Fahrenheit 451 is a classical novel by the author Ray Bradbury published in 1953. The story is about the main character Guy Montag who is a fireman. The story takes place in a futuristic American world where the firemen light fires instead of putting them out. The firemen are not really needed since the houses are fireproof. In this futuristic society, the inhabitants do not read books, enjoy nature or thinking independently. Instead, they watch excessive amounts of television, drive very fast and have no time whatsoever for meaningful conversations.
Montag, as a fireman, he is getting paid to start fires to burn down the houses where books are found. Why the books are wanted to be eliminated, is due to the fact that people ask too many questions and makes the society being equal. The removal of the books keeps the people from being happy.
The electronical breakthrough has taken over the culture and the society live their lives through the electronics with as little human interaction as possible.
When Montag one day meets a 17-year old girl with an old-fashioned thinking path, she begins asking questions about life and why things are as they are. The girl is named Clarisse McClellan and has an immense love of nature and people. The rather bothering questions she asked Montag, opened his eyes and made him begin to think about the inhospitality of the world and that people only think about themselves. The unusual discussion with the girl made him think about the actual value of life and how books mattered in the past.
In this essay, the structure and the shape of the novel will be processed, followed by a development of hidden and major parts of importance that will be discussed.
The plot in this novel is mainly based on Guy Montag’s transformation from being a book-burning fireman to a book-reading insurgent. The refusal of knowledge the society was sitting on made him think about the complicated unhappiness in the world and why they were in the situation they experienced. The story is shaped like a pyramid, called the Freytag pyramid, where the beginning and rise of the story contains the parts of the plot. When reaching the top of the pyramid, you will find the climax of the novel, which is the most intense event in the narrative. It begins with an unstable situation and referring to “Fahrenheit 451”, it is when the main character Guy Montag, breaks the commonness and law by breaking his job as a fireman who gets paid from burning books to a man who finds interest in them. He begins to question the value of his profession and his resistance grew stronger when he first met a girl named Clarisse McClellan due to the fact that she was curious about the world and defied the norm about being questionless. After a long talk with the girl, Montag realizes that he is unhappy and no longer loves his wife Mildred since she is trapped in the electronical world and does not want to live a social life.
One day when Montag comes home from work, he spots the ambulance outside of their house. Mildred had overdosed on sleeping pills which is very common in the society of the novel. Because of the ultra-violet light distributed from the TV-screens, it decreases the sleep-hormones in the body, which therefore makes it hard for the inhabitants to sleep. The day after, she does not want to talk about the incident and continues to watch her soap-opera. The time they live in, is incused by atomic war and why the society thinks that books can be more dangerous than a nuclear attack, is making his mind spin – what power lies in books? Because of his curiosity, he steals a book from a collection he had sent to destroy. On one day of work, Montag meets an owner of many books who refuse to leave her house. Instead, she chose to go up in flames with the books rather than have to live without them. This made Montag think about what happiness could be brought with the forbidden literature.
When he returns home for the day, he feels ill as he during the past years, thought that he was serving society as a fireman, but now realizes that he is a tool of destruction. What mentioned is a rising action and an unstable situation where more and more events occur, closer to the climax of the novel. At this point, he is different from the rest of the “everyday characters” and makes him unique. The book he stole, hidden under his pillow, was discovered by Mildred but she was silent. He began to read all types of books, stolen from houses of book owners he lit on fire. Later on, Guy Montag came across a retired professor called Faber. They discussed everything involving books and knowledge, mostly oriented in the value of own ideas instead of being mainstream and do what everybody else was doing. Faber became a mentor to Montag showing insights and conspiring with him to examine and discussing his books.
