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Fahrenheit 451

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Ray Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451 shows how without constant education of our past and maintenance of values, many of the great things that we hold dear to us in our society may be taken away. Bradbury presents to us a dystopian novel set far in the future that greatly differed from the time period he wrote the novel in, the 1950’s. Society has ridden the people of many of their freedoms while they are uncognizant and sit in their homes all day with their multi-walled televisions watching their “family” in their parlors. Bradbury writes his novel in such a way that each person who reads it may come out with a separate theme, and all of these could be proven true with support from the story. His theme that we must remember our past to prevent calamities in the future is supported through the arrival of a new wave of firemen, the introduction of past professors, and Montag’s constant struggle against what he is presented with in his world.

In Fahrenheit 451 firemen are not what they are today. In fact, they actually perform a job that is quite the opposite of their current one—they burn and destroy. All of the houses in this futuristic novel are supposedly fireproofed, and the job of these firemen is to find out where people have books and set flames to them. Books were outlawed in the novel since they create inequality, but in reality we must revere books because they allow the spreading of all kinds of ideas and continue to love and withhold them lest they be taken away from us. The people within the novel were also given lies about their past from the government which tells them Benjamin Franklin started the practice of book burning against the British. We don’t want widespread lies like this to happen to us, so we must continue to exercise our freedoms.

While Bradbury shows us the cruel state of liberty in the future, he also provides us a picture of the past when learning was still available and books weren’t illegal. We are introduced to characters who are retired professors, men who still remember and love books and the valuable information they hold. The first professor we meet, Faber, shows us how a terrible loss of freedoms could take place. He describes how the government began to ban books because they caused too much strife between different groups, but he, a man who loved learning, sat around and did nothing about this destruction. If we are all as complacent as Faber even though we are passionate about something, it could easily be taken away from us as the books in Fahrenheit 451. Bradbury uses this example to stress how everyone should continuously be involved with what is going on in our ever-changing world or something important may be snatched out from under our feet.

Finally, Bradbury uses the dynamic character of Guy Montag to show how we should remember our past. In the beginning of the novel, Montag is a man who loves his job as a book killing fireman. He continuously shows a grim smile everywhere he goes. All of this changes when he meets Clarisse, and open-minded 17 year old girl who understands what it really means to live more than the rest of society. After spending time with her, Montag realizes that her views are right and that something is seriously wrong with society. He finally sees his almost suicidal wife and her tragically brainwashed friends as they really are—sad and hopeless in a society restricted of our freedoms. When Montag realizes this, he goes on a great and treacherous journey to try and find how life should really be, and in the process he shows us how our freedoms should actually bleed through. After murdering a fireman and escaping killer hound, he finds himself on a journey to find what life is really about.

In conclusion, we must always hold on to what is important to us. If we are not careful to hold on and protect our freedoms, we could wind up in a Hitleresque of Fahrenheit 451 esque world with no free exchange of idea. Make sure to remember your freedoms and protect them at all costs.

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Lewis Cass High School, Walton, Indiana,
Fahrenheit 451