People’s life is rather fleeting. A lot of generations replace each other in the frame of a single historical era, and they have no opportunity to talk face to face in order to share their life experience. That is why the information heritage of the previous generations is the most precious accomplishment of humanity. Historical and scientific books, Holy Scripture, and even poetry are the source of significant messages from forefathers, discoveries and assessments of the most brilliant personalities of last epochs. Moreover, this printed treasure is the primary ground for progressive and sequential development of society. The society gradually loses itself if it carelessly underestimates the books’ importance with regard to spiritual and intellectual growth of every man and the whole community’s advancement. Year after year the question of the books’ evaluation gets the increasing importance. Nowadays, when Internet and high-technologies as well as heavy workload and weighty material component of the human life are prevailing in everyday life, the books remain unnoticed. In fact, there is hardly anyone who seriously considers the consequences of the above-mentioned situation, but if they did this, they would certainly face the threat of soulless and mechanical existence that is coming. Ray Bradbury has precisely imagined such world in his fiction Fahrenheit 451. The paper seeks to analyze the author’s message that he gave to modern society by combining different symbols and raising the questions that were disturbing him by the means of his novel.
The title of the work speaks for itself because Fahrenheit 451 is a temperature at which paper burns. Ray Bradbury did not announce the reader what had happened in the world and caused the books’ burning, but this information might be read between the lines. Apparently, the author shows the society where the ownership of books is a crime, people never enjoy the beauty of the nature and spend time pondering or speaking about meaningful themes. Instead, their cars are characterized by unprecedented speed, houses are full of high-quality television equipment such as wall-size sets, and everyone has the radio bug attached to the ears.
The novel’s protagonist Guy Montag is a fireman who burns the books in a futuristic city. He lives in the same way as the others and does not have any guess about the existence of another perception of the world until he meets the girl Clarisse McClellan who asks the hero from the imperturbable state whether he is happy. Pondering about the answer, Guy Montag has understood that “he wore his happiness like a mask and the girl had run off across the lawn with the mask and there was no way of going to knock on her door and ask for it back” (Bradbury, 1953). Thus, the hero’s feeling that appears after such discovery shows the reader the emptiness of the world through the description of his house and wife.
There was only the singing of the thimble-wasps in her tamped-shut ears, and her eyes all glass, and breath going in and out, softly, faintly, in and out her nostrils, and her not caring whether it came or went, went or came. (Bradbury, 1953)
If readers tried to seek the interpretation of the wife’s disease, the thoughts that Mildred seemed to be poisoned by reality would come to their mind.
The author brings to the stage a doctor, who came to save the hero’s wife, in order to make readers critically perceive his message. Thus, the situation, when even such a noble profession as doctor is affected by indifference, is horrible. The problem is that he is not able to analyze his acts that “he did not see what the Eye saw” (Bradbury, 1953). Therefore, Guy Montag’s talking to the machine in his mind “Go on, anyway, shove the bore down, slush up the emptiness” may be interpreted as a plea for saving (Bradbury, 1953).
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Seeking for this salvation, Guy Montag begins to carefully learn the world around him, and he is constantly thinking about relationships between peoples. As a result, he makes the other discovery provoked by Clarisse. The question concerns his feelings, namely whether he is in love. Apparently, the answer is inconsolable, since neither he nor his wife remembers the moment of their first meeting. Moreover, thinking about hypothetical death of his wife, Guy did not feel the pain of loss. “It was suddenly so very wrong that he had begun to cry, not at death but at the thought of not crying at death”. He attempted to learn how people get so empty and who takes it out of them.
While pondering about emptiness, the accident has happened during his work. At that time, the books’ owner commits suicide, when she deliberately stayed in the burning house, which impressed the fireman to the heart. In fact, this evanescent metaphor has an essential meaning. The abolishment of the books causes the death of the person, physical one in the novel and spiritual emptiness in the real life. Moreover, the author leads the reader to the thought that “There must be something in books, things we can’t imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house” (Bradbury, 1953). Analyzing ten years of his work as a fireman, Guy Montag first realized “that a man was behind each one of the books” (Bradbury, 1953).
It seems there is no evidence that the Ecclesiast was the book Montag has saved in the burning house. Thus, it is easy to interpret this symbol as the truth the hero was seeking. As the idea’s confirmation, the sand as another metaphor of the tangible truth appears in the title of the novel’s second part. Apparently, the author step by step persuades the reader that the book is the truth. Hereby, through Faber’s explanation, he shows that “books were only one type of receptacle where we stored a lot of things we were afraid we might forget. The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us” (Bradbury, 1953).
The author uses a philosophic character of Faber to direct the readers’ thoughts toward the needed course. Thus, he opens the reader another reason of book’s importance in the human life. The reason is that by giving diverse information, the book extends not only human knowledge but also allows one to go beyond usual bounds of their thinking and worldview. “The things you’re looking for, Montag, are in the world, but the only way the average chap will ever see ninety-nine per cent of them is in a book”, Faber explains (Bradbury, 1953). Thus, the reader can guess to what extent the book may change the person from the words of Beaty who is the Guy Montag’s colleague and an antipode to Faber, who claims that all people must be alike because only then they may be happy. On the contrary, the book can improve a person’s and cause inequality. Beaty says, “book is a loaded gun in the house next door” (Bradbury, 1953). Moreover, the author emphasizes the fact that the book gives people not only freedom of the soul but also the right to act. According to Eller (2003), “the idea is that if Montag is to escape the technological cocoon which the culture has built up him, he must do it in mind and body, in books and sensations.” Thus, if one controls the body, their mind will be ruled too. In contrast, if one monitors the depth of ideas, the body will lose its ability to sensate.
Futuristic society of the novel strives to save passiveness and indifference to people. Hereby, this fact makes them forbid books because nobody can “build a house without nails and wood. If you don’t want a house built, hide the nails and wood” (Bradbury, 1953).
The symbol of Phoenix appears at the end of the novel as a sign of hope for the persistence of books’ heritage. A lot of times, this bird burned itself in fire and then arose from its ashes over and over again. In his book, the author implies mankind’s similarity to this strange bird. In fact, people tend to destroy themselves and reborn again in spiritual and historical sense. Thus, the reader can associate the Phoenix with the internal resurrection of Guy Montag as well as with the books themselves which are the revival of human history, culture, and religion, among others.
The idea that people as a physical phenomenon are not important appears as a need for sustainable work for the personal development, since the internal word of every person is the most precious thing for humanity. Faber claims, “You’re not anything. Someday the load we’re carrying with us may help someone” (Bradbury, 1953).
It may seem that the importance of books in the novel is slightly exaggerated. However, if readers could look in the depth of the question, they would understand its significance. The reason is that the knowledge and ability to critically think influence the course of people’s thoughts, their actions and words determining the relations with family members and professional activity. In other words, people passed through their souls the experience obtained from the book and use it to design own lives and the lives of their families, cities, countries and the whole world.
It is reasonable to claim that the fiction novel Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury is not a didactic story emphasizing a single message. Through the primary emphasis on the books, the author raised a lot of perpetual questions of human life. Thus, universal human values, family relationships, personality’s importance and the role of their experience in the society are a small list of them. One should admit that the question of the right to choose was also raised in the novel, which is perhaps the most significant message. With regard to the future, society has no choice, but modern people have it. The fate of further spiritual development of the world is in the hands of every person. That is why it is a significant task to save and learn the printed heritage of the previous generations.