When Mildred one day has some friends over for drinks, Montag starts to argue about family and politics. He reads to them from a book of poetry. The friends of Mildred react emotionally to the reading and calls the firemen. Montag realizes that it is his own house that is now going to be burned down to the ground. His boss, Beatty instructed him to by himself, lit his house on fire. When Beatty arrives at Montag’s house, Montag turns the flamethrower on his boss, threatening and killing him. This is the climax and game-changer of the novel where the unexpected happens and the action is rising to its peak. Later on, the climax decreases, and the falling action is causing a more stable situation where Montag finds some out-laws, previously being academics and authors, where he can settle down and do what he likes the most – to read.
The main character in the novel is Guy Montag and is both a complex and round character as well as a flat and simple one. At the beginning of the book, he is the typical stereotype for his time and does what everyone else does – watching TV, driving fast and avoids human interaction. He takes his duty as a fireman seriously and does not really reflect on what he really is doing. The 17-year old girl made him think and slowly but steadily changed his mind that life is more than TV-series and work. He begins to develop and become more human-being, from being similar to a robot with no feelings. Once he develops, he is receiving multiple personalities, many unordinary, compared to the time he lives in. Later on, he quickly forms strong attachments to anyone who seems approachable to true friendship.
The longer the book stretches, the more he develops and acts like a person who would live in our time and in the past. He started to take charge of his behavior and realizes that at the end of the day, he returns to a home with an unloving wife with a meaningless marriage. When he witnesses the woman who rather burns and embraces death than accepting to light the books and house on fire, it opens his eyes and understands the power of literature, his hunger for knowledge forms him as a character and makes him dynamic. Moreover, with the burning old woman in his mind all the time, he transfers from being a robot-alike character to an actual human being with feelings of guilt and compassion.
The novel is written in future tense and takes place in a world very similar to ours. Although, books are prohibited, and firemen are sent to destroy them. In the story, we find out that they are somewhere in the United States, but no specific location is mentioned. The fact that the author Ray Bradbury does not refer to a precise place, can be interpreted as that anything similar could happen anywhere in the world. For example, in a society where a totalitarian regime has developed, a situation as in the novel can easily occur. When the government bans literature and stand-alone publications, that do not share their perception, society forms into a nation with no actual freedom and knowledge about what happens in the world. One example of this in our time is in North Korea, where only state television and newspapers are permitted.
An atomic war is also incused, which could be connected to the totalitarianism that takes place in the plot of the book. This could also be connected to today’s North Korea since they have a strong nuclear force to protect themselves from the outside world. Moreover, in the narrative and in North Korea, the inhabitants are brain-washed and do not know anything about the outside world. However, they think they know but the regime may give them incorrect information to make them a part of the nation and take their part. Once Montag realizes what he has missed in life, he understands that there is more than just television and work. He gets an eye-opener with the meaning of life and understands that the government is keeping away information and wants to keep their people within their control and frames. According to the author, Ray Bradbury, the setting seems to be the character in its own right – in this context, Guy Montag.
In addition, as more we learn about Montag, the more we find out about the environment the novel takes place and the more we know about society. Bradbury paints a picture of a world of the future, with violence, technology, and mind-control. He does not include a specific time of date where it all happens but gives clues about the time setting. This gives readers the capacity to think on their own to create personal imaginations. Some important locations mentioned in the plot, are Montag’s house, the fire station, and the former-academic Faber’s house. A house is supposed to give the sensation of safety, but as Montag develops, he receives another impression of the house where he actually only sees the house as a building rather than a home. On the other hand, Faber’s house is where he actually feels welcomed and fairly happy because it is there where his quest for knowledge and literature can be satisfied. The war also has a major part of the story since it is noticeable all the time with people talking about it and preparing themselves for what to come. A quote related to this is: ‘The jet bombers going over, going over, going over, one two, one two, one two, six of them, nine of them, twelve of them, one and one and one and another and another and another, did all the screaming for him’ (p. 11). They are not afraid but excited. The science-fictional world the characters live in does not give any impression of the weather. Due to the technology always around them, they do not really focus on the climate or vegetation. The setting is related to the action of the characters rather than the world around them, forming them as humans.
