Today, there are over 7.3 billion people sharing this planet that we call home. There are over 7.3 billion people on this earth yet not one person is exactly alike as the other. This is what makes humanity beautiful. Every individual possesses their own appearance, their own personality, their own mind, and their own soul. We are an extraordinary species created in the image of our Creator. But the problem that comes with being human and possessing our own opinions, is the concept of being “normal.” The real questions that arise from this concept is: “What is considered normal and who is worthy enough to decide who or what is normal?”
The classical novel Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, published over a half a century ago, revealed a surprising portrayal of a future society which can be seen as very similar to the society in which we live today. Bradbury’s dystopian world seems to be set in a future environment that is immediate, personal, and in a sense, intimate. This society concocts an atmosphere that citizens truly believe is extravagant, but to a current thinker like you and me, strange and almost robotic. I believe that Bradbury, in writing this novel, strived to open the eyes of his fellow citizens to the reality of what he witnessed in his society and government in the 1950s. Simultaneously, he also sent out a warning to the future generations. To do this, I think that he made the book relatable by creating a world that we can relate to, but with meager anticipation in time.
When I first began reading Fahrenheit 451, my mind was very confused by the events happening within the story. At first, I suspected that I was lacking comprehension due to the fact that Ray Bradbury’s writing style is very different from what I am use to reading. His writing style caused the same difficulty in reading for me that William Shakespeare’s pieces did. Over time, I started to find the book easier to read and actually fell in love with the uniqueness of Bradbury’s style. It forced me start to analyzing the plot and search for deeper meaning behind it. That’s when it hit me. I now believe that, in the beginning, I couldn’t understand what was occurring because the society that Bradbury had created was so different from our current, not because his writing style was unusual. This is why I decided to delve deeper into the two societies.
Within the dystopian world, readers are able to imagine a future American society which consists of censorship, book burning, and completely oblivious citizens. Readers are first introduced to the protagonist, Guy Montag, who has been working as a fireman for years. The first unusual aspect of Fahrenheit 451 is shared: firemen don’t fight fires, they start them. They believe that fire is the solution to their problems due to the fact that “fire is bright and fire is clean” (60). If something is making you unhappy, burn it. This begins the journey for readers as we gradually realize that in this society, people are obsessed with being happy. They believe that as long as everyone possesses the same amount of happiness, life will be grand. Though having a life that’s filled with joy and bliss seems like the better path, Bradbury reveals that human beings always take it a step too far.
The most significant example of the results of taking “human happiness” or “sinful happiness” too far is Montag’s wife, Mildred. The book describes her personality and living habits in full detail to bring out the extent of the effects. “And in her ears the little Seashells, the thimble radios tamped tight, and an electronic ocean of sound, of music and talk…coming in on the shore of her unsleeping mind” (12). Mildred is displayed as the perfect example of how everyone in the society is portrayed. They love to be involved and connected to everything, in fear of missing out. Another would be the “families” that are displayed on the parlour walls. They are constantly on because the society is obsessed with social norms. This has created a world that is so connected with technology that they have disconnected from the reality of the physical world. Those who don’t conform to what is normal (or what I love to call “programmed”) are snatched from the rest and punished.
Within Bradbury’s society, those who don’t fit in are the people that I personally strive to be: thinkers, questioners, someone who positively stands out from the crowd. The young woman, Clarisse, was one of my favorite individuals even if readers didn’t get to know her for too long. She understood that she was different from the rest and she accepted it. Instead of going about her monotonous schedule, she went out into the world and made an impact somehow. “Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories” (157). This quote fits perfectly with Clarisse’s personality and mindset because every single day she completed something different. She came up with new ideas, constructed projects, discussed intriguing topics, etc. This is why society despised her. Their world had commanded that you only asked “how,” and yet those who were different often asked “why?”
This started to make my mind churn about how Bradbury was trying to relate to our own world. How often do we see someone, or witness something and think to ourselves “well that was weird (or in other words, not normal)?” We too obliviously live within the boundaries that society has created for us. We are living in a time where the media is significantly influencing the way we learn and produce knowledge. Media displays examples of how people should look, act, think, and achieve. If you fail at any of those aspects, then you’re abnormal or a failure. We have allowed people with the loudest voices to define what normal is and what one must succeed at to be accepted into our society. The problem is that just because they are the loudest, doesn’t make them the most intelligent or, in general, right.
Currently, we see certain groups that media has deemed as lesser due to their own reasoning. Those who are considered overweight because their bones aren’t visible, certain races and religious groups, the physically and mentally disabled, individuals of lower social class, and the list could go on and on. What I see as insane is that we know it’s wrong and yet we don’t do anything. We sit on the sidelines and simply watch. This type of mindset almost excites us, yet at the same time is causes fear of the natural world surrounding us. We live our lives in the way that we deem as safe and secure from all the tribulations that are occurring. Our society is willing to complete what they tell us to do and if we don’t, we’re considered rebellious and become one of the many individuals who don’t fit in. In a way, we are no better than the citizens in Fahrenheit 451 who are blindly controlled.
This book is exceptionally eye-opening. I find it insane that Ray Bradbury was able to predict what our society would be like over a half a century after his. He completed this before technology was even popular in people’s lives. This book has become one of my favorites due to the amount of truth that is hidden beneath the dystopian plot. “Books were only one type of receptacle where we stored a lot of things we were afraid we might forget. There is nothing magical in them at all. The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us” (83). Even though books are created for reader’s enjoyment, we often need to dig deeper and we will discover a whole new meaning and lesson behind the plot, just like Fahrenheit 451 did for me. In the end, I admire the novel for helping people realize and understand that the United States is not too far from the reality of Bradbury’s creation.
Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451. New York: Del Rey Book, 1978. Print.