Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” is a novel which depicts the natural human urge to build and analyze knowledge. With the protagonist Montag taking on the role of a fireman in the context of a world in which books are banned, the book speaks to the cyclical nature of human life. As humans develop large bodies of knowledge, they come to destroy these because of conflict over this information.
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In the context of the conflict occurring in the novel, Montag is gradually socialized into understanding this truth by four teachers, Clarisse, Faber, Granger, and Beatty. As Montag ultimately and finally leaves the world in which he lived and worked burning books to enter the fringes of society, he contributes to this cyclicality by joining a fringe group which will attempt to preserve and create knowledge once society reconstructs itself.
Beginning with the character of Beatty, he is a fireman who has also broken so many of the fundamental rules of his profession. Indeed, and with Beatty having followed the same path which Montag is following years earlier, he has also shownj a rebellious streak. This said, his rebellion is of a variety which has led him to embrace the status quo. Viewing books as intrinsically dangerous because their meaning is subject to interpretation and thus brings about difference in the world, Beatty comes to represent everything that Montag does not wish to be. Indeed, and with Beatty’s mind shut to any new information, he comes to represent a type of opposition to the type of man that Montag wishes to become because of his close-mindedness.
Beatty thus states that “A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it. Take the shot from the weapon. Breach man’s mind. Who knows who might be the target of the well-read man?” (Bradbury, 28). With Beatty thus viewing the interpretation which books are subject to as representing a danger to society, he is a critical foil against which Montag’s building curiosity must be examined. Indeed, it is not so much that Beatty teaches Montag lessons directly inasmuch as it is that Montag wishes to avoid becoming what Beatty is which makes the latter such an important teacher for him.
Moving forward to the character of Clarisse, her influence on Montag is far more open in nature, and stands in stark juxtaposition to the close-mindedness of Beatty. Indeed, Clarisse never overtly attempts to influence him in any significant manner. Rather, and in a context where Montag has long lived an unquestioning life, it is the free-spirited and borderline subversive worldview displayed by Clarisse which influences Montag most significantly. In this respect, Clarisse has a dialogue with Montag in which she states “And if you look – she nodded in the sky –
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