist activists. When citizens would discover that one of their neighbors was holding books, they would sound an alarm to alert the firemen to come burn the books. The whole process causes a great frenzy and lots of excitement, just as a normal fire would [7] . Similarly, McCarthy would call out anyone he believed was involved with the communists. And once he did so, there would be a huge commotion where everyone would constantly spend their time talking about the newly discovered communists in the government. Clearly, Bradbury draws his parallel between possessing books and being a communist. It becomes very apparent that Bradbury supports the victims of these situations, because when the alarm is called on Montag, he retaliates. After being forced to burn the contents of his house, Montag turned around with the flamethrower, pointed it at Beatty, “And then he was a shrieking blaze, a jumping sprawling gibbering mannikan, no longer human or known, all writhing in flame on the lawn”(119). Montag murdered his superior and continued to get rid of all that was left of the firemen at his house. Once again Bradbury disagrees with the ideas of the US government, because he strongly supports free, individual thinking.

In this period, the U.S. government exercised its unchallenged dominance to strike fear into the people, leaving them unable to act or think for themselves. Since everyone desired to keep communism from spreading in America, the government was to an extent given the green light to take the measures it deemed necessary. Many arrests and accusations were made, regardless of whether they were backed by enough evidence to be justified [8] . In a sense, America appeared to demonstrate some qualities of a dictatorship. The only possible way for the citizens to react was to avoid being noticed at all costs [9] . Americans accomplished this most easily by not voicing their opinions and ideas. Yet while that protects them, it also hinders their intellectual growth and individualism.

Bradbury’s depictions of his characters as stupid and oblivious reflect the way in which American citizens lacked a sense of individuality and free thinking. The majority of society dedicates their leisurely time to staying home and watching television or listening to sea-shell radio, which attaches to their ears. Almost none of them spend their time reading literature or expanding their intelligence in any form. Not only does this restrict their intelligence, but it also restricts where they get their information from. The television, radio, and other forms of entertainment that they use are all controlled by a limited number of sources. Therefore they can only receive influence from a small pool of ideas. Since the government has strong control of these things, the people always listen to what the government tells them. Only a select few actually manage to free their minds from the popular ideas of the community, which obviously managed to occur in America as well [10] .

Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 functions as his response to the current affairs at the time, which mostly dealt with the fear of communism spreading into the US. Clearly Bradbury disagreed with how the American government was functioning. Montag ignores the laws of the government and decided to expand his mind and explore literature, regardless of the consequences. Bradbury advocates open defiance through his protagonist. Montag kills his superior fireman Beatty, who represents the government censorship. Montag represents all rebels who desire to think freely and expand their intelligence. Obviously the government is the enemy in this novel. To make it even clearer, the entire community is bombed by their enemies and nearly everyone dies except for the rebel group who was forced to flee. Bradbury essentially shows the United States getting bombed by the Soviets, while those who they suppressed, the communists, survive and rebuild civilization in America. Simply enough, Bradbury was not satisfied with the American government in this period.

Tom,

Definitely beef up the literary analysis. This is probably the most important area for you to consider going forward.

Watch overstatements – make sure your claims are moderate and provable.

Focus more too on the specifics of your claim. Be clear as to how you think the text criticizes the McCarthy era.

Draft – I promise it will help!

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