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Lindsey

AP Literature and Composition

June 17, 2019

One defining aspect of the universal human experience is the individual’s desire to

belong alongside others. While the intentions behind this mentality seem harmless, there are

grave consequences that coincide with sacrificing individuality for the sake of belonging within a

larger group. In both the novel Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and the episode “Nosedive”

from the television show Black Mirror, the hidden horrors of group mentalities are amplified

through the depictions of their respective futuristic societies, and the technologies that go with

them. As the main characters in both stories learned, what is arguably more human than trying to

‘fit in’ with those around you is having the courage to embrace your dissenting opinions.

Contrastingly, however, while Guy Montag realized this lesson gradually and was able to utilize

his enlightenment to save himself from the poisonous ignorance around him, Lacie’s unwavering

fixation on bending towards society’s ideals lead to an inevitable snap; only once she reached

rock bottom was she able to (albeit, forced to) come to terms with her reality.

One of the most prominent crutches that plagues the societies of both Fahrenheit 451 and

“Nosedive” is the technology that people cling to in lieu of meaningful content. For both pieces,

this interdependence shocks the audience with overwhelming depictions of reliance. In

Fahrenheit 451 the excessive amount of television in homes—such as Mildred’s fixation on

filling the digital walls in the living room parlor so it is completely enclosed in screens—quite

literally symbolizes technology taking over lives. When the audience witnesses Guy

experiencing this technology himself, the hidden danger of this force is exposed, stating “A great

thunderstorm of sound gushed from the walls. Music bombarded him at such an immense
volume that his bones were almost shaken from their tendons; he felt his jaw vibrate, his eyes

wobble in his head. He was a victim of concussion” (Bradbury 42). This break down of the

parlour room’s sensation provides an intense viewpoint into the values of their society, as the

over description of sound hints to the audience that quantity is valued over quantity.

Furthermore, the “concussion” like effects suggest on a wider scale that such empty content is

detrimental to the brain and it’s capacity for intelligence. Rather than utilizing a detailed

description of a single incidence, “Nosedive” displays it’s society’s technological entrapment in

a wider-scale manner. In one point in the episode, a pan is utilized to reveal a wide span of

people reliant on their phones in an otherwise ordinary setting (00:03:53 - 00:04:02). At the time,

the main character does not notice the ridiculousness of this scene, merely considering it to be

business as usual. Contrastingly, this perceived ‘normalcy’ of addiction is a huge red flag to the

audience, and they are taken aback by the scale of the problem at hand.

Beyond the harrowing nature of technological addiction itself, throughout both stories

there are real consequences of the societal mentality that are portrayed to the audience upfront.

For example, the problem behind the lack of thoughtful, sustanent content in the world was

brought to light when Guy Montag’s wife, Mildred, attempted suicide. The eeriest aspect of this

scene was not necessarily the attempt itself, but rather the offbeat dismissal of this event’s

importance. For example, the people who came to save Mildred’s life when a distressed Montag

called for help were not quite what would be expected. These two operators left the house after

completing their job with an appalling utter unphasement as Bradbury writes, “And the men with

the cigarettes in their straight-lined mouths, the men with the eyes of puff adders, took up their

load of machine and tube, their case of liquid melancholy and the slow dark sludge of nameless

stuff, and strolled out the door.” (Bradbury 13). For one, the use of metaphor in this passage
comparing the eyes of the operators to venomous snakes largely seems to counteract the task at

hand of sucking out poison. This in turn implies that although it seems the problem was resolved

when Mildred’s life was saved, in fact this over simplification is exactly what will perpetuate it.

This harrowing detail is included to serve as a beginning to Montag’s journey of self discovery.

He realizes that there is in fact more to life than simply not dying, yet is unable to initially

determine exactly what that is. A similar red flag moment occurs in the episode “Nosedive” after

Lacie’s friend Chester suffers from a crushing fall in rank following a breakup. Although Lacie

feels an instinctual compulsion to rate him generously to get him back on his feet, others do not

take too kindly to this help and go on to give unnecessarily bad ratings to both Lacie and

Chester. Unfortunately, while in Fahrenheit 451 this type of compassionless moment triggered

an awakening in Guy’s life, it served an opposite effect on Lacie. Following her coworker

delivering another cruel and unnecessary blow to Chester’s ranking, a shot is displayed in which

Lacie mimicks his duck behind his desk so they both are able to avoid eye contact with Chester,

and in doing so avoiding accountability as well (00:08:05-00:08:06). Although she at first had

compassion, once she was faced with the slightest possibility of consequence for herself she

backed away from the issue. The inclusion of this cowardly action following a moment of

bravery starkly depicts Lacie’s retrogression as she quite literally learns to hide her true self from

the world around her.

