There comes once in a while in the history of one’s literary experience that a book comes along so poignant in its message, so frightening in its implications, and so ironically simplistic in its word choice. One of these treasures is Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury, a novel devoted to denouncing the motto, “ignorance is bliss.” This novel provides a glance into a bleak world similar to the present where war is common, feelings are shunned, family is non-existent, and thought is no longer an individual’s question. To facilitate Bradbury’s world, books have been banned, condemned to be burned on sight along with their possessors. Who should be the policemen of this world of ignorance? The “firemen.” Like the firemen in the world today, they dress alike, drive big trucks, and wail their loud sirens. However, one fundamental difference exists. Instead of extinguishing fires, firemen start them, and “cleanse the evil books of their sin.” Books exist as forbidden belongings and further knowledge; if found in possession, they will be removed and destroyed by the firemen. Who should personify the heartless, unfeeling, cold-warm fireman, but Guy Montag? This man’s entire background evolves around the fireman occupation, so what other job could there be for a man like him? As the novel progresses, Guy Montag changes from a man who destroys books to a man who protects them.
Montag represents the typical fireman at the commencement of the novel. He loves his job and never questions the authority to obey his given commands. “It was a pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed. It’s fine work. Monday burn Millay, Wednesday Whitman, Friday Faulkner, burn “em to ashes, then burn the ashes.” This, the philosophy of the typical fireman until one day, Montag meets Clarisse McClellan. Clarisse, through her innocence and oblivion to the world around her, shows Montag that society crumbles around him and that he can be a part of the solution.
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