Knowledge is the key power to the development of one’s individuality and independence in society. This is essential in order to allow individuals to gain their insights on reality and learn the morals and values held within human nature. The importance of such knowledge is clearly portrayed throughout Ray Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451 as he reveals his perspectives against the nature of a totalitarian society. This is achieved through the exploration of a major overarching theme of individuality versus conformity in and by introducing the dominance of destructive conventions involving censorship and technological control. Bradbury’s clever use of narrative voice and symbolism throughout his novel allows the portrayal of such themes, which reinforces his ideas on the importance of knowledge in human society.
The issue of censorship is commonly illustrated throughout Bradbury’s novel in order to explore the fundamental theme of conformity versus individuality. Bradbury achieves this dominant portrayal of censorship through many techniques such as leitmotifs of fire and heat. This is particularly evident through Beatty’s quotes such as, ‘Fire is bright and clean…It’s real beauty is that it destroys responsibility and consequences.’ While this conveys to the audience Beatty’s perspective that censorship allows unnecessary conflicts in society to become abolished, it is evident this metaphor of fire rather interprets the destructive force of censorship in Montag’s society.
Through the use of this dramatic irony, Bradbury emphasises that the destruction of knowledge only leads to the downfall of mankind, which reveals his values on individual freedom and intellectual thoughts. On the other hand, Beatty’s conformity can be conflicted with Montag’s individuality in the novel through symbols such as ‘the sieve and the sand’. The sieve and the sand represents Montag’s failure in fighting against censorship, as he tries to retain the whole Bible’s wisdom in his mind.
However all the words in the Bible are forgotten and slips out of his mind, likewise to a sand falling through a sieve. This clearly depicts Montag’s mental and moral growth to maturity as he becomes aware of the importance of knowledge in society. Thus, by incorporating characters that have contradicting perspectives of the censorship of knowledge, this allows Bradbury to highlight the theme of conformity versus individuality through his novel.
Furthermore, technological control is an aspect in the novel which predominantly demonstrates the theme of conformity versus individuality. It can clearly be seen that Bradbury’s use of third person narration shapes the way in which he uses language techniques in order to present Montag’s individuality from Mildred’s conformity to technology. This is clearly depicted through his quote, ‘little mosquito-delicate dancing hum in the air, the electrical murmur of a hidden wasp snug in its special pink warm nest. Every night the waves came in and bore her off on their great tides of sound, floating her, wide-eyed, toward morning.’ Despite the third person narration, it is evident this narration is wrapped around Montag’s perspective, which reveals Montag’s criticisms on his wife for becoming brainwashed by technology.
This quote also incorporates a powerful technique of symbolism in order to reinforce Bradbury’s criticisms against technology. The Seashell radio representing a praying mantis depicts Mildred’s loss of sight to reality, as she greatly dependent and reliant on technology, to the extent where she lacks to realise the moral boundaries between life and technology. By incorporating this symbol, this allows Bradbury to criticise this inextricable dominance of technology, as it interferes with one’s independence and individuality in society. Hence, through the use of narrative voice and symbolism, this allows Bradbury to clearly portray the themes of conformity versus individuality and thereby communicate the destructive force of technology in society.