The two different character arcs are further differentiated through the impact that others

have on their respective journeys. While certain events hint to Montag that something is wrong,

such as his wife’s attempted sucide, it takes the ideas of real people to fully influence his moral

decisions. The most prominent character in Montag’s journey was none other than the girl who

initially exposed him to natural curiosity; Clarisse McClellan. Clarisse’s radical ideas about
Montag’s job as a fireman and the ludicracy of the uniformity around her left Montag with

endless critical thoughts. In the novel, it states “Was it only an hour ago, Clarisse McClellan in

the street, and him coming in, and the dark room and his foot kicking the little crystal bottle?

Only an hour, but the world had melted down and sprung up in a new and colourless form”

(Bradbury 14). While this description of the instant change that Clarisse’s spirit brought to his

life may seem grim due to the colorless revelations, it is meant to be compellingly expository as

Guy simply uncovers what has always existed, yet had gone unnoticed. It is vital to note

however, that this inner transition would be of no significance if it had not been mirrored through

his actions. By stealing, reading and collecting books, Montag choosingly risked his place in

society in pursuit of intellectual freedom. However, this freedom came with a price. As this

academic pursuit eventually got uncovered by those around him, Montag was forced to leave his

life as he knew it and journey off to foreign territory. Luckily however, in doing so he

encountered like minded people who similarly resented being confined to societies rules.

Together, they were able to experience a freedom unparalleled to anything comfort can get you;

the strength of rebirth.

Contrary to Montag, whose encounters with others enhanced his span of information and

therefore understanding of the world around him, Lacie’s stubborn attitude caused her to blow

off interactions with people who shared their dissenting viewpoints. During a particularly low

point in her life, she was forced to hitch a ride with a truck driver, Susan, whose digital ranking

was far below Lacie’s comfort level. However, Susan ended up proving to be a harmless figure

who heeded a wise warning regarding the futility of trying to climb the social ladder.

Unfortunately, this interaction ends with a shot that proves Lacie had failed to learn her lesson.

In the second leading up to their final parting moment, back lighting from the windshield is
utilized to illuminate Susan’s face and depict her as an enlightened figure. Contrastingly, Lacie,

who is stuck in the back seat, is hidden by shadows that hint that she still is in the dark

(00:43:43). Despite the various forces trying to get Lacie to reflect on her life, her begrudging

attitude to achieve her oversimplified aspirations forces an unnecessarily abrupt plummet. In the

very end of the episode, Lacie is shown in a prison cell having finally been downvoted to a point

of no return. However, she finds solace in this confinement as with nothing left to lose she

finally is able to curse, yell, and outwardly speak her mind. While one could argue her inner

transition parallels Guy’s as both characters finally came to terms with their society’s flaws, the

state of their outer worlds could not juxtapose each other any more. Whereas Guy’s journey

results in him leaving society in order to freely pursue a rebuilding of his world, Lacie’s

enlightenment only occurs once she is confined to a cell, at a point in which she is limited from

changing anything other than herself.

In the context of our current world, more and more people every day are standing up and

professing who they truly are; brave enough to overlook the potential threats and consequences

that come with it. However, for every person who embraces their individualism, there seems to

be another one ripe with the will to suppress it. If the novel Fahrenheit 451 and the episode

“Nosedive” have anything to say for themselves, it is that no matter the outside consequences,

the only way in which we can be truly free within ourselves is to be true to the differences

between ourselves those around us. While a society in which everyone is forced to fit a synthetic

mold might seem like a foolproof business model, it will never truly achieve greatness without

the ability to embrace the organic sense of authenticity.


Works Cited

Bradbury, Ray, 1920-2012. Fahrenheit 451. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1967.

"Nosedive." Black Mirror, Season 3, Episode 1, 21 Oct. 2016. Netflix,

https://www.netflix.com/title/70264888