Although there is much irony and humor in the fact that a book warning about the implications of banning books was banned, that topic of discussion has been well over mentioned to the point where the political and social message that Ray Bradbury was trying to address through symbolism and parallelism between his fictional twenty fourth century dyspepsia society ND our society during the time the book was written, Cold War America, is largely ignored.
Through Ray Bursary’s novel, Fahrenheit 451, he consistently uses the phoenix as symbolism for an idea known as Social Darwinism to emphasize the future State Of America.
During this dyspepsia chaos of America where books are banned and the world is about to engage in nuclear war he addresses cold war political issues and the rise of media in society, which has influenced intellectual mediocrity. The phoenix is a symbol that Ray Bradbury free neatly uses throughout Fahrenheit 451 as a metaphor for his belief in an idea called Social
Darwinism. Social Darwinism is a theory that applies the biological concept of natural selection and survival of the fittest to sociology and politics (Encyclopedia Britannica). Coupling this with the theory that society is cyclical in nature, Ray Bradbury alludes to the idea that communities go through periods of intellectual growth and depression, examples include the Dark Ages contrasting with the Age of Enlightenment, periods of social and political wealth and mediocrity and we are currently in one of those periods of mediocrity.
The phoenix, a bird of Egyptian mythology, known for its ability to urn itself to death and resurrect itself from its own ashes, is used to allude to Ray Bursary’s belief in Social Darwinism to enforce the theory that, like the life of a phoenix, society is cyclical (Assyria). The symbol of the phoenix is also used in contrast with a salamander. The phoenix is used to show that fire can be used to recreate a society from the ashes of a terrible society.
The resurrection of the phoenix from it’s own ashes alludes to the point in the natural cycle of a society that has just come out of a period of intellectual stagnation and is beginning a new, rich society. “The symbol of the Phoenix is seed in contrast to the earlier use of the salamander. The dangerous fire lizard of myth, a symbol of the fireman’s society from which Montage escapes, the salamander represents the destructive uses of fire” (Fahrenheit 451). Due to fire’s relationship with the phoenix and it’s importance in influencing society in the novel, fire also plays a major role in showing the natural cycle of society.
The main purpose Of the character Of Granger is to explicitly explain the process of the natural cycle. As the leader of the “Book People” Granger introduces Montage to the world of books that society has been holding from IM and is committed to preserving literature through the Dark Age by oral recitation, “and when the war is over, someday, some year, the books can be written again, the people will be called in one by one to recite what they know, and we’ll set it up in type until another Dark Age, when we might have to do the whole thing over again” (Bradbury 146).
Granger is the physical symbol of a potential rebirth of the phoenix from the ashes if and when this dyspepsia society that is Montage reality was to destroy itself. Granger is well aware of the possibility of war self destructing their society in fire and when hat does Granger will be the ashes that rebuilds their society (Assyria). However, he also alludes to the ineviTABLE return of the Dark Age or another revolution in the natural cycle by relating the natural cycle to a phoenix, There was a silly damn bird called a phoenix back before Christ, every few hundred years he built a pyre and burnt himself up.
But every time he burnt himself up he sprang out of the ashes, he got himself born all over again. And it looks like we’re doing the same thing, over and over, but we”eve got one damn thing the phoenix never had. We know the damn silly thing we just did. We know all the damn silly things we’ve done for a thousand years and as long as we know that and always have it around where we can see it, someday we’ll stop making the goddamn funeral pyres and jumping in the middle of them. Bradbury 1 63) Here, Granger relates the common phenomenon of “history repeats itself” to Montage, that although we know our mistakes we don’t stop them from recurring. Ultimately, the book does end with a storm of bombs destroying everything to symbolize the phoenix in which the society is burning itself and will be rebuilt from the ashes and this can be seen as both the death of the Dark Age and the rebirth of a new, enlightened society (Fahrenheit 451).
However, although society has been reborn at the end of the novel through the “Book People”, because the outcasts understand the idea behind the natural cycle they also understand that another Dark Age will occur and when it does they will be ready for it (McNeill) The Phoenix is also used in the novel as a symbol in association with Captain Beauty, who has knowledge of the past and history of banning books. Because of his plethora of history knowledge Beauty uses this information to help questioning firemen such as Guy Montage to understand why they do hat they do.
