American Literature 11/12
2 June 2013
Irony and Tragedy: Fahrenheit 451
Fahrenheit 451, as one of the most famous of Ray Bradbury's novels, portrays a futuristic world in the midst of a nuclear war. The totalitarian government of this future forbids people to read books or participate in any activity which promotes individual thought. The law against reading books is presumably fairly new, and the task of destroying the books falls to the "firemen." One of these firemen is Guy Montag, the protagonist of the book. Montag and his crew raid homes and burn books, along with the respective house. Contrary to this destruction, happiness remains the central importance in this future world. However, Montag is unhappy with his life for most of the book. He just refuses to acknowledge that fact. Montag's unhappiness is ironic until his self-awareness turns it tragic. The ideal of this future man is to be happy. That is all desired. “That's all we live for, isn't it? For pleasure, for titillation? “(65). The people of this world only want to be happy. They don't care about anything else, such as politics or the economy. At the beginning of the book, Montag appears happy. The text describes him burning a house while thoroughly enjoying himself. At one point, he thinks, "It was a pleasure to burn" (19). A little later, he thinks "he would feel the fiery smile still gripped by his face muscles, in the dark" (19). It seems that he believes his happiness exists. After the house is burned, Montag begins to walk home and is met by a young girl named Clarisse McClellan. Clarisse first brings thoughts of uncertainty to Montag. She begins an irrevocable chain of events simply by asking Montag a simple question: “Are you happy?” (24). When Clarisse leaves, Montag contemplates their conversation. “‘Happy! Of all the nonsense.” Of course I'm happy. What does she think? I'm not?’ he [silently] asked" (24). An almost self-denial is evident in his own thought process. His...
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