Example OF Conclusions – Concluding Remarks On Novel Imagery.8 Research Paper
INTRODUCTION – thesis statement on the dystopian novel and the application of imagery by Ray Bradbury..1
BODY – the discussion of symbolism in the novel, the analysis of book imagery and its correlation with social and political trends of the 20th century.1
Symbolism in Fahrenheit 451
In Fahrenheit 451, fire is one of the most widely used elements. Not surprisingly, fire is a powerful imagery in the novel having a deep philosophical sense to decode by readers. The number 451 is the temperature, by which paper catches fire. It may symbolize the amount of pressure applied by the political regime willing to get books to vanish in a puff of fumes. Perryman (89) states that the burning of books is the symbol of the right to the freedom of speech and censorship. Bloom (71) states that Donald Watt in his essay on fire symbolism in the novel made it sound emphatic that the contemporary civilization might extirpate itself in a nuclear conflict. Ironic though it may seem technological instruments developed to produce the greater sense of liberty heralded the age of paranoia and disillusionment. Guy Montag, the major protagonist in the book, wishes something enduring in human existence, such as legacy, history, and culture. He seeks to retain the identity of the humanity. In point of fact, Guy lives in a world of destruction that is quick to wipe off its past, which makes him an outcast trying not to let the flames of creativity and wisdom fade away. Montag along with a group of like-minded individuals do their best to retain the garnered wisdom by memorizing books (Bloom 71).
The memorization of books in attempts to avoid the destruction by censorship may not relate to America of the 20th century; still, it may reflect what was happening in the USSR back then. Rosslyn (27) notes that Anna Akhmatova, a prominent Soviet poet, would often ask for her close friends to memorize the lines of her poetry, such as Requiem, a poem cycle written between 1935 and 1961. Her works recount the sufferings of women who had their sons and husbands arrested in the years of Stalin’s Terror (Rosslyn 27). Ray Bradbury seem to have had a good sense of the epoch since he depicted the state of intellectual elites in totalitarian societies such as that of the Soviet Union while in the grip of the bloody tyrant. It is not only to the USSR that the novel may allude since German propaganda was no respecter of literary talent in Hitler era either when Mein Kampf only had the right to stand on the shelves of German houses.
Guy Montag looks to preserve the identity and legacy of humankind, which is the past living in immortal books, the torch passed on to future generations. Without such, people may have nothing to illuminate their path, thus finding themselves stuck in the darkness of rank ignorance. German society lost its way once after rejecting books and their wisdom. Interesting is that Montag, the name of the major protagonist, may be an allusion to Germany, as “Montag” means Monday. The beginning of a new week may well mean the beginning of a new era ushered by the man who enshrines intellectual and cultural legacy encoded in books he tries to save. What is exciting about his aptronym is that it is a direct allusion to the Nazi society making a bonfire of books declared forbidden by Hitler’s propaganda in the 1930s. Ironically, the first name “Guy,” by itself, may be an allusion to none other than Guy Fawkes trying to blast the House of Lords back in 1605 in vain. It is no accident the word “bonfire” has been used in the context of the analysis of novel symbolism in the sense that Bonfire Nights celebrates the Gunpowder Plot, an attempted destruction of the House of Lords by Guy Fawkes. With his surname resembling that of plotter, Guy Montag also acts in protest to the power machine even going as far as to set ablaze his chief, the captain of the fire brigade. Still, this is not all there is to novel symbolism seen in the image of fire.
Montag was first the instrument of book destruction incinerating them by hundreds, yet he went on to realize the fallacy of his actions growing sympathetic to books and their wisdom. The German nation also embraced the fiery ideas of Adolf Hitler incinerating their culture and a genuine national identity forcedly linked to the Aryan race only to realize how shortsighted they were giving the credit of trust to the Nazi. Thus, German people went from worshipping the dictator being the instruments of destruction, as Guy Montag at first was, to condemning him and his accomplices in efforts to save their collapsing culture and identity around 1945, as seen in the case of Montag who now attempts to save the literary legacy once he has come to terms with reality. He is a transitional character, not a static one, possibly symbolizing the clearing of the social consciousness dimmed by propagandistic manipulative casuistry. According to Bloom (72), Montag loves seeing books consumed by fire and blackened at first, which reminds of a sadomasochistic temptation to turn the globe into a pile of charcoal. This is an interesting analogy made by the book critic. Germans also turned ecstatic about burning books, yet not for too long. Blind, poorly rationalized destruction was characteristic of the decades preceding the book creation.
