An American writer Ray Bradbury is one of the most famous authors of the 20-21 centuries and one of the most ingenious anti-utopians in the world. In his works, the writer often discusses the topic of the human future and the inevitable degradation of people due to the loss of spirituality. Bradbury describes heroes living in the city of the future, where reading books is forbidden, and also predicts technical changes and moral problems of society in his dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451. The purpose of this essay is to provide a summary of the book, analyze the main characters and the central theme of the paper, and, finally, present a personal opinion about Fahrenheit 451.
The Summary of the Novel
Ray Bradbury wrote his famous, thrilling, and thought-provoking novel in 1953. The impetus for its creation was the burning by the Nazis of books by authors that they disliked. The writer perceived these cruel acts as a personal tragedy and portrayed the experience in his anti-utopian work. Moreover, “the novel reflects Bradbury’s concerns about censorship and conformity during a period when a free expression of ideas could lead to social and economic ostracization.”1 The future society described in the dystopia receives information from huge television screens, radios, and other distributors of state propaganda. Books that let people think about actions happening around and within society are banned in this world. Any house in which firefighters find books is to be burned. It helps the government subjugate people and eradicate any manifestations of discontent and disagreement. However, very few individuals can see reality as it is, they do not agree with the state, and secretly read books.
The main character of the novel is fireman Guy Montag, who loves the profession and has no doubt in the correctness of his beliefs. His job is to find books and burn them together with the houses of those people who dared to keep them. One day he meets an extraordinary girl Clarisse, who opens his eyes to what is happening in the world. Unconsciously, Montag understands that human communication is more than an exchange of memorized remarks. A meeting with Clarisse makes the protagonist take a fresh look at the life he leads and realize that he is unhappy. Montag has a wife Mildred, a peculiar woman who stares at wall-sized screens all day and does not want to have children.2 There is no emotional connection and feelings between spouses; they do not understand each other.
Fleeting meetings with Clarisse change Montag’s mind, he begins to reflect on the correctness of his actions, the situation in the country, and relations with the wife. At work, the main character feels miserable, does not want to burn books, and destroy people’s houses. His whole stereotypical world crumbles, and Clarisse is the only humane person in his life. However, Montague soon finds out that his friend is dead – she has been hit by one of the fast cars. It makes him realize that the time to act has come, and he talks about books to his wife and her girlfriends. Having no support, he meets Professor Faber, who has long been suspected of reading books. The wife and her girlfriends report on Guy, and firefighters burn his house.3 To save Faber, who the boss learned about, Montague directs the flamethrower at his boss and the team.
Furthermore, Montag is declared a state criminal, and he has to leave the city. With the help of Faber, he finds people who read books and try to transfer their knowledge to future generations. Concurrently, the country undergoes shock – enemy bombers appear over the city abandoned by the main character.4 They ruin this miracle of technological thought and start an imminent war. Thus, the writer demonstrates a consumer society that has lost the ability to think independently, analyze what is happening, and also shows the possible results of such life.
The Main Characters and Theme
Guy Montag is the protagonist of the book, a firefighter whose main task is to burn prohibited literature. Montag is not defined in his moral principles; he cannot find an ideal in the socio-cultural values of society. Throughout the book, he radically changes his point of view about his profession, future, and destiny. Mildred is Montag’s wife and one of the ordinary residents of a metropolis who does not have their own opinion. She obeys modern rules of the society, and her greatest passion is the TV wall. Neighbor Clarissa is a young girl brought up in an extraordinary “traditional” family with an independent opinion, love to nature, and books. She is the person who makes Guy rethink his actions and change his life.
The central theme of the novel Fahrenheit 451 is the role of a book in human life. Ray Bradbury demonstrates a consumer society that has lost the ability to think independently, analyze, and conclude. 5 Books have useful information from our ancestors, which people should adopt to move forward and avoid the mistakes of the past. The author discusses such issues as manipulating society through the media, excessive enthusiasm for technological progress, and the replacement of moral values with consumer ones.6 Bradbury wants to convey a simple idea – the future described in the novel is inevitable if we destroy the previous experience, freedom of thought, art, and the desire to think and learn something new.
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury is worth reading and thinking about it over at any age. It is likely that through the utopia, the writer shows a world that can be a reality if people refuse to read literature. According to Bradbury, “It is a reminder that what we have is valuable, and that sometimes we take what we value for granted.”7 Moreover, the author proves the need for communicating and creating common family interests. Many people are addicted to their gadgets; they ignore the importance of family relations becoming lonely and insensitive. However, relatives should help in stressful situations, support, and understand each other. Unfortunately, there is no family and love between Guy and Mildred in this novel. They are physically close, but completely alien emotionally to one another.
To sum up, Ray Bradbury’s science fiction novel introduces readers to the world of a possible near future. A government easily manipulates a society that cannot think and reflect. It is the reason why literature is prohibited by the law of a totalitarian regime, which makes destroy books immediately. It is precisely the future that awaits people if they continue to exist as a rapidly developing consumer society.
Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2013.
Scott, Alisha Grace. “A Comparison of Dystopian Nightmares and Utopian Dreams: Two Paths in Science Fiction Literature That Both Lead to Humanity’s Loss of Empathy.” Journal of Science Fiction 1, no. 3 (2017): 40-54
Study Guide for Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. Michigan: Gale, Cengage Learning, 2015.
Yılmaz, Recep. “A Study of “The Other” in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.” International Journal of Media Culture and Literature Year 1, no. 2 (2015): 27-44.
- Study Guide for Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 (Michigan: Gale, Cengage Learning, 2015), 1.
- Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2013), 13.
- Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, 136.
- Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, 180.
- Alisha Grace Scott, “A Comparison of Dystopian Nightmares and Utopian Dreams: Two Paths in Science Fiction Literature That Both Lead to Humanity’s Loss of Empathy,” Journal of Science Fiction 1, no. 3 (2017): 47.
- Recep Yılmaz, “A Study of “The Other” in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451,” International Journal of Media Culture and Literature Year 1, no. 2 (2015): 28.
- Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, 10.