Fahrenheit 451, one of the most popular novels in many parts of the world is inspiring the relationship between individuals and society, also the relationship between the life expectancy of individuals between consciousness-thinking. Ray Bradbury calls the society that he lives in. How totalitarian regimes affected human beings and social life and how individuals become semi-machined characters who have a strong relationship with a technological items? How the perception of life and interventions on health, privacy, education, self-consciousness, freedom can placed radically in a society? The book shows a view by drawing successful characters and their positions in a world with restriction and censor. Occupations have changed, questioning has been banned, thinking deeply has been evaluated as silly, and reading books is forbidden. The early 1950s America and the crises, situation of the technology, the Cold War, and the invasion of the culture industry is reflected in our novel.1 In this paper, we will try to examine a socially constructed world by state and “happiness definition” and analyze its components through some sources.
Interpretation of The Book
Our book takes place in a world where technology progresses rapidly, individualization becomes visible, and people have a superficial desire to be happy. In addition to mass media exploitation, there is a set of rules ingrained in the minds of individuals. Cars drive very fast, people are restricted by the government to avoid discovering things around them. Communication is weakened, people do not talk to each other about deep matters. Their dialogues are short and about “televisions” that have dominated all their worlds. Advertising posters are enlarged and lengthened to increase the blindness of people’s eyes. There is a living with a contradictory feeling of happiness, without hesitating. When people move away from televisions that line the walls in their living rooms, they get nervous. There are three televisions in the homes of our main character Guy Montag and Mildred. Drugs that are drunk unquestionably and which numb the individual and the earplugs called bugs, which are constantly in the ears, have an important place in our book. Drugs are used when happiness stumbles. Nobody has time to spare for someone else and everyone does their job with a strong sense of duty. Why is the question not asked, asking this question is blocked by a dominant
1 Jack Zipes, Mass Degradation of Humanity and Massive Contradictions in Bradbury’s Vision of America in Fahrenheit 451
authority and mass exploitation. People are afraid of the dangers of the “why” question and prefer to be trapped in their world where happiness is not over.
Most importantly, books are burned by firemen. It is remembered that firemen once worked to extinguish fires, not start them. An alarm sounds anywhere in the city and firefighters go to the scene with their advanced technology equipment. And they are spraying kerosene to turn books into ash. Sometimes some people risk burning with their books, and this situation is described as bigotry. It is very effective that the fire brigade, which burned the books, read their history from a book. Learning action is associated with the book. Despite this, in an inexcusable false consciousness, houses and people are burned along with books. Here we observe how social acceptance makes actions powerful. If an opinion opposing the current situation is expressed, it is punished. If we look at a sentence in the book; “Anyone who thinks they can fool the state and us is crazy” explains everything. The basic mentality is built on not thinking the opposite of the current situation and not questioning what is behind the actions.
Everything is for the happiness of people, it comes into being in such powerful socialization that people are unable to cry to the death of their relatives. Funerals are not held. People do not taste the emotions they should have.2 However, in many possible worlds, there is more pain than happiness. Montag even dares to see this pain to reach the essence. Rather than artificial happiness, he embarks on an uncertain path to lift the veil in his eyes.
Guy Montag is a fireman who does his job well. He is a person who goes from work to house in the monotony of life. One day, while walking home, he sees a young woman named Clarisse McClellan. It is uncommon for individuals to chat with others other than themselves and their “family”. Montag finds mysterious Clarisse’s “abnormal” view of nature and its surroundings. She loves to explore and reflects the traces of being aware of the world by inspiring Montag. This young woman asks him “are you happy?” then he talks about the old job of firefighters. Montag senses the first flicker of the spark that can grow. His questioning and sense of strangeness about the world they live in will increase. Montag is captivated by Clarisse’s light and clarity.3 This young woman has a fascinating stance on living. The lights of his house are
2 Diane S . Wood, Bradbury and Atwood: Exile as Rational Decision
3 Jack Zipes, Mass Degradation of Humanity and Massive Contradictions in Bradbury’s Vision of America in Fahrenheit 451
always on. Because it represents brightness and is a mirror for Montag.4 And the struggle comes out of shell.
Later one day, while Montag and his friends go to set a fire, they witness that a woman can take risk death for her books. And the woman dies. This is one of the turning points for Montag. When he comes home, he wants to share the basic questioning occured in his mind with his wife Mildred. But Mildred is in such an endless world of entertainment that he listens blindly to Montag. However, the issue is the death of a person. How could an old woman be cremated with her books not affect another? At this point, we see that social insensitivity comes to the fore. Collective individualization enables individuals to alienate their society. They become unable to share a common value. There is a critique of modern societies here. I should state that, I subjectively confirm this issue. Today, the media and mass corruption require us to forget what exists and make it less important in matters where we need to protect our anger and sorrow. Like femicide, abuse, inequality, violence, and suicides. This knot is getting more and more complex. Because it’s getting normal. And corruption and social insensitivity are looming. Just like Montag said: “We need to be disturbed by something now.”
Transforming into a hedonistic society reinforces class differences and the action-punishment paradox. We can easily express this by referencing our book.
I should mention that I agree with the interpretation that every character is a book. We understand from the dialogues that each character represents a unique book, and from our ability to make comparisons between individuals with opposite characteristics.
