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Who Are We?

By , Davisburg, MI

Individuality. A quality that makes us who we are. Individuality is non-tangible quality that is existent in all of our lives. Although this quality is existent in all of our lives, it’s almost non-existent in the book Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury. Ray Bradbury’s novel is set in a society where books are forbidden. Books are burned instead of being used for leisure reading and gaining knowledge.By burning books this society demonstrates their non-embracement of individuality. Books contain unique ideas of their authors, along with arguments and opinions which allow a person to formulate their own ideas and become a unique individual. Any individual possessing a book is subject to having their house burned down by the so called “fireman” that are in this society. Montag, a fireman who is in charge of burning homes of those with books begins to question and begins to search for answers. In a world that doesn’t permit book's, ideas are limited. As one can guess, with no individuality in a society, very little diversity exists. Throughout this novel, Ray Bradbury uses metaphors and similes to show the negative effects of not embracing individuality. First of all, Ray Bradbury uses a simile and a metaphor to express the lack of awareness that is present in an individual when they don’t welcome individuality. Individuality seems to be a quality that is feared by specific people. As a result, people may develop a lack of awareness because they don’t want to embrace individuality An example of this in the real world is WWII. The country of Japan had mobilized an assault on the huge neighboring country of China. Japan believed they were the superior Asian race at the time. They didn’t accept the individuality of other people of Asian descent. As a direct effect of Japan not accepting the individuality, they killed any Asian person who wasn’t Japanese in their invasion. They actually kept track of how many people each soldier beheaded in this invasion in the newspaper, almost as if it were just a game. This shows their lack of awareness. They didn’t care about the effect they had, Japan was only fueled by their lack of acceptance for these people and their culture (or individuality). In Fahrenheit 451 this same situation occurs in the sense of lack of awareness arising because individuality was not accepted. A simile in the beginning  of the book on page 3 highlights this.

 

The simile  states “He wanted above all, like the old joke, to shove a marshmallow on a stick in the furnace” (Bradbury 3). This quote is describing the actions of Montag in the beginning of the book when he is burning a house because it contained books. The “furnace” in the above quote is a representation of the house he has set ablaze in the beginning of the book because it contained books. The word “like” has also been used to compare the burning house to a furnace for cooking marshmallows which makes the quote a simile.  Books are a source of individuality; they contain thoughts and ideas of specific people along with culture. Interaction with literature allows us to form opinions and develop qualities that make us unique. By burning the books Montag is showing that he doesn’t have an acceptance for individuality because his is destroying the ideas to prevent them from being shared with others. Montag and this society don’t want differences in their people. Much like the Japanese, he isn’t aware to the actual action he is performing and its effect. His mind is focused on the eradication of individuality much like the Japanese. Montag, much like the Japanese, develops a lack of awareness. This lack of awareness is evident because like the Japanese in WWII, Montag has compared his non-acceptance of individuality to an old joke and the Japanese compared there’s to a game. Therefore both parties have a lack of awareness to the true meaning of their actions. Ray Bradbury even goes further by using a metaphor to convey this same message. Montag “Later going to sleep, he would feel the fiery smile still gripped by his face muscles” (Bradbury 4). This is describing Montag after he burns the house. Again, a lack of awareness can be seen. Simply because Montag is smiling because of his actions. He is proud to have destroyed someone's home and individuality. By using the word “fiery” (Bradbury 4) the metaphor compares the smile that Montag has to fire. Fire is bright, and this characteristic of fire is being used in Montag's smile. With a bright and fire like smile as a result of his actions, it can be concluded that Montag is happy and proud of his actions. Again this highlights a lack of awareness. Montag doesn’t have an ounce of recognition to the action he has committed. He doesn’t care if he’s destroyed someone's home and possession of literature, he is fueled by his in-acceptance of individuality and therefore has a lack of awareness to the true effect his actions have.

 

