Ray Bradbury’s science-fiction novel Fahrenheit 451 has literary elements that strengthen
its interpretation. The theme of this novel is the significance of a person’s independent
thought. The literary movement of this piece of literature is Romanticism. Through the
use of Guy Montag, an emotionally distressed individual who realizes the importance of
independent thinking, Fahrenheit 451’s theme and literary movement are better
understood.
The theme of Fahrenheit 451 is the importance of an individual’s independent
thought and the individual’s creative ability. Guy Montag never thought about what he
did because he was told what he did was appropriate for society, and also he is happy with
his role in society. He felt like that until he met Clarisse McClellan, a 17 year-old girl that
society calls a mental case because she questions society. She “teaches” Montag about the
past when society did not fear the firemen. When he talked to the his colleagues they laugh
at him because they believe what their handbook says. “The only action these characters
take is to maintain their status quo-the way things are. In contrast, Clarisse, Montag and
Faber are individuals who wonder about their world and, in the case of Montag and Faber,
are able to make attempts to change things” (Telgen 145).He had been taking the books at
some of the midnight runs he had, but never really wanted to find out what is written in
them until after he found out that Clarisse died. A person that helped Montag expand his
creativity was Professor Faber. He was a man that Montag remembered he had met when
he needed someone else’s guidance to do the right thing for himself. Professor Faber tells
Montag about how society has depended on technology for many things and that
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technology threatened the development of the mind. “In Bradbury’s novel, education’s
emphasis on technology leads to a culture where people understand how things are done
but never bother to wonder why things are done” (Levy 1314). This type of education
does not encourage the persons with unique abilities to look into depth and find a reason
for why things are done. “School is shortened, discipline relaxed, philosophies, histories,
languages dropped, English and spelling gradually gradually neglected, finally almost
completely ignored. Life is immediate, the job counts, pleasure lies about after work.
Why learn anything, save pressing buttons, pulling switches, fitting nuts and bolts?”
(Bradbury 55-6). This is the quote that Captain Beatty, Montag’s boss, said to Montag
when Montag was not sure about being a fireman.
Novels have many aspects that influence the author in determining the type of plot
they should include. The literary movement of Fahrenheit 451 is Romanticism. It has six
different characteristics: 1) emphasizes individualism, spontaneity, and freedom from rules;
2) shows a solitary life, not a life in society; 3) shows a belief that imagination is superior
to reason; 4) reflects a devotion to beauty; 5) shows a love and worship of nature and
fascination with the past, especially with myths and the supernatural; 6) shows a
passionate love of country (Donnell 2). Montag emphasizes disposition, whimsical
tendency, and salvation from regulations by changing his belief about community after
being a fireman for 12 years. “Bradbury has been called a romantic, and his romanticism
often surfaces in the themes he investigates: the conflict between human vitality and
spiritless mechanism, between the creative individual and the conforming group,...”
(Paradowski 356). Clarisse McClellan and her family showed a life not within the
standards of society and also they are people that remain alone and not associate with
society.
We had some false alarms on the McClellans, when they lived in Chicago. Never
found a book. Uncle had mixed records; antisocial. The girl? She was a time
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bomb. The family had been feeding her subconscious, I’m sure, from what I saw
of her school record. She didn’t want to know how a thing was done, but why.
(Bradbury 60)
What Captain Beatty said about the McClellans proves they were considered outcasts.
Professor Faber shows the confidence that imagination is greater to understanding. This
was proven by the quote, “The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the
patches of the universe together into one garment for us” (83). This means that the only
things that is needed is the information provided in books that help explain the items that
are not explained by the reason.
The plot and theme are captured more thoroughly through the use of distinct
characters and their points of view. The protagonist of the novel is