Brave New World and Fahrenheit 451


For more than half a century science fiction writers have
thrilled and challenged readers with visions of the future
and future worlds. These authors offered an insight into
what they expected man, society, and life to be like at
some future time.
One such author, Ray Bradbury, utilized this concept in his
work, "Fahrenheit 451", a futuristic look at a man and his
role in society. Bradbury utilizes the luxuries of life in
America today, in addition to various occupations and
technological advances, to show what life could be like if
the future takes a drastic turn for the worse. He turns
man's best friend, the dog, against man, changes the role
of public servants and changes the value of a person.
Aldous Huxley also uses the concept of society out of
control in his science fiction novel "Brave New World".
Written late in his career, Brave New World also deals with
man in a changed society. Huxley asks his readers to look
at the role of science and literature in the future world,
scared that it may be rendered useless and discarded.
Unlike Bradbury, Huxley includes in his book a group of
people unaffected by the changes in society, a group that
still has religious beliefs and marriage, things no longer
part of the changed society, to compare and contrast
today's culture with his proposed futuristic culture.
But one theme that both Brave New World and Fahrenheit 451
use in common is the theme of individual discovery by
refusing to accept a passive approach to life, and refusing
to conform. In addition, the refusal of various methods of
escape from reality is shown to be a path to discovery. In
"Brave New World", the main characters of Bernard Marx and
the "Savage" boy John both come to realize the faults with
their own cultures. In "Fahrenheit 451", Guy Montag begins
to discover that things could be better in his society but,
due to some uncontrollable events, his discovery happens
much faster than it would have. He is forced out on his
own, away from society, to live with others like himself
who think differently than the society does.
Marx, from the civilized culture, seriously questions the
lack of history that his society has. He also wonders as to
the lack of books, banned because they were old and did not
encourage the new culture. By visiting a reservation, home
of an "uncivilized" culture of savages, he is able to see
first hand something of what life and society use to be
like. Afterwards he returns and attempts to incorporate
some of what he saw into his work as an advertising agent.
As a result with this contrast with the other culture, Marx
discovers more about himself as well. He is able to see
more clearly the things that had always set him on edge:
the promiscuity, the domination of the government and the
lifelessness in which he lived. (Allen)
John, often referred to as "the Savage" because he was able
to leave the reservation with Marx to go to London to live
with him, also has a hard time adjusting to the drastic
changes. The son of two members of the modern society but
born and raised on the reservation, John learned from his
mother the values and the customs of the "civilized" world
while living in a culture that had much different values
and practices. Though his mother talked of the promiscuity
that she had practiced before she was left on the
reservation (she was accidentally left there while on
vacation, much as Marx was) and did still practice it, John
was raised, thanks to the people around him, with the
belief that these actions were wrong. Seeing his mother act
in a manner that obviously reflected different values
greatly affected and hurt John, especially when he returned
with Marx to London. John loved his mother, but he, a
hybrid of the two cultures, was stuck in the middle. (May)
These concepts, human reaction to changes in their culture
and questioning of these changes, are evident throughout
the book. Huxley's characters either conform to society's
demands for uniformity or rebel and begin a process of
discovery; there are no people in the middle. By doing so,
Huxley makes his own views of man and society evident. He
shows that those who conform to the "brave new world"
become less human, but those who actively question the new
values of society discover truth about the society, about
themselves, and about people in general. An example of this
is Huxley's views of drugs as an escape. The conforming
members of society used widely a drug called soma, which
induces hallucinations and escapes from the conscious world
for two to eight hour periods. Those very few who didn't,
John included, mainly did not because they thought the drug
either unclean or an easy escape, one not needed in a
society aiming at making life very simple. By refusing to
"go along" in this escape from reality, John is ultimately
able to break from society and define his own destiny.
In "Fahrenheit 451" Guy Montag, the main character, is able
to see through the government and the official policies of
his society. He does so by gradually beginning to question
certain aspect of society which most simply accept as fact.
Montag's job as a fireman serves as a setting to show how
many people passively accept the absurdity of their
society. Instead of rushing to put out fires, as firemen
today do, Montag rushes to start fires, burning the books
and homes of people reported to have books. This was
considered by most people to be a respectable profession.
But on different occasions Montag took a book out of
burning homes and would from time to time read them. From
this, he begins to to question the values of his society.
Montag's marriage also serves a setting to contrast passive
acceptance versus questioning of society's values. His
marriage is not the happy kind that couples today
experience but more like a coexistence. He and his wife
live together and he supports her, though he apparently
neither loves her a great deal or expects her to love him.
This relationship and living arrangement, with its lack of
love, is Bradbury's way of showing what life could be like
if people not only stop communicating but stop thinking and
choosing, thus loosing control over their lives. Montag and
his wife continue to live together though people in that
situation today would not hesitate to terminate such a
relationship. Montag's wife apparently accepts this
relationship because it is normal for the society in which
she lives. (Wolfheim)
Like "Brave New World", characters escaping from reality
through the use of soma, Montag's wife, and many other
characters, escape through watching a sophisticated form of
television. This television system covers three of the
walls of the Montag's TV room (they can't afford to buy the
screen to cover the fourth wall), has a control unit that
allows the watchers to interact with the characters on the
program and another unit that inserts Mrs. Montag's name
into specific places, thus creating the image they the
characters are actually conversing with them. Montag's
wife, having only a few friends and ones she rarely sees,
spends much of her day in this room, watching a program
called "The Family", a government sponsored program that
shows the viewers what life at home should be like.
The problem with this is that Montag's wife takes the
program as a substitute for reality. She is almost addicted
to the program, much as people were with soma in "Brave New
World". Bradbury uses this television and it's programs as
a way of showing the escape he is worried people will look
for in the future. Without actively questioning society's
values, he is concerned that people will look for ways to
idly spend their time.
But like Marx, Montag chooses not to take part in this
addiction. By abstaining, he can see the affects it's use
has on the people around him, much as Marx and more
importantly John the Savage saw in their culture. Both
authors try to show that with life made easier by strong
government control and a lack of personal involvement
people will no longer spend their time thinking,
questioning or developing their own ideas.
Through these various diversions from normal behavior in
society, Marx, John the Savage, and Guy Montag are able to
see the truths behind the societies they live in and are
able to learn about themselves. And though their
discoveries meant that their lives would be changed
forever, the authors succeeded in showing that the key to
humanity lies in thinking and questioning. These men found
themselves through their own discoveries, much as Bradbury
and Huxley hope others will do. 
Works Cited:
Allen, Walter. The Modern Novel. Dutton, 1964
May, Keith M. Aldous Huxley. Paul Elek Books Ltd., 1972
Wolfheim, Donald. The Universe Makers. Harper and Row, 1971


Quotes: Search by Author