February 14, 2012
Like a Phoenix
Ray Bradbury, having grown up during the depression and being a skeptical adult during the fifties thought an uneducated and unchallenged mind made for a more malleable and controllable society. And it wasn’t until Bradbury’s era that it was even possible to think of the basic idea of a society being so dumbed down by modern technology and gadgetry that the population would fall victim to a power hungry governmental hand. The human population would rely so heavily on their cool new toys and what the “talking walls” had to say that eventually the government would be able to control their minds by controlling the media. The basis of knowledge and self-thought comes from one’s ability to read and learn through the use of books that hold all of the world’s most precious and valuable information. But the more knowledge one has, inevitably gives that person more power over those who are not as educated, which in turn creates conflict and strife between people. Wars erupt, crime runs rampant, everyone begins taking sides and people get hurt. So how does one solve that? One would think that the chances of this happening would be nearly impossible because there would always be educated people to thwart anything remotely close to this happening. But imagine if a government became so ruthless that they began to kill off the educated population and destroy the fundamental roots of traditional education and learning. Bradbury takes this idea to a whole new level in his book “Fahrenheit 451”, in which he depicts a government that burns all the books in it so that it can cut off The fuel to education and self-thought. Fire, a central theme in this novel, provides the basic metaphors for this book to develop. The ambivalent associations with fire as both destroyer and center of hearth and home fundamentally structure this novel and Bradbury uses this ever-changing image as a catalyst to show the conversion from ignorance to wisdom in the Montag, the protagonist’s life, and how he sees the wrong in society, rebels against it, and in the end begins to rebuild it.
In the beginning of the book, Montag’s occupation as a fireman first introduces the reader to the image of fire, used as an image of illumination in his life as he begins to see the emptiness in his life and the wrong in the psychotic, dystopic world in which he dwells. To Montag, everything in his society seemed normal because he had never been taught differently. That is until Montag meets a young girl named Clarisse. Clarisse, a young, open-minded girl, asks Montag very odd questions about his life and job as a fireman, why he burns books, the actual history of books, and strange questions about life in general that opens Montag’s mind to a new world in which he has never explored, the world of self-thought. It’s the simplest concepts in life that make the most dramatic effect on the world like, ““Do you ever read any of the books you burn?”” (10), and “’Is it true that long ago firemen put fires out instead of going to start them?’” (11). Yet even though they were such simple questions, Montag begins to realize the significance of the young girls probing curiosity and the underlying reasons on why she was asking him those kinds of questions. It wasn’t the fact that she was judging him based on his actions or occupation, but that her curiosity came from her ability to see past the norm, and attempt to learn more about the world and the people in it. The absence of self-thought defines nothingness; no joy, no hope, no love, and no peace if you are a drone to the clasps of a broken world. “No one has time any more for anyone else” because everyone focuses so dearly on themselves, not in a productive sense, but instead a selfish, festering annoyance with the people around you because the people around you are all
Walker 3 the same (30). This leaves no room for creativity, discovery, or happiness because the tyrannical…