Through this simile and metaphor Ray Bradbury demonstrates the negative effects of not embracing individuality.In addition, Ray Bradbury uses a metaphors to voice  how a lack of diversity/bland society develops if individuality isn’t accepted. Individuality is what builds up into diversity. As we become our own unique individuals society grows even more diverse. This idea can be thought of as a wall being built. Let's say each cinder block represents a different person. When the wall is first being built, there are only a few cinder blocks. As the wall grows in size from construction, more and more cinder blocks are present. This is what forms diversity and creates many different people with their own unique character. If individuality isn’t embraced or accepted, ideas can’t be spread and shared, opinions and character can’t develop, and a society is created where there is virtually no differences in the population. This is what occurs in Fahrenheit 451. In the book, Faber, an old professor of a University starts to work with Montag to integrate literature back into society. When talking to Montag, he states “We are living in a time when flowers are trying to grow on flowers, instead of growing on good rain and black loam” (Bradbury 83). In this metaphor, the flowers represent the people of this society. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, loam is a soil mixture consisting of silt, clay and sand. In this metaphor, the rain and loam represent exposure to new ideas. Since this society has banned books and therefore doesn’t accept individuality, there is no source of other ideas for these people so they’re are forced to “grow” off one another like described in the metaphor. If one isn’t allowed to become their own unique person by exposing themselves to the ideas of others, no individuality can develop, which in turn results in no diversity or differences within a society. Not accepting individuality is going to force people to grow off of one another, and diversity is going to be non-existent. This is the message of the metaphor.  This message becomes even more evident when Bradbury uses another metaphor to express this message. The people of this society “want only wax moon faces” (83), the moon is bland, and has little detail. The metaphor is saying that the people only want faces like the moon so everybody looks the same. They don't want different faces, with different features. Evidently these people don’t accept individuality since they don’t even want people to look different.  If a society can’t even accept the physical attributes of an individual, how can any diversity develop? The answer is it can’t. As I said before, individuality is a seedling that sprouts into a big luscious tree of diversity. If that little sapling is stomped by the boot of society, it can’t grow and will die. This is what is occurring in this society. Through these two metaphors, Ray Bradbury demonstrates the negative effects of not embracing individuality. Furthermore, Ray Bradbury uses metaphors to describe the hostility effect when individuality is not accepted. Throughout the history of the world there have been many times where individuality hasn’t been accepted. Whether it be religion, an opinion or idea, disagreement has rejection has occurred. Rejection has often developed into hostility. Two parties can start to turn hostile toward each other because of their different individual thoughts or views. Just like the other two examples, this same kind of scenario occurs in Fahrenheit 451. Montag is going to end up shifting his view on individuality. He’s actually going to start keeping books and reading them. Obviously this society has banned books, as I stated before and he’s going to get caught with them. When the firemen arrive at Montag’s house to burn it down, the fire captain (His name is Captain Beaty) is going to say to Montag, “Well, the world can get by just fine without them. Look where they got you, in slime up to your lip. If I stir the slime with my little finger, you’ll drown” (Bradbury 118)! At the beginning of the metaphor Captain Beaty is referencing the books that Montag had gotten ahold of. Beaty is a fireman captain, and is in charge of the burning of all books. This Metaphor is used to represent Beaty's hostility. The single phrase that expresses the most hostility in this metaphor is when Beaty states, “If I stir the slime with my little finder, you’ll drown” (Bradbury 118). This highlights the central message of what Beaty is saying. By using the word “drown” (bradbury 118), he’s obviously referring to harm that will come to Montag since he is embracing individuality and has books . By using the word “my” (Bradbury 118) to describe the finger that will bring harm to Montag, he is making Montag aware that he himself will bring the harm to Montag because of the books. The single quality that is triggering this threatening/hostile effect in Beaty is individuality. As I said before, books represent individuality. They make us think, explore and develop as people because of the ideas contained within their fine printed text. Beaty wants to reject individuality. He is a fire captain who takes pride in the eradication of books and therefore individuality within this society.

 

Knowing Montag has that quality within his grasp, has driven Beaty to the point of hostile behavior, so much that he has threatened Montag through a metaphorical representation. This highlights the hostility that can bloom from a sapling of non-embracement for individuals and their ideas. As Captain Beatty burns Montag's house another metaphor is used which describes the action as Montag “letting Beaty hit him without raising a hand” (Bradbury 118). Again this metaphor is expressing the hostility that has awoken in Beaty. This metaphor represents Beaty burning down Montag's house. The key phrase in the metaphor is “hit him” (Bradbury 118) The phrase is used to express that Beatty has caused harm to Montag by destroying his home, and he hasn’t even had to touch Montag. By his inability to accept individuality in the form of books, Beatty has intentionally harmed Montag. This represents the hostility that can develop from simply not accepting an individual. Beatty doesn’t have any sympathy for Montag, and is fueled by his intention to eradicate individuality. That is hostility. Through these metaphors, Ray Bradbury shows the  negative effects of not embracing individuality. We are all people. People of different backgrounds, ideals and history. We are all human but yet there is something different in all of us. What makes us who we are is our ideas, beliefs and policies. We all differ. We all have our own individuality, a quality that makes us who we are. In a world, where we are exposed to so many different people, we still have a hard time accepting that there are different kinds of people. Countless times, this simple and fragile idea
has been too much for people to handle. People have been turned mad because of their non-embracement of others individuality. Some have even turned to murder, lies and hatred. Ray Bradbury has seen this in our world. In his novel Fahrenheit 451 he used metaphors to display the negative effects of not embracing individuality.
 






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