The reason why people live, work, learn, and form relationships all relate to reaching an ideal of happiness, which derives from each person’s understanding of what brings them joy. Standardizing it may lead to creating a false sense of peace, as said by Captain Beatty, a structure within which people are not “born free and equal, as the Constitution says, but everyone made equal” (Bradbury, 2013, p. 55). Thus, the recognition of true happiness, stemming from intellectual labor, as something that misbalances society could be the main idea of Ray Bradbury’s story.
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As a three-chapter novel, Fahrenheit 451 may be reflective of a traditional three-act structure consisting of setup, confrontation, and resolution. In the first chapter Guy Montag, the protagonist finds himself in a position that allows him to recognize the lack of genuine happiness in his life, viewing those around him as uncompassionate and disinterested shades (Bradbury, 2013). After revealing that this process, characterized by illegal book-hoarding, has been long ongoing, the second chapter shows Montag as attempting to defend his rightness, sealing those around him as “monsters talking about monsters” (Bradbury, 2013, p. 94). Circumstances finally force Montag, who failed to convince anyone around him of his ideas’ soundness, to both destroy and escape from his home, looking for contentment through finding like-minded individuals (Bradbury, 2013). The main themes, such as self-censorship, government surveillance, and oversaturation with media, tie together with the conception of uniformity in all aspects of life as being inherently damaging.
True happiness’ value, thus, may be inferred as stemming from dissimilarity and the hardship of its acquirement. Bradbury supports this opinion through the speech of the antagonist, Captain Beatty, who outlines explorers and thinkers as faced with a “bestial and lonely” feeling, backing the idea of joy as being mass-produced instead (2013, p. 58). This wider-world standoff of intellectuals versus consumers is a potentially continuous process occurring even today, which Bradbury merely codified and exaggerated in the form of dystopian fiction. Thus, the author attempts to outline a broader concept that happiness does not stem from preoccupying oneself with thoughtless media or experiencing life through a screen, which may be television or a preoccupation with work.
The role of society in accruing genuine joy is dual, with the depicted culture repressing and replacing it, while Bradbury himself attempts to convince the reader instead that civilization must stimulate and challenge itself. Clarrise McClellan, the catalyst of Montag’s soul-searching journey, states that the instilled business of society eliminated the “wrong kind of social life,” characterized by rocking chairs, gardens, and exchange of ideas (Bradbury, 2013, p. 60). Effectively, the eradication of such a life prompted humankind’s overawing through mass media, making new principles, such as complacency, evenness, and extreme sensitivity to the correctness, the redesigned happiness of Fahrenheit 451’s society.
By creating a dichotomy, Bradbury pits the proposed ideas against each other, with Guy Montag and the other intellectuals versus Mildred Montag and Captain Beatty, as well as the rest of the unthinking world. The author outlines things that bring happiness as coincidentally ushering in conflict, from non-exact sciences to questions, for example, why (Bradbury, 2013). On the other hand, there are hollow things, such as parlor screens, comic books, and pornography, which do not stimulate thought, but instead aim to placate the average citizen and do not cause positive feelings (Bradbury, 2013). Therefore, diversity, strife, and conflicting ideas bring happiness, which possibly the closing scene of Montag in rough yet thought-stimulating conditions supports.
The dystopian society of Fahrenheit 451 is Bradbury’s warning of a worse world, defined by hollow interactions and life so fast that there is little time to think about it. Happiness is the opposite of consumerism is a concept that could be a reflection of the modern world, where society perceives intellectualism as a subpar character trait, causing unnecessary conflict among people and their ideas. Therefore, Bradbury urges us to recognize the joy that humankind may uplift from individuals’ dissimilarities and the progress gained from intellectual exchange as the root and pathway to a happy and idyllic civilization.
Bradbury, R. (2013). Fahrenheit 451. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.