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Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

By , Clarkston, MI

In the novel Fahrenheit 451, the author, Ray Bradbury showcases his Utopian society, where it is not the government that is pressuring its people to change, but rather the community itself. With using his main character, Guy Montag, he puts him through a role of where he is considered a sculpture of this new society, having a job as a firefighter- someone who burns books. The characters that associate with Montag show him two sides of the created society. One part is from the young girl, Clarisse, who questions him about his job and role in the city. Clarisse is the so called “odd one out” of the city, as she likes different things than the other people. Her and her family are seen as weird, although this intrigues Montag to learn more about her. Also, his wife, Mildred plays an important part as she shows what people are typically like in the city, or strive to be, exploring another way Montag discovers himself and the world he lives in. He asks himself many questions that go unanswered until he finds himself a place in this society. He sees two sides that have never been noticed his whole life, society’s ideal city versus  a new perspective of rule breaking. Through rhetorical questions, dialogue and internal thoughts, Bradbury makes his characters in Fahrenheit 451 ask themselves about the meanings of happiness in their society.

To start with, Bradbury uses his main character, Guy Montag, and introduces Clarisse McClellan to ask rhetorical questions to him about the meaning of his role in their city. In the very start of the novel, Montag meets Clarisse after a day of work. His job, a firefighter, in the city is to burn any books that exist, as if they were banned from the society. While meeting with Clarisse, she asks him, “‘Are you happy?’ she said. ‘Am I what?’ he cried” (Bradbury 7). This shows that Montag had been taken back by the question, for he had never thought of himself. His job and his wife, those were priority number one. He notices that Clarisse is different, and later repeats the question in his head, following with trying to convince himself he was, indeed, happy (Bradbury 8). Montag finds the question humorous, calling it nonsense, wondering why she would ever ask him that. He continues on his day, but with the question stuck in his mind. In Montag’s society, the people have never placed themselves in a situation where they wouldn’t be happy. He says the such question is  silly and would seem illogical; Bradbury included the character of Clarisse to ask this to show Montag’s behavior to a new topic, happiness. To further question himself, Montag ponders Clarisse’s encounter, and has a mental discussion with himself, “Of course I’m happy. What does she think? I’m not?” (Bradbury 8). Montag then continues to discover his happiness throughout the book, asking himself more and more, coming to a conclusion of not only his own happiness, but of the people surrounding him. Bradbury uses rhetorical questions with Montag and Clarisse to show the true aspect of their his happiness in his society.

Later on in the story, Mildred Montag enters and shows her husband about the impact the society’s effect on people by her dialogue and actions. Mildred, also known as Millie, is Guy’s wife, whom is introduced when she has a overdose of pills, yet doesn’t remember the next day. Guy talks to the operator who had found Millie, asking why hadn't they sent more help, for an overdose can be fatal. The operator responds, saying they get cases like hers more than once or twice a night. After so many, they had made special machines to fix the person in half an hour (Bradbury 13). This shows that the city is not full of happy people, as most try to commit suicide, because of the pressure that is formed by the people who live and created their society. The need and want to fit in and be like everyone else- afraid to be left out, it is such a large pressure, for those who cannot keep up with it will eventually give up. Although Millie’s introduction is very significant, her role throughout the book is small and is seen as a child. She later on avoids the topic of change, keeping herself fragile to the conversation. With Guy, Millie talks on how she had thoughts on books and everything she would have never, ending the topic with saying, “Leave me alone,’ said Mildred, “I didn’t do anything” (Bradbury 49). She avoids any part of being like Guy. She is so afraid of becoming different, like others, that she wants to forget or stop anything having to do with books or difference. Her happiness if defined by what she says and does, yet her thoughts are never able to come out. Bradbury uses Millie as an example of what the society says to be so-called happy.

In the end, Montag, listens to all of the facts he has been given throughout the book and uses internal thoughts to piece together the true happiness of his society, and what it means.  Guy Montag is a strong character, he has grown with everyone around him being the same, not because they are forced, but because they want to. After series of events, deaths and new people, he discovers that his whole idea of happiness is not right and will never be found inside the city. His job, his wife, the whole persona given inside sets him back from discovering what will make him happy. Montag encounters events that make him think about what the rules are in his society. One example is when he is running away, after Beatty’s death. As he runs, he thinks, “Yes, he thinks. Where am I running? No where. There was no where to go” (Bradbury 118). There is a sudden point here, where Montag is trying to figure out what is next. He knows that the city is no longer where to stay, yet he still questions himself on every move he makes. To continue, he also thinks about Millie, moments after her death. He remembers how they met, and where. He thinks on the city, crumbling down in front of him (Bradbury 153). Guy, at this point, has come to see that the need to reach happiness and to be himself, is to stray from everything he has known. This includes the deaths of Beatty and Millie. The end of the city. The end of his old life. Guy now has to continue to search and think about what is next for him. And this is why Bradbury uses his internal thoughts throughout the entire book to showcase his development and realization to achieve his happiness.

The book, Fahrenheit 451 says a lot about character and shows an immense amount of struggle to find his place. Montag ends up leaving the city, finding his course along a river. He has lost his wife, his home, and somehow he has found the true meaning of his happiness throughout the course of his adventure. Montag’s like around him has focused on one thing, following what everyone else does. Other than that, it was to burn books, without ever knowing why. He has opened a window in his life where it shows him the reality of his society, where they have created this “fake happiness,” along with turning the others people's minds to be alike, have no uniqueness from one another. Relating with today’s world, people try to create the same type of this happiness, but use technology. Montag represents everyone who tries to bend in, but ends up being too different to follow others; Mildred is all the kids that try too hard to change in order to fit in, as she did in their society. All in all, Bradbury made a story fall directly relating to many situations that happen today. He uses the character's internal thoughts, conversations with the other character’s, and asks questions to further prove his statement, where their happiness is learned and achieved.






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