According to Bloom (73), it not what Bradbury says in his novel that matters, but how he does so. His lyrical and evocative style gives the novel a connotative depth and a sense of mystery that excel the traditional borders delineated by dystopian fiction. The writer created unique symbols that render central theme intricacy. Burning in the novel conveys the prevalent issue of the modern science. People’s bright inventive intellect throws more light on the truths of the universe. With increased knowledge and the abuse thereof comes the destruction of the planet facilitated by both. In other word, the abuse of knowledge to have advanced far, the planet becomes an easy thing to reduce to ashes. Burning as an apocalyptic cataclysm and constructive energy is the symbolic bipolarity of Fahrenheit 451. The book symbolically reveals people’s dualistic nature that may be both destructive and creative (Bloom 73). Bradbury symbolically places fire in two contrasting contexts, the first showing it as a source of comfort and family hearth, the second as a source of destruction (Providence University 5). Not only fire, but also a robotic dog at the service of the fire brigade can stand for the destructive nature of human creative genius. The dog is a dark side of civilization, the product of human genius that does not serve its creator right resembling a Frankenstein.
Speaking of the dog, the creature on eight legs reminds of society members turned into robotic people, humble servants not questioning decisions made by the authority. In one of episodes, while Guy and his wife Mildred are reading books, the dog can be heard walking at Montag’s door. The image of regime servants smelling out the instances of noncompliance with social rules is a clear symbolic hint at how controllable life in authoritarian societies can be. That the dog is robotic shows the manipulative, controllable nature of regime servants. According to Fenton (5), Bradbury claims that the mechanical dog “slept, but did not sleep, lived, but did not live.” The novelist uses epithets like “gently vibrating, humming, and softly illuminated” with a warm connotation when referring to the kennel the dog does not have (Fenton 5).
The paradox symbolically depicts the life in controlled authoritarian societies that reminds of robotic existence rather than life. The dog is not the sole mechanical servant unquestionably abiding by orders. Firefighters obediently following the orders of setting books and apartments ablaze personify the myrmidons of the regime who do not question the validity of guidelines. Guy himself is a humble servant at one point, which even forces him to burn down his apartment. Frankly speaking, Bradbury may paradoxically give firefighters the task of destroying books to show the misuse of civil services in authoritarian countries that destroy rather than protect. More to the image of existence, Jones (54) notes that Guy Montag recollects a trip to the seashore he made in his childhood. He remembers having to fill up a sieve with sand in order to earn a dime. The sand sifting through is the symbol of time passing swiftly and the futility of his task that symbolizes the society Montag lives in and the lack of meaning in their lives (Jones 54). Theirs seems to be the labor of Sisyphus.
Bloom (73) suggests that Guy Montag’s job is incinerating books and thereby discouraging citizens from thinking about anything but television. The prohibition of books is always an alarming sign of an autocratic dictatorship that signifies the elimination of the intellectual elite and turning people into controllable masses guided by the herd instinct. Citizens are shown as striving for television, which is more of a proletarian type of entertainment, and rejecting books that are the elitist way of enlightenment, intellectual elevation, and clear thinking, which is what the authority does not want done by its people since where thinking starts the oppression ends. Developing the capacity of thinking, books are dangerous being up for destruction. People in the novel, such as Mildred, spend their time glued to screens. She seems to do nothing but watch the TV screens. Television become a parallel reality and a place for escape. Neither wife nor her friends seem interested in politics, which was something the authority aspired for when trying to dispose of books. Four-walled television renders people robotic and desensitized. Providence University (5) suggests that the destruction of knowledge is the key mission of firefighters led by Beatty. In doing so, he promotes ignorance and sameness making all people equal. Media, the fourth power, in the shape of television turns out very helpful in this sense filling the vacuum created by the burning of books (Providence University 5).
Mildred is an image of what people become in controlled totalitarian societies that deny the intellectual legacy of ancestors. Providence University (5) states that Mildred looks like a shell of a human being who lacks for intellectual, emotional, and spiritual substance. The only things she is attached to is a family in a televised soap opera. She overdoses on sleeping pills once, yet she fail to notice she all but left herself lifeless as a result. Her betrayal looks even more disgusting than that of Beatty (Providence University 5). Intriguingly, Beatty is a former bibliophile who changed his ways. As such, he symbolizes a part of the intellectual elite that became converts. In German or Soviet societies, there were intellectuals joining regime and abandoning their former view.