Ironically, he uses this knowledge to justify the job of firemen in society whereas characters such as Granger and Montage who learn of their society past immediately get the sense that what firemen are doing is wrong. It is extremely important that Captain Beauty wears a hat with a Phoenix on it and drives a “Phoenix Car” as this symbolizes that, tragically, although Beauty has the historical knowledge he only sees it as curiosity and doesn’t understand the implications behind the censorship and book burnings because he IS a victim of media and wants to remain in the status quo.
Appropriately, Beauty is burned to death, and his death by fire symbolically illustrates the rebirth that is associated with his phoenix sign When Guy Montage kills Beauty, he is forced to run off and join Granger; this action is for Guy a rebirth to a new intellectual life” (Assyria). Fire, closely associated with the phoenix, is the primary symbol in the novel. It burns books and the freedom of thought, but it can also be used to start anew.
Ray Bradbury also uses fire to relate the events occurring in his twenty fourth century dyspepsia society to the current events of the time the novel as written. In the novel, the job of firemen is to start fires in the homes of book owners. Historically, leaders such as Doll Hitler and Joseph Stalin used book burnings to rally supporters and intimidate people With different views (“Fahrenheit 451 : The Temperate at Which Books Burn”). Books give an ultimate sense of freedom and right of expression; therefore, burning books confiscates creativity and thought process from society.
Its a way of suppressing knowledge by removing unique ideas that could cause rebellion of the public, which is the main premise that the novel Fahrenheit 451 is eased on and is why it is so controversial, “A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it. Take the shot from the Weapon. Breach man’s mind. Who knows who might be the target of the well-read man? Me? I won’t stomach them for a minute” (Bradbury’ 58). Another way that Ray Bradbury relates fire in the novel to current events is with the cold war and the issues presented with the invention of the A-Bomb.
During the time that Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 the invention of the A-Bomb created an atmosphere of fear in which repression was TABLE to thrive in the world (Fahrenheit 451). Fahrenheit 451 emulates that extremely well and ultimately ends in the self- destruction of the dyspepsia in another cycle between ignorance and enlightenment. The media is also a vehicle through which the novel’s dyspepsia society is being controlled. In the novel, as with real life, social media creates a Status quo that is intellectually stagnant, mainly through television.
Because the media is a very popular means of entertainment in most societies it is an easy way to control a population’s environment and therefore create the social norms necessary for any lifestyle desirTABLE. Mass media through television and popular magazines are how the ideals and social norms are diffused through a community and adopted by the majority of the population. Media is what creates the idea of outsiders because outsiders are the people that don’t conform to the brainwashing of social media and the majority of a societies population will naturally find that strange and a threat to the system.
This threat presented by the outsiders is evident by the fact that when Montage is seen as an outsider the government sends out a mechanical Hound in search of him in order to eliminate him, “The characters in Fahrenheit 451 live in a consumer culture which can only work if it keeps them in a controlled environment, inside the house, the car, and the fire station. Once outdoors and away from the media which defines their secure world, the society loses control of them” (Spencer 331-342).
A great way to compare the characteristics between someone who is a social outcast of Montage’s society and someone who is just part of the social norm is to look at the difference between Millie, Guy Montage wife, and Claries. Claries and Millie are social opposites and it is obvious by their behavior that they have much different impacts on Guy Montage. Millie, or Mildred, represents those who completely accept the basic beliefs of society and succumb to the morals of mass media. She is content with the way she lives and the way others live around her because she has been brainwashed and influenced by peer pressure.
On the other hand, Claries is Mile’s social contrast; she is not pleased at all with the ways of her society. Representing innocence and social contrast, Claries is TABLE to make Guy question societal norms and customs and she is used as a symbol of hope through her youth and innocence (Fahrenheit 451). However, because society has the need to intro their environment so as to not run into threats from outsiders, society again takes over with Clavicle’s mysterious disappearance and supposed death-by-car, eliminating a ‘threat to society’ and hopefully erasing Guys ideas that have come about through his contact with Claries (“McClellan”).
Fire as well as the phoenix is consistently used in Ray Bradbury novel, Fahrenheit 451 , as a symbol of destruction and a symbol of hope for a rebuilt society from the ashes of the old dyspepsia. This death and rebirth cycle is based off of the theory of Social Darwinism and society’s natural cycle of regression. Through the character Guy Montage and the dyspepsia society that he lives in, Ray Bradbury is TABLE to address current political issues and show the effects that freedom and creativity can have on a society that is controlled by the media.
Cite this Social Darwinism in Fahrenheit
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