Guy Montag’s “crime against society” was his understanding of the power of books. Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 (1953) portrays a dystopian society that discourages intellect and punishes free-will due to the absence of books. Books, as holders of knowledge, give human beings a distinct power by fostering intellect and comprehension. Montag’s intellectual transformation makes him a highly perilous individual in the society depicted in Fahrenheit 451.
Montag only realizes his true purpose in life after everything from his former society is destroyed. The power of books lies in their ability to hold knowledge. In terms of physical capabilities, man is weak compared to other animals. He cannot run like a horse or fly like birds. He lacks the strength of elephants, lions, and bears, and does not possess natural weapons.
Despite this, human beings have reached the pinnacle of society through knowledge. In medieval times, only those in the upper-class or associated with a religion were able to read, and it was this group that held control over the general population. However, in modern first-world nations like Australia and America, the progress of education has empowered the public, freeing them from the rule of priests and monarchs.
Books are man’s greatest tool, allowing readers to rationalize, analyze, and ponder. However, in the dystopian society of Fahrenheit 451, the government has gained absolute power over the people, primarily due to a lack of books and an excessive dependence on television as entertainment.
Ray Bradbury, in the Afterword of Fahrenheit 451, openly expresses his perspective on television and its ability to generate individuals who lack reading, learning, and knowledge. He suggests that if society were to favor the machine over the tangible companionship of books, there would be no need for authorities like Beattys to burn books or hunt readers because books would become insignificant. Consequently, the absence of books in this dystopian world results in a noticeable ignorance among the citizens of Fahrenheit 451. This ignorance allows the government to amass power, as the people are defenseless without an understanding of their own circumstances. A quote by Bradbury emphasizes that the government’s inefficiency and excessive focus on taxes are preferable to allowing people to worry about it. This quotation illustrates how the manipulation of the population’s minds renders them incapable of comprehending their own oppression and domination by the government.
Montag goes through a transformation in the book, realizing that he has been controlled by the government his whole life. In Fahrenheit 451’s society, this awareness makes Montag a dangerous figure as he opposes the government by gaining knowledge. The government must keep the people ignorant to retain their power and suppress any rebellious thoughts or ideas. This is similar to the Nazi Fascist regime and their censorship of knowledge, symbolized by the book-burning in 1933.
In his article “Fanning the Flames of Intolerance,” Jon Henley argues that books hold more value than just the physical materials they are made of, as they encapsulate the ideas and beliefs of individuals or even entire groups such as nations or religions. This understanding leads to the actions taken by the Nazis and the government in Fahrenheit 451, who sought to eliminate any books that went against their rule, effectively restricting access to intellectually stimulating content for their people. Consequently, it is through books that Montag becomes aware of the monotony that dominated his previous existence, prompting him to rebel against the very foundations of his society.
Montag’s intellectual enlightenment leads him to notice the previously overlooked details of the world around him. He becomes aware of the dew on the grass, a detail he shares with others. This newfound awareness allows him to recognize the power that books hold, as they contain knowledge that can empower individuals. Society sees this as a crime. Montag struggles to fully comprehend literature, but Professor Faber guides him in understanding that books themselves are not magical, but rather it is the ideas and knowledge within them that hold immense power. Essentially, books are made of ink and paper, but it is the beliefs and knowledge they convey that give them their tremendous power.
Montag, living in a conformist society, lacks an outlet for his intellect and feels purposeless. He expresses this confusion when he says, “I am lost without it.” This quote demonstrates his realization that his former purpose of burning books has been taken away after gaining knowledge. Nevertheless, after encountering several influential individuals like Clarisse, Faber, and Granger, Montag eventually breaks free from the constraints of his dysfunctional society and becomes a radical advocate for the reinstatement of books as carriers of knowledge.
As a result of the final destruction of his society and the abolishment of the oppressive government’s authority, Montag has gained the power and freedom to utilize his knowledge for a cause he believes in. This has allowed him to discover his true purpose as a contributor to the establishment of a new culture, one that aims to heal nations. Prior to this, when the government was in control, intellectuals who were considered outsiders lacked the strength to challenge the ignorance prevalent in their society and were therefore left helpless on the outskirts of the city. R.
According to C Lewontin, in Biology as Ideology: The Doctrine of DNA, intellectuals express the belief that knowledge equals power, but in reality, knowledge only further empowers those who already have the power to use it. Montag and the other intellectuals embody this ideal. Having the opportunity to start anew after his previous life, Montag no longer experiences government persecution and therefore has the liberty to utilize his knowledge. Given this perspective, it is evident that Montag and the other overlooked academics represent the last chance for the remaining remnants of their society to flourish.
As intellectual beings, this previously powerless group has the power of knowledge to guide humanity towards a new era of free-thought and intellectualism. Faber, with this in mind, provided Montag with a clear objective that would separate him from the uneducated majority and free him from the restraints of their society. Through their book-derived knowledge, Montag and other intellectuals will lead the surviving fragments of a decimated society towards the future.
Based on the evidence presented, it is evident that the power of books lies in their ability to hold knowledge. The government in Fahrenheit 451 sought to remove people’s thoughts and understanding, rendering them powerless through ignorance. Consequently, Montag rebelled against society’s ideals by acquiring knowledge, which made him aware of the oppression imposed by the government.
Despite his initial confusion at these new concepts, Montag, through the guidance of the many catalysts of the narrative, as well as the destruction of his former society, discovers that he, and the other intellectuals will lead humanity into the future, away from the ignorance that had plagued the previous civilization.
- Fahrenheit 451, Author: Ray Bradbury, pub. 1953
- Fanning the Flames of Intolerance, Author: Jon Henley, pub. 24th September 2010
. Richelieu Act II-Scene II, Edward Bulwer-Lytton
. Fahrenheit 451 Afterword, Ray Bradbury
. Fahrenheit 451 Afterword, Ray Bradbury
. Fahrenheit 451 pp. 80, Ray Bradbury
. Fahrenheit 451 pp. 16, Ray Bradbury
. Fahrenheit 451 pp. 68, Ray Bradbury
. Fahrenheit 451 pp. 107-108, Ray Bradbury
. Fahrenheit 451 pp. 101, Ray Bradbury
. Fahrenheit 451 pp. 211, Ray Bradbury
. Biology as Ideology: The Doctrine of DNA, R. C Lewontin