Society is built upon a set of standards which make it easy to chose to conform to the traits of the normal society which in turn creates a stark contrast of the difficulties posed to those who chose to pursue a personal desire outside the realm of societal norms. The dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 by American writer Ray Bradbury, published in 1953 is a great example which presents a future American society where independance and original thought is outlawed removing individualism from society. This is enforced with the outlawing and burning of books and the creation of “firemen” who take the charge in creating the fires to destroy any books that may be found. The protagonist, Guy Montag, is a fireman who thrives in his job of burning books. He exemplified to be a pyromaniac who takes pleasure in the destruction he causes. Guy does not care that he is burning knowledge and creativity because he simply enjoys the destruction which he creates, and following this societal norm without a second thought to his actions. In following these norms, he is content and follows these practices clearly until he meets a teenaged girl named Clarisse. Bradbury uses several universe shattering changes in Guy’s life to ignite his internal struggle between the status quo, and questioning beyond societal norms to follow a long buried personal passion. With the clever use of triggers such as Mildred- Guy’s wife- attempting suicide through the consumption of sleeping pills, the intriguing questions and later death of Clarisse, and finally the meeting and co operation with a retired English professor known as Faber, Guy Montag embarks on a dangerous journey to overthrow the conformity of society. Through Bradbury’s use of Guy’s journey the true struggle between conforming with society, and true independence is expertly illustrated. Bradbury shows that by choosing conformity, an individual blinds themselves to individuality and personal freedoms, and allows themselves to be manipulated and lose meaning to their life while also showing that the dangers of pursuing a life or knowledge which is considered taboo to society .Clarisse, a seventeen year old female who lives in Montag’s neighbourhood is the first to plant the seed of his dilema: to follow society and burn books and independence, or to question society and it’s regiments. She is very intriguing to him as her life experiences are totally different than Guy, she is very open with him and tells him different things about the past that she knows and he has never heard of before because of her differing knowledge and opinions on the oppression of the people. One of these peculiar differences is her belief that books are very important in the lives of people, regardless of the offences or contradictions they bring, which is the very basis of why the books had been burnt in the first place, dirtying Montag’s view on conformity and making him begin to question his profession as a fireman. He becomes drawn to her and her negative view on his job is something she makes very clear to him. Clarisse shows him how to enjoy the simple and innocent things in life, such as how to catch the rain in her mouth. Later on she changes his views on burning books, she questions him about how little he knows about the past and finds that he knows nothing about what firemen actually used to do. Houses full of books and memories used to be what firemen saved, and now they destroy books. As he hears the truth about the past from her it arouses his curiosity. She teaches him to consider other points of view, especially about how destructive it is to support censorship of books. This is part of the reason that he is so drawn to Clarisse. She challenges his perspectives on his way of life. Bradbury’s use of this character is through her innocence which brings the questioning to his mind through simple statements and shows the surface of the struggle he faces. While choosing to conform, Montag destroys beautiful and irreplaceable knowledge and forgets even the true history. However, Montag knows well what happens to those who chose to disobey the society and law. The second event which Bradbury uses in his novel is the two incidents which occur on the same day. On a routine day in his job as a book-burner. Montag comes across a scene which is both horrifying and unfathomable. Upon the discovery of books in a home, Montag discovers a woman who chooses to be burnt alive in the fire with her books rather than live life in a society where independence is outlawed and knowledge is censored. Montag is severely disturbed. And upon his return he finds his wife far more interested in the television than the companionship or troubles of her husband. Bradbury highlights once again the strife in the choice between following the society or choosing a different life with bold circumstances. Montag is once again confronted by the horror his society oppresses his people with, but also the fear and extreme consequence of pursuing personal passion: a firey and painful death over a quiet and meaningless existence emptied of personal thought or independance. Bradbury uses this as an extreme form of symbolism, as this is often how one might feel when they question the status quo. Although one might not actually be facing a life or death situation, by going against society one may feel as if they were about to commit suicide for simply being different, much like the old woman who chooses to be burnt with her books and independance. This illustrates also the prosecution one who lives outside of societal norms may face from those who choose to conform to society. The final way which Bradbury relates the real life consequences between conformity and personal passion is through the life shattering news of Clarisse’s death, which causes him to totally change his perspective about his job. Although the young girl is not in the wrong, she, like the woman who burned with her books is punished in ways that he could not imagine, and realizes that once these behaviours he would have considered completely acceptable, and these thoughts are horrifying. Even as he conformed to society he finds that he was unhappy with his life, his wife and his job, and so following Clarisse’s death he wants to honor her memory by learning as much as he can about books and history. He wants to tell his boss that he is quitting his job but can’t bring himself to do it. However his boss suspects that something is wrong with him. After the reading of poetry to his wife and her friends after becoming enraged by the frivial nature, his wife eventually turns him in and the final hold Montag has to conformity is broken. With this act, Bradbury makes one of his strongest relations of all. One who chooses to pursue personal passion over a societal norm can also face criticism and betrayal from those who they once associated with or even loved. When an individual chooses differently, not only may society be harsh to them but also their closest supports which allows the relation to Guy Montag to be made as his family and coworkers throw him to ‘the Hound’ in this illustration he shows the personal effects of questioning society while also portraying the blindness that still shrouds those who choose to conform, and the many dangers it brings to follow blindly. American novelist Ray Bradbury uses the struggle and dangers between following society blindly and accepting the loss of meaning and individualism and the life-threatening effects upon those who by birth question the status quo, and inhibit those who begin to think against it through fear. Bradbury relates Montag’s life and death struggle in his choice to the individual who in today’s society struggles to define themselves either within, or outside of societal norms, and the power of choice.
September 23, 2019 0 Comments