What is the effect of Ray Bradbury's craft in Fahrenheit 451?

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Perhaps the most impactful aspect of Ray Bradbury's "craft" in Fahrenheit 451 is his style.

In terms of the novel's construction, it is divided into three sections that follow Montag's alteration from a pro-establishment, dutiful citizen (who never questions anything) to the rebel (who questions all of the dictates and "norms" of his society).

Bradbury has structured Fahrenheit 451 into three parts which parallel the stages of Montag's transformation. 

In the first section, Montag begins to doubt the norms he has taken for granted and lived each day of his life. Clarisse opens his eyes to things he has forgotten and now fails to even see.

"There's dew on the grass in the morning."

He suddenly couldn't remember if had known this or not...

Montag's wife, Mildred, provides a stark contrast to Clarisse; she is a woman who tries so hard to be desensitized—to feel nothing—that she overdoses on pills and doesn't remember it (or chooses not to). She lives her life vicariously through watching TV and immersing herself in the lives of the people on the screen until she is living out little more than a shadowy existence. Ultimately she turns Montag in to the authorities, wanting nothing to do with seeing the world as it truly is.

In the second section, Montag begins to act out on his new ideas: he takes books home from "crime scenes" and reads them in secret. By the third section of the book, Montag can no longer live the lie. Confronted by Beatty (his boss), Montag is forced to kill him in order to escape. His transformation is complete.

Bradbury's style can also be seen in how he describes his characters, shares Montag's thoughts, and how he creates a world the reader can believe could be real:

Through his poetic descriptions, Bradbury makes the unreal world he describes seem real. He is able to make the fantastic seem real and reality seem fantastic...

The excitement in the story is relayed during Bradbury's descriptions of "setting, action, and characters." The central theme of the novel is that reading is important to the wellbeing not only of individuals, but also for society as a whole. Bradbury artfully shares this idea throughout the plot development—especially by way of character interaction.

The author also supports his themes with symbols that appear throughout the novel. One symbol is fire, referred to repeatedly in the story:

It stamps out books and the freedom of thought that books represent. 

It is interesting how the meaning of fire changes for Montag. At the beginning he likes his job:

It was a pleasure to burn.

It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed.

By the end of his "transformation," fire becomes an abomination to Montag. It is also ironic in that fire (which he has come to hate) becomes the element that actually saves him as well—for it is with fire that Montag kills Beatty and runs away, finding freedom and a new life in the woods with others who think as he does.

Making the story credible and exciting are literary elements that appeal to the reader. More over, Bradbury's writing style makes the novel not only engaging, but also surprisingly relevant, even sixty-two years after its first publication in 1950.


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