Fahrenheit 451 Essay

Palmer 2 Table of Contents Who’s Different?...................................................................................................................4 Life in a Lie............................................................................................................................5 Virtual Interactions................................................................................................................6 True Happiness......................................................................................................................7

Palmer 2 Outline I. Introduction II. Individualism A. Influences B. Ideas C. Entertainment III. Truth A. History B. Nothingness C. Liars IV. Communication A. Forgetfulness B. Society C. Satisfied V. Conclusion

Palmer 2 Emily Palmer Mrs. Peters English 9 25 January 2011 Fahrenheit 451 Essay “Are you happy” (10)? Clarisse’s inquiry, only three words long was very profound. Happiness is a long sought-after ideal, starting from the beginning of time. Many people attain it and lose it again within a matter of moments, days, or years. In the book Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, Guy Montag, the main character, is on a quest for the meaning of life, specifically, his happiness. His workplace, a fire station, is full of pressure, luring him to do what’s “best” for everyone. He burns things: books, people, and houses for a living, and for the first ten years, his tedious job is fulfilling enough. But then, a certain experience makes him focus his perception on a different aspect, an “underground” life. Through this struggle, fought in the mind of man, as well as against each other, happiness will be revealed. Bradbury’s opinion that individualism, truth, and communication are the essential components of true happiness is clearly demonstrated in this novel. Who’s Different? Being caught between who people desire to be and who they are forced to be is not an easy place. Three characters exemplify their vote for or against individualism in this provoking book. Beatty, captain of the firemen, models a being who influences humans in the wrong way. While encouraging Montag to stick it out with fighting against minor forces, Beatty exclaims truthfully that “everyone [is] made equal…then all are happy” (58). But Montag doesn’t see “mirror images” (33), that reflect himself to other firemen as a good thing. No diversity is

Palmer 2 allowed in this society, but only “look alikes” (33), and “function[al]” (26), hounds that respond to whatever the government puts inside of them. Almost a foil to Beatty, Clarisse McClellan, who is “seventeen and crazy” (7), demonstrates full individuality. She dresses in white, contrasting the dull colors everyone else wears. Montag sees in her a curious nature and a head swarming with ideas and questions. Clarisse’s family acts in the same sociable way she does. As Montag and Clarisse walk home on a starry night, Montag is startled by a new dynamic to life that most people ignore in their day-to-day lives. Laughter and chatter filter out of the McClellan house like a fresh breeze that wakes somebody up from their sleep. To take this a step further, Montag reflects upon how his wife, Mildred, spends all of her time watching the parlor. She stares at the “one-hundred piece symphony orchestra [with] full color [and] three dimensions” (84), not grasping what is actually taking place. Even though Mildred says she is happy, she attempts to leave the robot world she lives in to be in a better place by overdosing herself with pills. Montag is torn when he realizes his life-partner isn’t interested in the truth or in relationships, but survives fully on what entertainment from the virtual world can provide. All of these happenings almost knock Montag down from his theory of what really makes people happy, and at this point he is on the verge of questioning himself, people, and ideas. Life in a Lie In everyday life, truth reveals itself even though forces may try to package it up, throw it down a deep, dark hold, and pretend it isn’t what society thinks it is. Every time Montag stumbles into an unexpected situation, he learns more about what is really occurring around him and to him. That night when dark and light meet, Clarisse opens up a door that has been sealed shut for eternity: “they needed firemen to stop the flames” (8). Montag laughs at the thought, but Clarisse fires back, explaining her great-grandpa “remember[s] when children didn’t kill each

Palmer 2 other” (30). Montag stops and watches all of his past come to life: the murder, the ignorance, and the propaganda. At this point, his brain begins to activate, and he starts to ask meaningful questions. Clarisse reminds him of how in school “[they] never ask questions…[the teachers] just run the answers” (29). Then Beatty admits that people think they are doing something, but in their lifetimes, they are accomplishing nothing. The government controls what people think about and “cram them full of non-combustible data…so…they feel stuffed” (61), but in reality they know nothing and feel nothing. Books become ash in the murderous hands of the firemen, and the truth is hidden from the curious and the eager. Liars like Beatty vow that “books say nothing” (62), and “people in those books never lived” (38). How then, Montag wonders, so those lunatics, like the woman who burned with her house, give their lives for lies and fantasy? “[Books] must [have] something…things [they] can’t imagine” (51). Once again, Montag recollects his memories from when he first encounters the white light, and truthfully tells himself he isn’t happy, and all the superficial data from the government did him no good. “Virtual” Interactions Crawling into bed at night, Montag feels as though he is in a virtual world, one where he doesn’t even know his own wife! Mildred constantly has her head in the clouds where words are piling up in her brain, not being deciphered. Even though Mildred keeps her Seashells in her ears consistently, she can comprehend what Montag is commenting on by her excellent “lip-reading” (18). Occasionally, the couple have some in-depth conversations, but usually they get nowhere because they forget what went on in their past lives “only ten years ago” (43). The only vague detail Montag remembers about the woman he spent part of his life with is “her hands… hang[ing] there at her sides” (52), not doing anything noteworthy. Aside from personal relationships, social life is also skewed: “Crowds [are] going somewhere…nowhere” (57). Their

Palmer 2 lives are a mix of watching the parlor walls, soaking in shallow information, and once in a while talking with real people. Society is only participation in “unnecessary, time wasting thought” (55), that will fade away. Nomadic people that sway back and forth can only last so long before they find solid ground. Beatty states that people live “for pleasure” (59), and “want to be happy” (59), but pleasures only last a short time before humanity is bored and wants a new game to play. So the government “crams[s] them full of non-combustible data…so…they feel stuffed” and “they’ll be happy, because the facts of that sort don’t change” (61). People are satisfied with being less than they are made to be, and don’t realize that what brings happiness is good for man: communication. True Happiness Throughout this book, Bradbury clearly demonstrates that individualism, truth, and communication are essential components of happiness. In society, people put their hope in newfound technology and the belief that everything they think is true is reality. If Bradbury’s prophesy is correct, then humanity is headed towards insufficient joy and living in lies. Material items are satisfactory, but what leads to true happiness usually results from the intangible world. Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451. Ballantine Books. New York: 1991.

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