Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

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Happiness plays a huge role in everyone's day to day life. Isn't that what everyone wants? It appears that everyone is searching for ways to be happier. Happiness may seem a simple goal, however, when people struggle to fit in with the ideas, beliefs and ways of their surroundings joy becomes hard to obtain.  In the book Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury tells the story of Guy Montag a Fireman that is forced to make many hard decisions, on a quest for happiness, that change him for the better. He is living in society where people do not gain their own knowledge but instead feed on content through TVs and other forms of media chosen by and originating from the society leaders. Montag struggles with living in his own society because he is unhappy with the lack of connection and thinking people are able to generate.. Montag knows his happiness depends on having his own thoughts and knowledge. This quest is difficult, however. He must decide whether or not to kill his boss and face the fact that his wife will leave him. No matter how hard things get, Montag finds a way to persevere through them searching his mind and actions for ways to make his life different from what his society expects. Bradbury uses his story to explore how happiness comes from knowledge and a person’s need to own their own thoughts.  In Fahrenheit 451 Ray Bradbury shows through his characters that the quest to happiness begins with self awareness and requires tough decisions, action and perseverance.
Initially, Ray Bradbury shows through the relationship of Mildred and Montag that a person’s decisions and actions require self awareness to find happiness. Unlike Montag, Mildred never desires a change or realizes the dead state of her mind. This is shown when Bradbury writes “no matter when he came in, the walls were always talking to Mildred”. (44)  Through this quote the reader can tell that Mildred is watching the wall of TVs. Mildred watches these programs, sometimes with neighbor women, for hours a day. She has no desire to think for herself or gain knowledge beyond what is streamed into her parlor. Additionally, Mildred’s decision and action to overdose on sleeping pills further proves her lack of desire to live.  Her society is degrading her mind and forcing her to think only in the way they want her to. In other words she is being brainwashed. On the other hand, Montag knows there is so much he does not know or understand and has a deep desire to find the truth. Montag is aware that his wife is only there physically but mentally has nothing to add. Montag is aware that books hold ideas that have been hidden from him and Mildred. Montag is aware that he needs to take action in order to lead a better, happier life. He pleads with Mildred when finally sharing his hidden books with her:

I've never asked for much from you in all these years, but I ask it now, I plead for it. We've got to start somewhere here, figuring out why we're in such a mess, you and the medicine nights, the car, and me and my work. We're heading right for the cliff, Millie. God, I don't want to go over. This isn't going to be easy.We haven't anything to go on, but maybe we can piece it out and figure it and help each other. (63)

Montag makes the decision to collect books knowing that they hold knowledge that will lead him to new ideas and happiness while Mildred just wants to lay down and literally watch her life fly by her. Montag is aware of his own discontentment and begins to take action, whereas Mildred is living the life of a disconnected and discontented person but survives this way by zoning out of her life through drugs and the wall of TVs..
Next, Bradbury uses Montag and the people he meets to show how someone’s perseverance of thinking and actions can lead to changes in their life and greater happiness. When Montag meets Clarisse her thoughts and conversation trigger new thinking in Montag that persist throughout the novel. Montag sticks with the notion that he is living a life that is incomplete and without truth. He begins to question whether other people in his society are right and he is wrong. This thinking stays with him as he watches the woman burn with her books. At first, he does not understand why the women would stay in her burning house, but he pushes on with his thinking realizing that the women knew without her ability to read and think she was dead anyway.  Clarisse and the burning woman keep Montag stuck on the idea that people can have their own ideas in spite of the laws of their society. Montag further realizes that what he and the firemen are doing is wrong. He continually is second guessing his actions.  Throughout the book Montag meets people who help strengthen his persistence with the search for truth and happiness. Faber, a retired English teacher who still hides a few books, helps Montag understand his desire to seek the truth when he tells Montag, “I feel I'm doing what I should've done a lifetime ago”. (131) This shows that Faber gives Montag the encouragement to speak out against the laws within his society. Montag continues his quest for self awareness through tough decisions and actions even though Montag knows “the hound” is tracking him and he will die for his convictions.
Finally, Ray Bradbury demonstrates perseverance for self awareness and happiness through the use of tough decisions and actions of his characters. Montag, makes the hard decision to tell Mildred about the books he’s stolen and is hiding. He put his life on the line because he had no idea how she was going to react. In the end, she is the one that turns him in and ultimately sends him running for his life. Montag also decides to kill his boss Beatty. Montag kills Beatty because Beatty represents the idea that books, thinking, and Montag's own choices are unlawful or wrong. Beatty also made Montag burn his own house, and told him he would go after Faber and kill him as well. Montag decides to arm himself against Beatty’s enforcement, when Bradbury writes, “He twitched the safety on the flame thrower” (119). Bradbury creates a scene where Montag quickly reacts to Beatty’s bullying, shown with, “Montag saw the surprise there and glanced at his hands to see what new thing he had done.” (119) This shows that Montag is making the decision to use the flame thrower against Beatty but it also proves that Montag is acting in ways that even surprise himself.  Lastly, Faber must decide whether or not to help Montag knowing that his help will put his own life at risk. Although it is a life-risking decision Faber believes in knowledge and self awareness and decides to not only mentor Montag but also and assist Montag with escaping their government’s consequences for Montag’s decisions and actions. 
In the novel, Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury shows happiness depends on having one’s own thoughts and knowledge and how this can be hard in a society that is constantly dictating the way people should think. Bradbury hopes readers will understand themselves and push their minds to think critically instead of following the masses or running with ideas that are popular but not aligned with an individual’s values. Bradbury ultimately knows that the perseverance for knowledge grows minds and helps people make their own choices.






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