Throughout Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, the reader sees that human’s strongest desire is the desire for power. With an American future where books are illegal and everyone happily watches television, one particular character in the book tries his hardest to break free from the culture of society. As a fireman, Guy Montag’s duty was to start fires rather than put them out. Witnessing the experience of an old lady being burned alive with the books she owned became a high motivating force that begins the change of Montag.
Ray Bradbury uses Guy Montag and his struggles to free himself from the power of others and society to show that the will of the government is limitless for what is considered to be expedient. Guy Montag’s identity becomes unclear through the book. “You’re one of the few who put up with me. That’s why I think it’s so strange you’re a fireman, it just doesn’t seem right for you somehow” (Bradbury 21).
Readers began to see the irony in Montag’s identity in being a loyal fireman and his belief that there is something unmoral in burning books.
With Montag’s personality in believing whatever someone tells him and being easily persuaded, he believes that burning book is protecting society from the dangers of reading. “Fool, thought Montag to himself, you’ll give it away. At the last fire, a book of fairy tales, he’d glanced at a single line. ‘I mean,’ he said, ‘in the old days, before homes were completely fireproofed—’ Suddenly it seemed a much younger voice was speaking for him. He opened his mouth and it was Clarisse McClellan saying, ‘Didn’t firemen prevent fires rather than stoke them up and get them going? ” (Bradbury 31). At this point, Montag is really confused if he is helping the community or simply harming it. Slowly, he is trying to free himself from the patterns of the society and trying to find the meaning and the important message behind books. As he struggles to find his way out of the power and influence of the society and question the intention of burning books, Ray Bradbury tries to show that there are people in the government who are like Firemen Stoneman and Black who do as they are told and do not question the intention of the government.
Throughout Fahrenheit 451, Guy Montag continues to find out whom he really is and what he is standing up for. He finds out that books bring a whole new meaning and purpose to life. “The numbness will go away, he thought. It’ll take time, but I’ll do it, or Faber will do it for me. Someone somewhere will give me back the old face and the old hands the way they were. Even the smile, he thought, the old burnt-in smile, that’s gone. I’m lost without it” (Bradbury 74). This is not only referring to the numbness in his legs, but his rebellion against the society.
He is afraid of himself and his new rebellious side. Even though he may be rebelling against the what-is-so-called the normality of the community, Montag is standing up for what is right. “…the old man would go on with this talking and this talking, drop by drop, stone by stone, flake by flake. His mind would well over at last and he would not be Montag any more, this old man told him, assured him, promised him. He would be Montag-plus-Faber, fire plus water, and then, one day, after everything had mixed and simmered and worked away in silence, there would be neither fire nor water, but wine.
Out of two separate and opposite things, a third. And one day he would look back upon the fool and know the fool” (Bradbury 99). Guy Montag continues to escape the pattern of society. However, he learns many lessons such as friendship coming drop by drop through reading; he learns all these lessons not just by reading them, but also experiencing them. Ray Bradbury still continues to portray the theme that there are meanings behind each and every story and book even though the government tries everything in its power to destroy them.
As Guy Montag’s identity struggle finally comes to an end in the book, the reader still sees the never-ending chase of Montag just to limit the world from knowledge and lessons that comes from books. “He waded in and stripped in darkness to the skin, splashed his body, arms, legs, and head with raw liquor; drank it and snuffed some up his nose. Then he dressed in Faber’s old clothes and shoes. He tossed his own clothing into the river and watched it swept away. Then, holding the suitcase, he walked out in the river until there was no bottom and he was swept away in the dark” (Bradbury 133).
The stripping down to the bare skin is a symbol of stripping down the old self and forgetting about it. Montag finally freed himself from the power of the society and those around him. It is the beginning of a new Guy Montag. In the last chapter, “Burning Bright”, Ray Bradbury uses the power struggle in Montag’s life to show that action defines identity and can change society. From the beginning to the end of the novel, Fahrenheit 451, the reader can see Guy Montag’s bildungsroman as he struggles to find his identity and frees himself from the chains of society.
It brings up the question on how one should define themself. It seems to be that actions define one’s personality and identity. Through the struggles of Guy Montag, Ray Bradbury was able to communicate to the readers that the government has lots of power and will do anything to censor news from their people. However, is it right to not let the people know what is going in the rest of the world? Just like Guy Montag questioned his authority, one should be able to question the intentions of the government’s doing.
Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2012. Print.
Cite this Fahrenheit 451- Power of Others
Fahrenheit 451- Power of Others. (2017, Jan 21). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/fahrenheit-451-power-of-others/