Which role does individuality play in Fahrenheit 451?

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The novel makes a strong and dramatic defense of the value of individuality and the individual's right to exist in society. What most defines an individual is his or her own mind. Control a person's mind and individuality ceases to exist. In Montag's society, the government stamps out individuality through mind control. By outlawing books, burning them and punishing those who persist in owning them, the government usurps each person's right to think--to be a separate and distinct individual in society and to become whatever one chooses to become.

Montag's relationship with Clarisse reminds him of what it means to be a thinking individual and sets him on his dangerous but fulfilling path to act independently of the state. Once Montag begins to think for himself, he is free. The state no longer controls his mind, and he is his own man. When he joins with others like himself in the novel's conclusion, we can infer that a new and better society will emerge from the ruins, built by people who think for themselves, those who have courageously reclaimed their individuality and preserved human history and philosophy through the books they have memorized.

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