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Relationship Concerns: Fahrenheight 451 Literary Analysis

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There is a book out there in the world . . . that discusses some very controversial topics. This book is by the famous author Ray Bradbury. This book is called Fahrenheight 451. And the topics include things that may or may not entirely reflect our modern day societies. The themes range from technology, to relationships, to censorship. Many comparisons can be made between social relationships in the book, and relationships in real life. If relationships in the book are negative, is it any reflection of today’s society’s relationships?

The most prominent relationship that shows up in the book is the one between Mildred and Guy Montag. These two have been married for many years, but are often apart from each other. This pattern shows up in real life on a regular basis. Husbands are hanging out with their friends more and more often, while wives are hiding in their bedrooms and the kids play outside. Can stable relationships be built in this way? I think not. On pages 42-43, Montag and Mildred are having a conversation about when they first met. “ ‘ When did we meet? And where?’ ‘When did we meet for what?’ she asked ‘I mean—originally.’ ” These two don’t really know much about one another, and they know that they aren’t very close. It is common nowadays to be busy with the constantly growing extra-curricular activities list that many of us participate in. Without the closeness that many of us crave, no true friendship can be built because it would be built upon nothing. Technology is a big problem when it comes to their relationship as well. Fourth-wall televisions are important in the novel, because they provide both entertainment and ‘social status’ to the citizens of their city. Mildred proves this on page 20. “ ‘How long do you figure before we save up and get the fourth wall torn out and get a fourth wall-TV put in?’ ”(Mildred to Montag). Technology has become more important then the actual relationship. When Mildred leaves Montag, he doesn’t realize how much better his life will be when she’s gone. He also doesn’t see that the reason why she left is because she didn’t want to be involved in Montag’s rebellion against the society (and she also wanted a fourth wall TV). This quote is on page 114: “The front door opened; Mildred came down the steps, running, one suitcase held with a dreamlike clenching rigidity in her fist, as a beetle-taxi hissed to the curb. ‘Mildred!’ She ran past with her body stiff, her face floured with powder, her mouth gone, without lipstick. ‘Mildred, you didn’t put in the alarm!’ She shoved the valise in the waiting beetle, climbed in, and sat mumbling, ‘Poor family, poor family, oh everything gone, everything, everything gone now…’ ” (Narrator, Montag, Mildred) She leaves Montag standing there, wondering why she didn’t ‘love’ him anymore. This also shows that even when Mildred is leaving her husband she isn’t worried about the relationship itself, but the things involved with the relationship, such as the benefits of a house, and the technology in it. This kind of relationship is becoming more and more prominent these days, and it seems the only way we can stop it is to turn off the electronics, and interact with others. Mildred isn’t the only one who is close to Montag and affects his other relationships as well.

The most intriguing relationship that takes place in the book is the one between 17-year-old Clarisse, and Guy Montag. Theirs is a kinship built out of light-hearted jokes, and seemingly irrelevant ideas. They meet late at night on the route to Montag’s house, from the fire station. One of the first things she says is: “ ‘Well,’ … ‘I’m seventeen and I’m crazy. My uncle says the two always go together. When people ask your age, he said, always say seventeen and insane. Isn’t this a nice time of night to walk? I like to smell things and look at things, and sometimes stay up all night, walking, and watch the sun rise’ ” (Page 7, Clarisse to Montag). This is a perfect example of the times when you meet someone on the subway or city bus, and they strike up an interesting conversation with you, about something that you may believe to be taboo, or controversial. And of course, to be nice, you smile politely and reply. But even if it doesn’t look like it’s affecting you at all on the outside, you can almost smell the brain mush being molded into something, something that is thinking about the taboo topics previously mentioned by that strange man on the bus. Nowadays, this only happens when you are alone, or on a bus that frequently travels the local countryside roads. Not many people have the courage to talk to other people, especially random strangers, unless they seem familiar. Clarisse instills the fact that it’s ok to talk to new people, into Montag, as he begins to change his feelings about burning those precious books. She also proves that a healthy family life is an oddity. Few people actually eat dinner with the family, if there is no television or technological entertainment provided. “ ‘Oh, just my mother and father and uncle sitting around, talking. It’s like being a pedestrian, only rarer. My uncle was arrested another time - did I tell you? - for being a pedestrian. Oh, we’re most peculiar’ ” (Page 9, Clarisse to Montag). Montag comes to realize what he is missing, during those late night talks between close relatives. This, too, is a rarity and comes far and few between when you find a family actually talking to each other about topics that matter. “ He stood outside the talking house in the shadows, thinking that he might even tap on their door and whisper, ‘Let me come in. I won’t say anything. I just want to listen. What is it that you’re saying?’ ” (Page 17, Narrator and Montag). Some people are realizing that family life means a lot more to them then technology does, or should. Clarisse starts Montag’s journey, but when she leaves, who pushes him to continue it?

