The fictional novel, “Fahrenheit 451,” by Ray Bradbury, depicts a future dystopian world
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in which a conflicted man, Guy Montag, must face the difficult decision of conforming or breaking away from society. This community that Guy Montag lives in prefers to create a strict structure of conformity within the society, shunning those who think for themselves or have a higher intelligence. Ray Bradbury utilizes the setting and internal conflict of the protagonist, Guy Montag, to express that despite conformities orderly and peaceful nature, individuality fosters new ideas and change which are necessary for progress.
The setting of the story and Guy Montag’s internal conflict of whether to conform, displays how individuality is complex and breeds new ideas, while conformity is simple and resists change. When Guy Montag comes home from burning a woman’s house because she owned books, he noticed that she would rather burn with her books then give them up to the firemen. While at the burn site, he could not fathom how books could be worth more than one’s life and chooses to steal a book to find the answer. While Guy’s wife, Mildred, was arguing about whether Guy could quit work for a while, Montag begins to contemplate whether he should have become a fireman and says, “ ‘Thought! Was I given a choice? My grandfather and father were firemen. In my sleep, I ran after them.”(51).
Guy is very internally conflicted while speculating of whether becoming a fireman was a good career choice. When Guy says the phrase “ ‘Thought! Was I given a choice,” Ray Bradbury highlights the idea that individuality fosters ideas and conflict, while conformity negates conflict for society to stay orderly. These ideas begin to give people “choice” in how they act and think, rather than fall in line with the rest of society. Guy begins to understand the power of individuality when he breeds conflict with Mildred to further understand how to solve problems that he would have previously ignored.
By Guy saying “ ‘My grandfather and father were firemen. In my sleep, I ran after them,” he understands that his past-self would just follow or “run” after what was the norm and would not break away from it. Guy begins to think individually to solve his problem of unhappiness instead of ignoring it and moving on. In search of his solution, he informs his fire-captain that he is sick and would not arrive to work. Guy’s fire-captain, Captain Beatty, knew that Guy had stolen a book and decided to speak with Guy. While at Guy’s house, Captain Beatty attempts to force Guy into conforming with society and says, “We must all be alike. Not everyone born free and equal, but everyone made equal. Each man the image of every other; then all are happy, for there are no mountains to make them cower, to judge themselves against.”(58).
Ray Bradbury creates a setting which prioritizes happiness and demonstrates how conformity creates a simple and peaceful society. When Captain Beatty says, “Not everyone born free and equal, but everyone made equal,” he explains how society should function such that nobody can become more capable and instead must fit into the societal norm to achieve happiness. Captain Beatty uses the phrase “there are no mountains to make them cower” to describe how a society which promotes perfect equality makes citizens safe from “mountains”, a symbol for those who are superior in intelligence.
A culture in which nobody can “judge themselves against” another, there is no possibility for envy because all are alike. By creating a society with no opportunity for someone superior to another, it promotes order and harmony within the society because there are no moments of conflict or envy.
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