Theme Of Dystopia In Fahrenheit 451



The government controlled the people in the society by limiting independent thoughts, books, and social life. In the novel Fahrenheit 451, protagonist Guy Montag starts off as a dedicated fireman, who shows no hesitation in burning books. Despite this accepted conformity in society, Montag begins to question the value and meaning of life. His friendship with Clarisse and Faber, compelled forward by the death of an innocent woman, changes the perception of Montag. As his viewpoints shift, he becomes an outcast and contradicts society’s conformity.  Ultimately Montag’s transformation portrays the importance of knowledge and individuality as they apply to the meaning of life.

In the paradox society, Clarisse, having both qualities of knowledge and individuality, is a catalyst for Montag’s transformation. Clarisse is a seventeen year old teen who likes to interact and have a conversation with people, however the society labels her as an outcast or “antisocial”. This represents how the society views an individual who does not fit in with others. Clarisse started walking with Montag after his shift at the firehouse before Clarisse went into her house, Clarisse asked Montag, “Are you happy?” (Bradbury 21). Before Montag could reply, Clarisse ran inside her house. The question lingered inside Montag’s head. “He felt his smile slide away, melt, fold over and down on itself like a tallow skin,... He was not happy” (Bradbury 23). This quote indicates the start of a change in Montag. Additionally, another quote from the book states “He wore his happiness like a mask and the girl had run off across the lawn with the mask and there was no way of going to knock on her door and ask for it back” (Bradbury 23). The excerpt from the text exhibited that Clarisse had induced him to realize his happiness was an imitation of society’s standard, which expected people to be persistently happy. The people of the society were programmed like robots to block independent thoughts. They had never taken the time to consider their true emotions. The acknowledgment of his true emotion was the first sign of acceptance that expressed who he truly was. From meeting Clarisse, Montag was able to develop individuality and  began to question society and his own decisions. Clarisse ignited the fire inside Montag to search for his meaning in life.

After the incident of a woman committing suicide with her books, Montag is shaken to the core and he begins to wonder what is inside the books. Montag said to Mildred, “There must be something in books, things we can’t imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there. You don’t stay for nothing” (Bradbury 65). The quote from the novel represents the message Montag felt the old woman was trying to convey to others. She would rather die than face the future without her books. When Mildred heard what Montag said, she made an insensitive comment, “She was simple-minded” (Bradbury 65). The interaction between Montag and Mildred displays the change in Montag. Mildred is represented as the majority in the society, she does not understand the meaning of books. On the other hand, the comparison between Montag and Mildred leads to the conclusion that Montag perceives the incident differently than the society. This incident provokes Montag to start thinking about the importance of books. The innocent women believed a world without books was not worth living. The woman’s individuality, which were staying true to her belief, sent a significant message to Montag. She had sacrificed herself to fight against the censorship. After this incident, Montag is in discontent with his job as a fireman. He has opened his eyes to see how evil the society is.  The curiosity arouses inside Montag and he is eager to learn to acquire more knowledge.

The dystopian society prevented the people from obtaining knowledge and displaying their uniqueness to others. The fast-paced society has forgotten to take moments of their life to slow down and absorb their surroundings. Faber, a former english professor, first met Montag at the park. After talking for a bit, Faber gave Montag his address and phone number if he ever changed his mind to burn his books. Montag decides to seek answers from him. When Montag questions if books are the missing aspect of the corrupted society, Faber answers Montag by saying “‘It’s not books you need, it’s some of the things that once were in books. The same things could be in the ‘parlor families’ today. The same infinite detail and awareness could be projected through the radios and televisions, but are not.’” (Bradbury 95). Faber stated that the information in the books could be recited in anyways for the people. However, the people in the society could care less about the information in the books because they simply do not care. The depth of knowledge from the books do not appeal to the people anymore. Faber pointed out that the lack of books is not the sole reason, people have lost the curiosity, deeper level of thinking and knowledge. When Faber and Montag devise a plan, Montag mentions that he is not thinking on his own, Faber replies by saying, “You’ve started already, by saying what you just said. You’ll have to take me on faith” (Bradbury 106). Faber is a trustworthy individual who mentors Montag to thinking as an individual, at the same time gradually building up Montag’s confidence. Faber provided Montag crucial information about their society as well as why the society needed a change.

In the novel Fahrenheit 451, it displays Montag’s change through Clarisse, Faber, and the woman who committed suicide. Guy Montag gains knowledge and develops individuality to save the future generation. With Montag’s transformation, it uncovers the paradox of society limiting the growth of individuality and suppressing knowledge from the people, eventually stealing their reason to live. Montag’s transformation is complete when he shifts from a fire loving fireman to an intellectual with a purpose in his life.