Fahrenheit 451 is written from a third-person limited omniscient point of view, which means that all the information regarding thoughts and feelings is distributed from a specific character, in this case, the main character, Guy Montag. As readers are available to take part in the story and Montag’s actions from his perspective. This point of view allows us to see the surroundings around Montag as well as understand his struggle with social problems. One example is when Montag is on the train, trying to remember a text but cannot think due to the loud sounds of the advertisements onboard. “Trumpets blared. “Denham’s Dentifrice.” Shut up, thought Montag.
Consider the lilies of the field. “Denham’s Dentrifice.” They toil not “Denham’s—’ Consider the lilies of the field, shut up, shut up. “Dentifrice!” (p. 131). This made him impossible to think. The third-person limited omniscient point of view enables us to see his transformation from being a “trapped” robot-being human to an actual human being. For example, when he is supposed to burn the house of the old lady, she tells him that books are not poisonous. He tells himself that he is not hurting anyone with burning books, but later on, realizes that it actually does. That books means more than he or any ordinary person in that time of period really understands. When burning books, it hurts people since many live their life through them. Narratives make people travel to exotic places, a suspense scene or to bring back memories to their gone relatives in their minds.
The novel is filled with multiple signs, themes, and symbols. Already in the title can we find a symbol evolving the plot. The title is “Fahrenheit 451” because of the temperature at which books ignite but also connecting to society. Moreover, where the society goes up in flames, symbolizing the disintegration between people and material. The books in the society are from the perspective of Montag’s and Faber’s as they represent the quality of life. The fire that commonly is explained, represents the destruction of the society, both books and people. The chapters of the novel also explain hidden symbols. For example, chapter one, called “The Hearth and the Salamander”.
Both the hearth and the salamander symbolize fire due to the fact that a salamander is a lizard and according to ancient myths, the salamander can survive and is associated with fire. Salamander is also the name of Montag’s firetruck. The hearth is also linked to fire since people use the fireplace in their homes. Often in today’s society reading books in front of it. The symbols are sarcastic though because Montag realizes later on that he is not unharmed by fire as he finds out that the burnings of the books make the society falling apart rather than survive and get unharmed. This can be connected to when he finds out that Mildred had passed out, dependent on the sleeping pills and television. In chapter three, named “The Phoenix”, which is a bird based on myths who burst into flames when it dies and resurrects from its own ashes.
The phoenix represents and is a metaphor for the re-birth spiritually when Montag finds out about the “actual” world with literature. He tries to rediscover himself and to find his position in society. The novel contains several themes and one of them is the supposed danger of information that occurs in the society where the plot takes place. In Montag’s world and civilization, schools are no longer available to the same extent as it is today. The children are only educated with the knowledge that makes the pupils feel smart but actually are not. The problem is that the students are not able to use their brains and minds to think. They only receive useless information not needed to process. Faber suggests to Montag that the schools should fill them with non-combustible information and data filled with more information than they can handle, but with appropriate facts and useful information. When they later on, feel that they are thinking, they will get a sensation of moving forward. Furthermore, that will satisfy their minds.
The novel of Ray Bradbury contains many different and major parts of importance. The hidden symbols that are discovered, unlock the key to the understanding of the book. At the end of the novel, Montag joined the club of book rebellions where each member has memorized important literature writings from the history, ready to assemble it to a new issue to an old publish. For example, Montag had remembered major parts in the Bible. What Bradbury excludes is if the regime of literature deniers gets destroyed and if knowledge will be re-born through the book-rebellions minds, being able to assemble the memorized parts of the books. Bradbury lays a heavy weight that there is a time for everything, which could mean that the society may be re-assembled.
When one door closes, another one opens. Montag can be assumed to be the phoenix described in the title of chapter three. This is due to that he, as a fireman, closes his door to the past and begins again as a man ready to think and learn. Moreover, with this assembled, he begins to grow as a human being and realizing that he wants to be included and take part of the information. In conclusion, he comprehends what happiness is all about. That life and knowledge is our essence.