Good Fahrenheit 451 By Ray Bradbury Research Paper Example
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Fahrenheit 451 is a modern classic in which Ray Bradbury portrays a dystopian society where books are completely banned and 'firemen' burn any books which they can find. The novel title, Fahrenheit 451 refers to the temperature at which Ray Bradbury thought that paper auto-ignites.
Fahrenheit 451 is set in an unknown city at an unknown time into the future. It's a metamorphosis journey of a fireman Guy Montag from a person who happily burns books to a hero willing to sacrifice his career, his family and ultimately his life for books. Throughout his journey, we see his character at crossroads multiple time where he voluntarily makes choices and takes paths which lead to his metamorphosis. The novel provides a world into a world not radically different than this, with abundant war, non-existent family, avoided feelings and opinions no longer belonging to their thinkers. Extensive censorship enforced by the government and the widespread celebration of ignorance has made the world of Fahrenheit 451 a frightening place. This world rejoices in the ignorance of the common person and does not allow the individual to harbor thoughts of artistry or creativity. The dystopian world is a critique of modern world, dependent on technology and lacking in celebration of individual thought. This paper will discuss the importance of books and their significance in the metamorphosis of Guy Montag.
Guy Montag serves the role of protagonist for Fahrenheit 451 perfectly, being as dynamic as fire itself. Throughout the course of the novel, his journey from a little knowing, happy and content fireman to a person of who realizes the true import of books and that of knowledge brings the reader a character filled with passion an energy. Initially he is quite happy with burning books and houses to the ground and being where he is in the scheme of things. However shortly after the novel starts, Montag starts to question the society around him as he is exposed to new and transformative experiences.
In the last two years, he has come to think of himself as a ‘fireman gone sour’, a discontent growing bigger and never yielding. His mind is restless, always trying to name the reason for his emptiness but never being successful. In all this time he has to constantly do his job of being a fireman, and he keeps on burning books and houses along with them. He is getting increasingly restless and soon he is in need of sedatives to help him sleep. There’s a wright on his conscience which he cannot put away.
Then soon after the start of the novel, he meets Clarisse. Clarisse is a daughter of his new neighbors and through her curiosity and wanting to learn more about him, she plants a seed of doubt in his mind without even knowing it. His fireman instincts are of great use here, enabling him to see the world in a greater detail than those around him, letting him recognize the importance of things which others do not. Soon, Montag starts to realize his discontent and realizes that he is not happy with himself. He also starts noticing his relationships with other people and that how pretentious and hollow they feel. This feeling first stems from his first encounter with a young girl named Clarisse. Clarisse and her family are represented as one of the opposites which Montag experiences and finds different from what he has been lead to believe in before.
When the novel starts, Montag is a fireman who takes great pleasure in burning books, considering it an art form in its own regard. Montag is immensely passionate and proud of being a fireman, as Bradbury conducts in the opening scene of the novel. Montag is seen to be positively giddy with pleasure and his actions, from the desire to roast marshmallows in book-fire just for the fun of it, to recklessness which comes from his contentedness about what he does. He lives life in complete subjugation to the society, never questioning his work or the society. Montag is an excellent fireman, as he say “It's fine work. Monday burn Millay, Wednesday Whitman, Friday Faulkner, burn 'em to ashes, then burn the ashes”
However this giddiness is short-lived as Montag comes face to face with his new neighbor Clarisse McClellan and starts to realize that things are not how he believes them to be. Clarisse is a representative of the innocence of beauty in Fahrenheit 451, and the author brings her into reader’s eyes in a particularly lively scene when Montag is going home from work. To Montag, Clarisse seems to have stopped the wind and every other moment around her. He is dumbfounded, truly, and stops right in the middle of her way. This scene delivers the purpose of Clarisse as a pivotal instrument in launching Montag on to his path for metamorphosis.
The acquaintanceship with Clarisse is transformative for Montag, as the reader begins to see signs of change in him. He is drawn to the McClellan family every day, and each passing day brings more discontent on his part. He looks through his window out at the neighbors and wants to be a part of their conversations. But still he does not participate. All that he has been taught throughout his life, all that he believes in is crumbling down and the reader sees him searching for a new explanation. Montag and Clarisse have more encounters and he grows rather fond of her. This is perhaps because unlike other people in his life, she is not obligated by anything and interacts with him solely for that purpose.
His first great epiphany onto the path to metamorphosis comes when Clarisse is teasing him about not being in love. Upon this realization he sinks into a despair and sadness which lasts throughout most of the life. This point in the journey of metamorphosis is deeply symbolic because it was not in the nature of the old Montag to despair and to ponder over deep questions in life. (Cornelius)
As the novel progresses, the reader sees Montag becoming increasingly aware and doubtful of his role in the society as a fireman. He starts to doubt everything he’s been taught so far and starts becoming skeptical. Around the same time he starts to understand the relationship he has with his wife. He realizes that he does not love her, a thought which never would have crossed the mind of previous version of Montag. (Bradbury) This realization comes as a great surprise to him but he does not have enough time to come to terms with it.
It is the innocence of Clarisse which makes him realize that the society around him is crumbling down. Soon after, his wife overdoses on sleeping pills, whether intentionally or unintentionally, he does not know. However circumstantial evidence indicates that she might have overdosed on the pills voluntarily. His wife is saved by the government people, but she becomes excessively quiet afterwards and does not respond to him much. This also troubles Montag greatly.
