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The Literary Analysis of "Fahrenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury

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Fahrenheit 451 is a dystopian novel based in the 24th century, with a society that is obsessed and critically dependent on technology. This book was published in the year 1953, which is the year that is known as the start of 3 technological eras: thermonuclear weapons, stored-program computers, and modern genetics. Each of the eras listed was embodied as twisted cultural norms throughout Fahrenheit 451. Bradbury uses this to employ a perception of caution for the reader in terms of reality. The major theme of the novel is the conflict between freedom of thought v.s. censorship. The protagonist, Guy Montag, was blinded by society all of his life, until he meets Clarisse, a teenage girl who just moved in next door. Their very first conversation together, Montag is immediately peppered by meaningful questions about his life that he laughs off even though he is deeply confused. Clarisse confronts him on this and then proceeds to ask Montag if he’s happy. This question catches Montag completely off guard and he is still standing in shock, trying to argue that he is, as Clarisse says goodnight and goes inside.

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This is where Passage 1 picks up as Montag, now convincing himself, is walking to his bedroom. The light tone completely drops as he describes what his room looked like. As he’s walking in the pitch black room he pictures his wife, Mildred, “stretched on the bed, uncovered and cold, like a body displayed on the lid of a tomb”. Not only is this strong imagery, which can be found in almost all of the novel, it is also foreshadowing. The foreshadowing comes into context when Montag discoverses that Mildred is actually dying from an overdose, thus the connection to a corpse and tomb. Passage 1 gives no direct context as to why Mildred overdosed on sleeping pills, but as the reader continues on in the novel, many have come to the point where they strongly dislike Mildred for being just another ignorant and shallow example of society. This is an important discovery to be made because as the book progresses their becomes a shift from Montag and the society he was once apart of. Montag, the protagonist, now finds that society itself and its values have become the antagonist. The imagery is used specifically in passage 1 to create an ominous tone and help the reader visualize a lifeless Mildred as described by Montag when he sees Mildred in bed “and her breath going in and out, softly, faintly, in and out of her nostrils, and her not caring whether it came or went, came or went”.

Another very important literary element used in not only Passage 1, but the entire novel, was the use of personification. Bradbury used personification to reflect specific character emotions, to set the mood, and to give lifelike characteristics to inanimate objects so that they may contribute to the story. Often personification is used as irony, or a double meaning to a statement. This is portrayed when Montag realizes he is unhappy (even before he sees his overdosed wife), and his attitude completely shifts from a joyful confusion from Clarisse to him feeling “his smile slide away, melt, fold over, and down on itself like a tallow skin, like the stuff of a fantastic candle burning too long and now collapsing and now blown out”. It is personification due to the fact that smiles cannot actually slide away or melt. The personification is also followed up by another literary element, a simile, when he starts to compare how he feels using the word “like”. The simile is used to create support for the personification and many instances throughout the book can you find this, or another literary element backed up by a different one.

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Bradbury’s specific choices in text and wording shaped the book into a cautionary statement, where he warns against the large-scale desensitization of the society in Fahrenheit 451. Throughout the novel, he asserts the idea that passive lifestyles that are consumed with modern conveniences, can erode culture, personal analysis’, emotional satisfaction, and happiness. Bradbury wants to make people reflect on the importance of books, the ideas they contain, and for people in society to have a contributing purpose to their own lives and to others.

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