Mildred seems not to remember what happened to her after taking the near-lethal dose of medications. The bleary memories or even the lack thereof may be the image of mass hypnosis while a brainwashed people willing to inform on whoever it may be whose actions are perceived detrimental to the new regimes. The overdose and the failure of noticing the near-fatal impact of pills are deep images showing how the system turns people into unconscious mass. When under the influence of pills, Montag’s wife grows desensitized enough to report on her husband who is in possession of banned books. Wives reporting on their husbands to the authorities is a classic example of authoritative communities. This is the image of individuals turned into senseless and depersonalized mob under the influence of brainwashing propaganda disguised in the image of sleeping pills. Nazi Germany also used to take such pills, and in 1945, a rude awakening was awaiting the daydreaming nation.
The transition of Montag’s personality in the immediate aftermath of the acquisition of the reading habit shows the dangers of books to a dictatorship. Providence University (5-6) suggest that the scene, in which Granger welcomes the return of Montag from the dead is a symbol of his rebirth into the life filled with sense. Still, one may argue that his rebirth occurs earlier when Guy joins the intellectual community by reading a stolen book. Montag’s meeting Clarisse, the old woman later perishing in flames, and Professor Faber make him challenge the actions of his coworkers and rise against social beliefs (Providence University 5-6). He is the symbol of civil resistance and books are the intellectual source of it.
Bloom (73) notes that, after meeting a young girl who raised his dissatisfaction with his social role, Montag starts reading and revolts against officially connived violence, personal insecurity, and a sporadic nuclear war. Turning his back on the authority, he commits an unpremeditated murder and escapes the town to join self-exiled book fans who retain literary works contrary to the opposition of the masses (Bloom 73). Clarisse McClellan, the young girls, Professor Faber, and the intellectual outcasts are the image of the oppressed intellectual minority. In authoritarian societies dominated by mass culture, intellectual always find themselves in the minority. More than that, a woman committing herself to fire rather than seeing her books perishing in flames is an epitome of intelligentsia that will not surrender their values, still less assimilate or adopt imposed culture even on pain of death.
According to Providence University (6), Granger draw analogy between city destruction and a phoenix burning itself up only to rise from the pile of ashes as a part of a perennial cycle. In his estimation, the ability of recognizing mistakes is what gives people an advantage over the phoenix (Providence University 6). Phoenix, a mythical combustible creature is a symbol of hope in the novel (Perryman 89). The recognition of mistakes, however, comes with time, destruction, and victims. It was when Montag watched the destruction of old woman’s house and her suicide that he realized the dark side of the regime.
It often takes a massive destruction and the loss of lives to understand mistakes, as was in the case of the world wars. Feneja (17) suggests that the novel has the image of Prometheus. Clarisse is said to be the bearer of his values, such as quest, humanism, and transgression, for which she voluntarily sacrifices her life in a typical fashion of ancient Titans (Feneja 17). Montag is himself a Prometheus since he bears the fire of wisdom to humanity that risks lapsing into the darkness of ignorance and decadence without the light of knowledge shed by books. The tragic death of Clarisse in a car accident may arguably be an allusion to the way the system dealt with dissidents, and the young girl is the shining example and the image of non-conformism in Fahrenheit 451.
Bloom, Harold. Ed. Alienation. United States of America: Infobase Publishing, 2009. Web. 11 Jan. 2015.
Feneja, Fernanda Luisa. Promethean Rebellion in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451: the Protagonist’s Quest. Amaltea Revista de Mitocritica. 4 (2012): 1-20. Web. 11 Jan. 2015.
Fenton, Kerri. Nature and Ecocriticism in Fahrenheit 451. University of Connecticut. 2008. 1-9. Web. 11 Jan. 2015.
Jones, Victoria M. Fahrenheit 451. Ray Bradbury. Cleveland, Ohio: The Center for Learning. 2011. 1-98. Web. 11 Jan. 2015.
Perryman, Bryan. The Praiser. London: Lulu.com, 2007. Web. 11 Jan. 2015.
Providence University. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury – Part III – Burning Bright (1953). PU.edu. n.d. n.p. Web. 11 Jan. 2015.
Rosslyn, Wendy. “Requiem.” Encyclopedia of literary translation into English: A-L. Ed. Classe, Olive. Vol.1. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 2000. Web. 11 Jan. 2015.
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