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Fahrenheit 451

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Throughout all of history, the government has tried to control the minds and opinions of society. This is greatly expressed in Fahrenheit 541, a book by Ray Bradbury taking place in the 1940’s. This book is centered around a man named Guy Montag who maintains the career of a “fireman”, or a book-burner, as he would be called today. Fahrenheit 451 is centered on his metamorphosis after meeting a young woman, not even seventeen-years old, who believes that people should have rights to their own opinions, instead of society’s manipulation. In Fahrenheit 451, people are unable to own books that encourage free thoughts because the government feared idealist that could have taken away their influence. So, there were people, such as Montag, who burned the books the government forced society to fear. When Montag meets Clarisse, she inspires him to read the books that he has been destroying for ten years. At one point in the story, Guy Montag says to his wife after burning down the house of a woman who refused to leave her books, “there must be something in books, things we can’t imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house” (Bradbury 51).
The ways that people were discouraged from owning books was the punishment for those caught with illegal books. Punishments included being sent to an asylum, expelled from society, or killed. There was a certain opinion in the manipulated portion of society about people who owned illegal books. Such as in Montag’s wife, Mildred, who states after she find out that Montag has been hoarding books since her burned a woman alive, “She’s nothing to me, she shouldn’t have had books, she should have thought of that. I hate her! She’s got you going and next thing you know we’ll be out, no house, no job, nothing” (Bradbury 52). Mildred displays how Montag’s books could affect their lives if he was to be caught.
In “average” society in Fahrenheit 451, reading illegal books was completely unthinkable not just out of fear of punishment, but also because people had been taught for generations that books contained information that was not valid and only about a fake reality. There were many firemen like Montag who had learned such habits from their fathers and grandfathers, who had also been firemen, so the old customs were hard to break away from. Montag at one point in the story says, “Was I given a choice? My father and Grandfather were firemen!” (Bradbury 51). This proves that as a child, even if he had wanted to read illegal books, he had the career as a fireman wheather he wanted it or not.
Fahrenheit 451 expresses the importance of individual thought in society. It shows how even after generation of people telling one how to think, there will always be the smaller pieces of society that can change a man’s entire perspective on life. Even though Clarisse died quite early in the book, her curiosity and free spirit remained with Guy Montag throughout the book, and gave him a new life where he was able to read all of the stories that men wrote, no matter how unlikely their stories. As Montag matures further, he begins to break away from society’s control and finally form his own opinions on government, life, and books. Montag’s story finishes off with the tale of the phoenix, a bird who would burn into flames, and then reborn out of the ashes. Montag’s friend, Granger, says, “ there was a silly damned bird called a phoenix back before Christ; every hundred years he built a pyre and burned himself up.. but every time he burnt himself he sprang up from the ashes, he got himself born all over again. And it looks like we’re doing the same thing…” (Bradbury 192).

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