Ray Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451 tells a story about a character named Guy Montag whose life took a change when he met a young girl by the name Clarisse. Montag in the story is a firefighter, but the meaning of a firefighter in this story is quite the opposite of the usual meaning that people know. Rather than putting fires out, the firefighters in the story start fires. Montag among other firefighters in this story burn the books because they believe that they do not have any importance to the society (Bradbury, Ray). This essay intends to delve into the concepts of the novel Fahrenheit 451 elaborating on how Montag’s life changed and how the author was able to pass his message to the readers.
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Montag walks home from work one day and gets to meet Clarisse, a seventeen-year-old girl who happens to have a very positive influence on Montag’s life. Clarisse helps Montag to realize the emptiness that exists in Montag’s life by asking different questions about life and books that Montag could hardly answer. Clarisse’s nature also shows the love she has for nature and people things that the society does not appreciate or consider important (Bradbury, Ray, and New Hazlett Theater). These factors made Montag yearn to pay attention to other people in the societies and consider their feelings before performing different acts like burning the books.
The conversation between Montag and Clarisse lead Montag to realize that the society they live in does not think for themselves and that the government runs them. Clarisse helped Montag to come to the reality that the society was in the wrong and the government utilized many strategies to control the people.
In the process of understanding people’s emotions, Montag realizes that he is not sure of whether the wife, Mildred loved him sincerely or she did not. He realizes that individuals who care about something could even lose their lives for it. For instance, Montag witnessed a woman burn alive and die alongside her books that the firefighters decided to burn. This woman valued her literature more than her life (Bradbury, Ray). This act is one of the disturbing events that Montag remembers and does not feel good for the life he has been living.
The more Montag continued to converse with Clarisse the more he continues to be dissatisfied with his life. The dissatisfaction makes him start to rethink some things, and he starts to question if books are as useless as the society makes them appear (Feneja, Fernanda Luisa). Because of the curiosity, Montag steals one of the books that he should burn as part of his job. A few days later, Montag gets the news that Clarisse died from an accident and the news make him sad. Consequently, his boss begins to suspect his acts and tries to remind him that he should stick to being the firefighter that he is. Regardless of being suspected, Montag continues to be rebellious and pursues his curiosity on the books.
After attempting to read the books he stole, Montag sought for a better way to better understand the contents and found a teacher. In the process of finding a teacher, Montag starts to read the Bible. He finds Faber who is willing to teach him about anything he wants about the books. When the people find out that Montag has started having an interest in books and no longer wants to be a firefighter, they sought to find him so that they can kill him. As a result, Montag escapes and comes across “the Book People” otherwise known as the renegade intellectuals. Granger was the leader of the renegade intellectuals (Bradbury, Ray). This group of book lovers then welcomed Montag and allowed him into the group.
After a while, the society that Montag once lived in receives an attack from the enemy country. The enemy country bombed the city, and everyone in it meets their demise apart from Montag and the renegade intellectuals who were away from the city in the woods. This group of book lovers including Montag decided to bring change in the society. The group then moves into the city and rebuild civilization by teaching the survivors about books (Feneja, Fernanda Luisa). This turn of events where Montag stops being a firefighter and becomes a civilized individual is real evidence that Clarisse had a positive impact on Montag’s life.
The author of this novel utilizes symbols, motifs, and figurative language to pass the message in the novel to the audience. Symbolism is evident in many events that take place in the novel. The author uses the phoenix in the story, which is a symbol of rebirth (Filler, James). Rebirth of the old society that hated the books and anyone that wrote or read them to a more civilized society that embraced literature. In other words, the society had fallen, and just like the phoenix, it rose again.
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The title of the first part of the book is the Hearth and the Salamander. This title is symbolic too. The Hearth refers to a fireplace, and the salamander represents the firefighters and how they burnt the books but the literature still never died. The reason for this symbol is that people believed that the salamander could live in the fire but could not get harmed. These two symbols symbolize fire an important aspect in Montag’s life.
