Guy Montag Character Development (Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury Book Review)
Numerous novels touch upon the subject of what lies ahead for humanity’s future. More often than not, these books are set in a world where technology has become a prominent part of the characters’ lives. Although these technological advancements can sometimes serve as an enhancement of human life, this is not the case for Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. In this dystopian novel, censorship over books has reached an ultimate high as firefighters have begun to burn any books they find. One of these firefighters- Guy Montag- soon realizes that the world around him was not happy, and that books could be the solution to their problems. As Montag develops throughout the book, he learns lessons such as the danger of ignorance, the importance of having apathy, and to take time to fully process information, all of which can be taught through books.
Most of the citizens in the novel value endless entertainment—with entire walls of their homes serving as virtual worlds, and are in turn kept in ignorant bliss. In this society, knowledge is considered unimportant as it can bring unpleasant feelings. The same thing can be said for our world, as most of the population tends to constantly busy themselves to prevent any negative feelings. “Why learn anything save pressing buttons, pulling switches, fitting nuts and bolts?” (p. 53) When not staring at a screen, there are some people who only want to spend their time working instead of improving upon themselves. By focusing only on their jobs and surface-level entertainment, people in both our society and Montag’s cut off all possibilities of thought. Rather than trying to fix the world around them, people practice escapism to ignore their problems and unhappiness. “...said nothing of the bomb... Mildred, leaning anxiously nervously, as if to plunge, drop, fall into that swarming immensity of color to drown in its bright happiness.” (p.152) All the information that is needed to keep humanity safe exists, but if people are not willing to look for it then we will live a life full of ignorance.
As technology has surged in Montag’s world, so has the amount of violence. The population has become numb due to their unhealthy attachment to their electronics. Although there is a high risk of a war starting, none of the citizens appear worried about this. Moreover, the war also shows that those in the population who have spouses do not have much of a connection with them. “He said, if I get killed off, you just go right ahead and don’t cry, but get married again, and don’t think of me.” (p. 91) Due to the war, there are people who have significant others that have a chance of dying. However, since the population has become so numb to violence, they feel no apathy for one another. This violence is taught to children when they are young, and so they believe that violence is a normal part of life. “But everyone I know is either shouting or dancing around like wild or beating up one another. Do you notice how people hurt each other nowadays?” (p. 27) Social media is shaping the behavior of society in both the novel and in real life. When we notice people hurting each other, some part of the population might copy this behavior.
Often in today’s society, people wish for information in quick spurts, rather than reading an article in its entirety. Much like in Fahrenheit 451, people tend to avoid new knowledge, and when they need to learn something, they only want the bare minimum on the topic. “Books cut shorter. Condensations. Digests, tabloids. Everything boils down to the gag, the snap ending.” (p. 52) By seeking out the quickest way to gain information, society is training its brain to always take the shortcut. Although this can save time, it can cause problems when something drastic happens and you don’t have the mental skills to comprehend the situation. This is why the novel has subtleties to teach the reader the importance of taking their time.“The river… gave him the time at last, the leisure, to consider this month, this year, and a lifetime of years.” (p. 134) Montag’s psychological progression throughout the novel, when compared to the rest of his society, shows the reader how important it is to stop and think. Since the majority of the people in Montag’s world show little consideration for others, they rarely think about the consequences of their actions. While the same can be said about the real world, the novel illustrates what could happen if these behaviors continue, and therefore provides us with a warning.
In Fahrenheit 451, the characters’ actions serve as lessons to the reader. By seeing how greatly the world was impacted by only a few of Montag’s opinions, if more of the population were to follow his lead then many of the society’s problems would likely lessen. The lessons learned from the novel can also be applied to real-life situations, which makes them all the more important. Though the book revolves around the faults of society, it helps show readers that there are plausible actions that they can take to prevent this world from becoming a reality.