However the most devastating shock hits him when Clarisse is killed in a car accident. This is truly the point where the reader can see Montag actively seek out alternatives to the norm, where he wants to believe in something more. Clarisse, who was labeled as a ‘time bomb’ by Beatty, is the catalyst who pushes Montag to a self-examination which he had been running away from until that point. Through her gentle but prickly revealing, Montag finds out what the absence of love feels like. Although he had lived his whole life before Clarisse without love, it is her character who makes Montag realize that. Upon her death, Montag finds himself face to face with the ugly and brutal reality that the society he lives in has been dehumanized to the extreme and that random and horrifying acts of relentless and unnecessary violence are a commonplace occurrence. And in this self-examination, Montag finds that he does not like what he sees in himself either. Even after she is gone, Clarisse continues to have an astronomical impact on Montag. This is because Montag is drawn to the simplicity and innocence which she comes to represent for him. His struggle with himself and the surroundings makes him realize that a girl like Clarisse cannot exist in the world which Montag lives in. And that is when in his metamorphosis, Guy Montag realizes that he either has to change the world from within and without, or he has to annihilate himself in the process. (Zipes)
Soon, the inevitable happens and Montag watches as an old woman chooses death by fire rather than parting from her books. This is the point where his moroseness gets the better of his cool aura and he comes into the notice of his employers. The other firemen refer to the old woman as crazy, as Montag would have. But he cannot bring himself to reconcile with the fact that a person would rather be consumed by fire rather than give up books. This incident peeks his curiosity to the point where he lets it get the better of him. Montag does the ultimate atrocity a fireman can think of and ‘steals’ a book from the burning. (Smolla)
The next morning, Montag gets a visit from the fire chief. The chief tells him about the evils of the books and about how books can make stupid people feel inferior to other and how books lead to certain races thinking that they’re better than others. The fire chief is particularly adamant about explaining to Montag the unnecessary feelings which books bring about in people, feelings like resent, remorse, sadness, woefulness and anger. Before leaving, the chief hints that he knows about Montag stealing the book, and tells him in subtle words to bring it back to the firehouse within 24 hours to be burned. (Bradbury)
Instead of taking heed of his chief’s warning, Montag shows the book which he stole to his wife, Mildred. Mildred is surprised by the boldness of the act, and she and Montag spend all day reading books. In this time, Montag also reveals to her a stash of other books which he had hidden in his house. This activity goes against what Montag has believed in his whole life, but in his journey of metamorphosis, the time has arrived for remarkable and irreparable changes to his life. (Wood)
Montag is lured by books and driven by a hunger for knowledge which makes him reckless and he seeks the company of the only person he can trust to teach him, Professor Faber. Professor Faber represents a truly unique and eminent position in the journey of metamorphosis of Montag as he is the sole link of Montag to a history where a learned and literate society led itself to mechanization and literary suppression which Montag is coming to loathe at this point in the novel. Professor Fable helps Montag realize the path to redemption and serves as a voice of his conscience, albeit twice his age and vastly more experienced while being calmer and more soothing. (McGiveron)
Following the burning of the old woman and an encounter with Professor Faber, Montag realizes that he has to face his true nemesis, Captain Beatty. The story moves along further and Montag goes back to work, only to find that he has to burn down his own house because of a ‘fire alarm’. Completely out of character, Beatty decides to drive the fire truck to Montag’s house. Upon reaching there, he hands Montag the flame thrower and places him under arrest. It is then that Montag realizes what he is required to do. He sees his wife leaving the house, getting into a cab. She does not acknowledge Montag as he stands there, flamethrower in his hand, burning their house. Montag has almost no regret for the house, his only regret and feelings of wistfulness are for the books inside and of their destruction. After the hose is burned, Beatty taunts Montag, underestimating his control over him. In a moment of pure and utter recklessness, Montag finishes his journey of metamorphosis and sets the Captain on fire. This is the point where Montag gives in to his conscience and leaves his old person behind, emerging from the flames anew and thus fulfilling the symbolic transformation promised by his firemen crest of Phoenix. (Kozel)
With Professor Faber’s help, Montag flees from the cruel, tyrannical and barren society, leaving everything behind on his way to embracing his blooming idealism and his new life thus driven. However when he is leaving the city behind, it gets annihilated by huge explosions, the force of which force Montag to earth. Grieved by Mildred’s annihilation and by the destruction of the city, Montag leaves with the group of survivors. He hopes to become a part of them by memorizing books, just as they do. And thus his transformation is completed from that of a fireman who actively destroys books to that of a student who has given up everything just to get a chance to become part of people working to preserve books.
Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1967. Print.
Cornelius, Catherine. N.p., 2013. Web. 5 Mar. 2015.
Kozel, Aleš. "Four and Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451."
McGiveron, Rafeeq O. "“To Build a Mirror Factory”: The Mirror and Self-Examination in Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451." Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction 39.3 (1998): 282-287.
Smolla, Rodney A. "The Life of the Mind and a Life of Meaning: Reflections on" Fahrenheit 451"." (2009): 895-912.
Wood, Diane S. "Bradbury and Atwood: Exile as Rational Decision." Fahrenheit 451-Ray Bradbury (2009): 43.
Zipes, Jack. "Mass degradation of humanity and massive contradictions in Bradbury’s vision of America in Fahrenheit 451." Bloom, Modern Critical Interpretations (2009): 3-18.
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