A true society has distinct individuals, a colorful culture, and ideas and traits that encourage differences, not a load of ignorant fools who hate books with a passion. In Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury presents a society that holds the deadly qualities of ignorance and selfishness, qualities that Ray Bradbury warns so much about. In this society people fear change, act for personal pleasure, and only care for themselves. Characters like Mildred cheerfully burn books to avoid their problems, while characters in position to make change, like Faber, are too fearful and selfish to share their knowledge. Ray Bradbury purposefully puts certain characters and events in the story to warn that if society adapts the deadly traits of ignorance, and selfishness, the same consequences of Montag’s society will follow, leading present day society to its’ downfall.
By illustrating the ignorant and carefree attitude of Montag’s society, Bradbury warns that if present day culture adapts the quality of ignorance, it will become a controlled, repressed, and drone-like society. After Montag finishes his talk with Faber, Mildred’s friends treat him to a conversation pertaining to the presidential candidates that recently ran for office: “I laid it on the line for President Noble. I think he is one of the nicest looking men ever became presidentâ€¦ Even their name helped. Compare Winston Noble to Hubert Hoag for ten seconds and you can almost figure the results” (Bradbury 97). Ray Bradbury strategically puts this quote in the book to show us the effect that ignorance has on society. In both present day society, and the society of Montag’s, every person is given the right to vote. What people choose to do with this privilege is a choice that people make for themselves. In the novel Bradbury portrays Mildred’s friend as a complete reflection of the society that she lives in. She cares only about herself. When it comes to electing presidents, she chooses the one with the coolest name, and the nicest face, rather than electing the man best fit to govern her nation with responsibility. Bradbury warns his readers that if they choose the same path as the friends of Mildred, society will also tumble at the dictator’s whim, quickly to destruction. Even as ignorant as Mildred’s friends are, after Guy reveals his books to Mildred, she proves much more of an opposition to change than any other person in Bradbury’s society: “He could hear her breathing rapidly and her face was paled out and her eyes fastened wide. She said his name over, twice, three times. Then moaning she ran forward seized a book, and ran towards the kitchen incineratorâ€¦” (66). Mildred proves herself as a person who is ignorant of learning, change, and progression as a society. When Guy brings books, or life changing factors that make have the potential to make society progress, Mildred quickly shuns them, trying to burn them before she even has the chance to learn. These actions can also be related to present day society, Bradbury warns us that when people like Mildred become to afraid to change, or progress as a culture, society will stop in its’ tracks, regressing to the point where it is unidentifiable.
By using characters that reflect society’s traits, Bradbury skillfully demonstrates that selfish and fearful individuals add up to create a repressive culture and society. This is first proved when Faber admits his own fear of spreading truth and knowledge: “I can sit comfortably at home, warming my frightened bones, and hear and analyze the fireman’s world, find its’ weaknesses without danger” (91). Bradbury creates Faber in order to represent a knowledgeable intellectual who knows the truth about society in the present day world. Bradbury places him inside the story to represent the hope and change that can bring reform to Montag’s culture. But Faber has one fatal quality. He does not talk to others about faults within the government and society. This is because he is fearful of the consequences that would occur if he brought change forth. Faber had vast array of knowledge in the story, just how teachers have so much knowledge in present day society. But like an unused talent, the knowledge that Faber has simply sits locked away in a safe where nobody could gain access to it. When Bradbury establishes this concept to his readers, he proves that in striving to become a better culture and society, people must always work at spreading new knowledge and ideas. Even as fearful as Faber is, a selfish fool like Mildred proves no match to Faber on how much a person can work to prevent change from being introduced. In the latter part of the story, Mildred can no longer handle the pressure of having books in her house, so she simply calls the firemen and turns in Montag: “She shoved the valise in the waiting beetle, climbed in, and sat mumbling , ‘Poor family, poor family, oh everything gone, everything, everything gone nowâ€¦'” (pg114). Mildred reports Guy to the firemen because he is in possession of the books. Bradbury establishes Mildred as the typical friend to Guy, just like how anyone else in this world can be a typical friend to another. Except Mildred is given one fatal flaw, she has fear. The fear that Mildred has of books drove her mad, and out of fear of society’s punishments, she turns own her husband in to the firemen. Bradbury makes Mildred very relatable to a present day person; they both watch T.V, socialize, drive cars, vote, and have friends. With this relation he warns that people are not too many steps away from filling Mildred’s shoes in present day society. Bradbury warns that if people do not keep a watchful eye on each other, the time will soon be too late for realization and individuality will succumb to government control
If present day society is not taught, and does not learn to accept, read, and learn the truth, people will begin to turn on each other, acting in the name of selfishness and fear. By using characters that have these fatal qualities Bradbury forcefully warns that if society does not change, progress, and learn as a culture then it will be no better than the society of Montag’s. If people selfishly decide, and cease to care about the world around them, the bright points of humanity that are so treasured and loved in the world today will dissipate. Culture’s beloved art, ideals, legacies will become a fading memory, forever leaving a scar on the headstone of humanity.
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