When Montag discovers that he is not happy, he goes on a quest. Why aren’t people happy when they have everything? What’s missing? When he asks his questions, he realizes that it was the books that were destroyed. He finds the strength to fight the current order.
Captain Beatty appears as a pro-state character. A character who believes in the irresistible power of the state and strives for people’s happiness. He tries to convince Montag that they are working for people’s happiness. He argues that not all are born equal, that they are made equal, and the minority groups have rights.
I need to open a parenthesis here. I support the idea that people become lazy when they separate the act of reading from thinking. Let’s leave a book aside, what does it gain us to read even a
4 Rafeeq O. McGiveron “To Build a Mirror Factory”:The Mirror and Self-Examinationin Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451”
sentence without meaning? The process of thinking and questioning is the life keys of individuals.5 If this act of thinking is ignored, we cannot prevent the formation of societies without savings. Just as mentioned in our book, the books are increasingly summarized, shortened, defined, and eventually, the anger against them causes them to burn. But why? Because it is easiest to live unconsciously. It is easier to dress clothes that are shaped by the pressure and authority on us than the clothes we produce with our intellectual process. In this way, we become hedonistic individuals of an alienated society by getting rid of the human form. Ads and media exploitation continue their disadvantaged construction on us. And our thinking and reasoning qualities gradually fade.
Faber is an intellectual character that comes to mind when Montag is looking for a branch to cling to. A person who has succumbed to the system and pressure over time has grown old and lives a cowardly life. Montag’s pursuit of books and his desire to explore becomes meaningful when Faber supports him. Books are still kept somewhere in someone’s mind and there is hope for this struggle.
Our book focuses on the metaphors of sun, candle, light, matches, and fire. This means, as stated towards the end of our story: Fire, which is of great importance for human societies, maintains its guidance in all ages. And it has the feature of heating as well as burning feature.
In our book, as the book of H.G. Wells, The Time Machine, we can comment on the consequences of social changes and transformations that cost society. Social change and advanced technology may not always lead to good results. Because disruptions can be observed in the production and thinking processes of societies that have developed in many ways.
The “mechanical hounds” in our book show that the act of killing has become commonplace. Although it is normalized for children to kill each other and harm each other for the sake of entertainment, it is noteworthy that these mechanical hounds kill animals with their needles and follow a command. With this example, we can have an idea of what authority can produce to instill fear in individuals.
After Faber’s guidance, Montag’s quest to think becomes meaningful. After Clarisse, Faber became the second mirror for Montag.
We can see the reflection of Montag’s anger over the discovery of meaning by going home and treating Mildred and his neighbors. Incredible anger erupts with the state of existing habits and
5 Harold Bloom, Bloom’s Modern Critical Interpretations Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451
televisions called “family” bring their environment. Seeing that individuals are subjected to such marginalization in their inner world, it becomes possible for Montag to explode like a bomb. Ms. Phelps begins to cry when Montag reads a poem from the book. The fact that all this contradiction and the lack of connection between individuals allows us to see a gigantic contradiction.
Later, Montag’s interest in books is noticed by Captain Beatty, and this time firefighters head to Montag’s house to burn books. Mildred runs away from home, Montag is burning his own house. There is a fight between Beatty and Montag outside the house, and Beatty is killed by Montag. One feature of Beatty stands out here. Why does he keep provoking a man with a gun? Can we see unhappiness behind his quotations from the books and what he says to protect the state? Subjectively, I should state that Beatty is a character who is aware of the distortion of the order they live in, but adopts acceptance rather than the concept of struggle.
After Beatty dies, Montag manages to escape the scene. While escaping, he does not neglect to take the four books he hid under the ground. This can be interpreted as the struggle he started as an ordinary person turning him into a gigantic warrior. This change could only have such a powerful effect on an ordinary person.
The mechanical greyhound and helicopters follow him. Then he arrives at Faber’s house, gets one last help from him, and continues to run at full speed.
He succeeded. There is a struggle between the masses and intellectuals rather than a struggle between individuals and the society. Montag avoided degeneration by pursuing thought so determined, perhaps as a person who had not finished a book. Meanwhile, war almost breaks out. Montag enters a river and reaches the beach by the current. Here he meets intellectuals who know his name and have the same struggle. This time, the fire metaphor appears as “heating”. A road has been covered and the fire that always burns is there to heat this time. This is the visible state of transformation in society. Contrary to the usual, change manifests itself in all its being.
On a mini TV, they witness another human being killed instead of Montag. This is an important example of states demonstrating the power to their citizens without reflecting reality (to create fear).
This community, which consists of those who read books and see thinking as a value, aims to pass on the parts of the books they read to the next generations. Granger is one of the forerunners
of the underground resistance society. It aims at preserving the living library together with other intellectuals. They remember certain parts of the books and it is a great treasure for them. When the war is over, when the books are rewritten, they will offer this treasure proudly.
As I mentioned in the interpretation section, one of the most striking points in our book is that the subject of change is once by a person who adapts to authority.
Yes, this book is a dystopia, but in a way it is promising.
And if I have to conclude, every oppressed society can be a place for an individual change, with an individual asking the question “why”. The reorganization of social dynamics is possible with the habits and perceptions of the life of the masses.