The book people are a difficult minority to describe. They talk a lot (to memorize their books). They live like nomads (to hide from the government). They are strange people (because of their beliefs). On page 151, Granger introduces Montag to the many people, err, I mean ‘books’, who live in their tiny nomadic community. “ ‘ I want you to meet Jonathan Swift, the author of that evil political book, Gulliver’s Travels! And this other fellow is Charles Darwin, and this one is Schopenhauer; and this one is Einstein, and this one here at my elbow is Mr. Albert Schweitzer, a very kind philosopher indeed…’ ” (Granger to Montag). This humble introduction shows Montag how easy it is to fit into this new makeshift society. Little did they know, Montag got himself out of the city in the nick of time. “ Montag, falling flat, going down, saw or felt, or imagined he saw or felt the walls go dark in Millie’s face, heard her screaming, because in a millionth part of time left, she saw her own face reflected there, in a mirror instead of a crystal ball, and it was such a wildly empty face, all by itself in the room, touching nothing, starved and eating of itself, that at last she recognized it as her own and looked up quickly at the ceiling as it and the entire structure of the hotel blasted down upon her . . . ”(page 159, Narrator). Montag fully decides, after that catastrophic event, that he must put his entire self into the rebirth of his old society. He has nothing else to spend his time on, now that his wife and his books are gone, so he learns the tools of the trade, and sets out to work on memorizing the books of the world. Near the end of the book, he tries to find something of use to tell the other book people. They all will share something important and useful to the new society that will be built in the ruins of the old society, like a phoenix rising from the ashes. “Something, something... And on either side of the river was there a tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. Yes, thought Montag, that’s the one I’ll save for noon. For noon…When we reach the city” (Page 165, Montag’s thoughts to himself). There is something to be said about a man who has gone through so much in such a small amount of time. These people, the book people, become Montag’s new mentors, and family. They adopt him in, and take care of him, for the good of the society. This really should inspire us to connect more with new people and build stronger bonds with those whom we already know.

Our society could be reflective of the books society, or the other way around. But, I’ll leave that up for you to decide. “It was a pleasure to burn. It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed. With the brass nozzle in his fists, with this great python spitting its venomous kerosene upon the world, the blood pounded in his head, and his hands were the hands of some amazing conductor playing all the symphonies of blazing and burning to bring down the tatters and charcoal ruins of history. With his symbolic helmet numbered 451 on his stolid head, and his eyes all orange flame with the thought of what came next, he flicked the igniter and the house jumped up in a gorging fire that burned the evening sky red and yellow and black. He strode in a swarm of fireflies. He wanted above all, like the old joke, to shove a marshmallow on a stick in the furnace, while the flapping pigeon-winged books died on the porch and lawn of the house. While the books went up in sparkling whirls and blew away on a wind turned dark with burning” (Narrator, page 1).
RESOURCES
1.
Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451. . : Ballantine Books, 1953.



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