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 

 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, sue to some 
uncontrollable events, his discover 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 that 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 

 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 

 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. 

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


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