Another symbolism utilized in the novel is the mirrors. Mirrors provide reflections. In the story, Montag meets Clarisse, and he immediately starts to reflect on his life. He begins to see the wrong things that he has been doing and desired to change his life. The Mechanical Hound is yet another symbol that the author uses in the novel. It symbolizes the lack of nature and the manner in which the society is willing to kill the people who do not conform to the expected way of living (Moore, Douglas). When Montag realizes that the hound is looking for him, he runs away through the river. This escape is a symbol of Montag’s salvation. The wood that Montag and the renegade intellectuals stay symbolizes innocence.
Realism also exists in the novel. Some of the events that the author talks about in this book are real life events. Bradbury brings in the idea of electronic surveillance in the story where he warns individuals about the abuse of surveillance. Electronic surveillance is one of the worries in the contemporary world. In the novel, the author criticizes the media, an act that takes place today on a daily basis.
People rely too much on the media, for information, news, and entertainment among other things. Heavy reliance on television is main reason why people miss so many aspects of life. People become lonely because they pay attention to these TVs rather than the life that surrounds them which is a dominant theme in the novel. In the novel, Ray talks about automated banking machines; these machines can be compared to the Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) used in the current world. For this reason, this novel relates to the non-fiction literature.
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The use of motifs also plays a significant role in helping the readers of this novel understand the message better. The author uses nature imagery throughout the novel. The nature imagery represents innocence, the innocence shown by Clarisse and the love she has for nature. Through the innocent questions asked by Clarisse, Montag can change and reflect on his life. The author also uses themes in the story.
There is the theme of Knowledge versus ignorance. The people in the city live in an uncivilized society because of their ignorance and their inability to accept to learn from others (Toth, Michelle). The society killed people for refusing to conform to the norms that prohibited books. The role of the firefighter was to destroy knowledge. Destroying the knowledge made all the people equal in the society. Clarisse’s influence on Montag makes him fight the ignorance and seek for the knowledge that would rebuild the society.
The setting in the novel changes towards the end of the book where Montag moves from the suburban city to the woods. This change in the setting affects the development of the plot by changing the initial message that the author intended to pass. Ray Bradbury wanted to tell a story about how the growing impact of television overshadows literature, but with the change of the setting, the message passed involves social adjustment and censorship (Roberts, Garyn). The future implication of the message passed from this novel, therefore, is that people should always choose knowledge over ignorance. People should accommodate social adjustment in the future to prevent the society from falling.
In conclusion, Bradbury’s novel reveals the importance of knowledge in society. It shows the essence of being open-minded and allowing oneself to learn other events in life. Clarisse gets to inspire Montag to leave his old ways and embrace the new ways. New methods that require him to stop conforming to what the society wants and seek the truth in the books are important. The use of symbolism and motifs in the novel contribute to the message that the author intends to pass to the readers.
Every symbol in the book either represented Montag’s character or a struggle he had to endure to rebuild the nation and lead it into civilization (Gonzalez, Pedro Blas). The use of realism also makes the novel more interesting to read as the concepts available such as loneliness that result from too much focus on television and the media do occur in the contemporary world, and the readers can easily relate.
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- Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451: A Novel. Simon and Schuster, 2012.
- Roberts, Garyn G. “Some Social and Cultural Context for Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.” Critical Insights: 27-36.
- Bradbury, Ray, and New Hazlett Theater. “Fahrenheit 451 Fahrenheit 451.” Ave fenix; 182 (2012).
- Feneja, Fernanda Luísa. “PROMETHEAN REBELLION IN RAY BRADBURY’S FAHRENHEIT 451: THE PROTAGONIST’S QUEST.” Amaltea. Revista de Mitocritica 4 (2012): 1.
- Filler, James. “Ascending from the Ashes: Images of Plato in Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.” Philosophy and Literature 38.2 (2014): 528-548.
- Toth, Michelle. “Bradbury’s Message in Fahrenheit 451.” (2014).
- Moore, Douglas C. Fahrenheit 451: Temperature Rising. Diss. Cleveland State University, 2010.
- Gonzalez, Pedro Blas. “Fahrenheit 451: A Brave New World for the New Man.” Explorer 83 (2017).