Social Darwinism in Fahrenheit 451
If there was a society where no one had their own opinion, beliefs, or anything else that defined them as who they are, is this society really functioning? A society needs people who have differing opinions and people with their own individuality. If a society is lacking these traits, everyone would just act, think, and do all the same things. In the novel Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury tries to portray a society that has driven out any change or anyone with their own individual thought and opinion. He uses certain characters to show that change can be brought to a society, even a society numbed into the belief of having no change or individual opinions. Bradburry shows through symbolism and dialogue, that society needs people who are not afraid of change or individuality to be functional and diverse; change that gives people something to live for.
Bradbury shows in his novel, that in order to have a diverse society, we need people with individuality. People with their own thoughts and new or different opinions, help make the society more diverse and more enjoyable to be a part of. It helps the society to have a different look at life. Bradbury uses dialogue to give deeper value to the character Clarisse. She is always thinking, and wondering different things about the world.
During her conversation with Montag, she mentions things that wouldn’t even cross the minds of ordinary people in that society. One of them being “Of course, you’re our new neighbor, aren’t you?” “And you must be the fireman” (10-14). Most people would have been scared to be around a firemen, let alone talk to him. The reason being, because firemen were seen as frightening and aggressive people, given the fact that they burn books and drive out anything that tests the opinions of society. When Clarisse points this out, it shows that she isn’t scared to interact with people or have a conversation about things that could be controversial, like most people in this society. After a while of talking, Montag says to her, “You think too many things” (13).
This shows that Clarisse has retained more of her individuality, and Montag, who at the time has bought into the beliefs of the society, tries to stop her from having her own differing thoughts. He says that she thinks too much, which shows that this society is formed into the belief that individual thought is not something that is greatly valued. This strips people of their own individuality which furthermore proves that a society cannot be diverse without thinking, questioning, members.Even though in the beginning of the novel, Montag seems to think like the rest of society, he shows more and more, throughout the novel, that he wants change. Bradbury starts by showing through symbolism, that change was implanted in Montag when he was only a child.
The narrator says, “One time, as a child, in a power failure, his mother had found and lit a last candle and there had been a brief hour of discovery, of such illumination that space lost its vast dimensions and drew comfortably around them, mother and son, alone, transformed, hoping that the power might not come on again too soon…” (11). Bradbury uses the candle as a symbolic figure, symbolizing the last book his mother kept. Montag found that reading contained such a vast exploration of knowledge, that “space lost its vast dimensions” (11). At this moment, he realized that books weren’t as bad as society made them out to be. Books held individual thought, and a different view of the world.
All of these things, Bradbury’s society wanted no part of. Later on in the book, it talks about a time when Montag was on duty. He was supposed to burn books, but instead he kept one, because he wanted to find out what they held, what knowledge he could acquire. When he returns to his house, the narrator says, “His hands had been infected, and soon it would be his arms. …” (45).
It then goes on to say that he could feel the poison going through his body. Bradbury uses the “poison” to symbolize the change that is being brought back into Montag. He was trying to see why society wanted nothing to do with books, and wondered why they were burning them. This demonstrates that Montag is growing in the thought of change in his own society.Having your own individuality gives you something to live for.
Many people in the fictitious society in this book, have no individual thoughts and bought into the thinking that they serve no value to society, leading to the great number of suicide victims. The operators who clean up Mildred said, “We get these cases nine or ten a night. Got so many, starting a few years ago, we got these special machines built” (19). This shows that the people who dealt with the suicide victims, were just so used to it, that they showed little to no emotion for Mildred or Montag. The grammatical errors used by the operators also shows the very low intelligence level they have. This is adding to the fact that the operators were not required to have a large span of acquired intelligence.
Bradbury tries to show that when a society attempts to erase all personal opinions, and numb its population to any differing thoughts, people not only become emotionless, but even self-destructive. For this exact reason, a society needs people who have their own individuality to be able to thrive, and also give people a reason to live and prosper.In conclusion, without change and individuality, a society cannot properly function or ever hope to thrive and have a reason to live. To have a diverse and functional society, it needs to have people with differing opinions, and their own beliefs, and individual thoughts. If it lacks these main traits, it turns into a nonfunctional society that has no urge to live, and loses all emotional feelings towards the health and prosperity of others around them. Ray Bradbury shows great examples of what a society would look like if it lacked these essential traits that define our humanity.