Alienation and Loneliness
An atmosphere of alienation is established by Bradbury in the opening scenes of Fahrenheit 451, which details a "fireman's" growing dissatisfaction with his conformist society. Montag's pleasure in his work of burning books is quickly challenged in his conversation with his neighbor, Clarisse McClellan. As they walk home together, she asks Montag if he is happy. His first reaction is to tell himself that, of course, he is happy. After leaving her and wandering around inside his house looking for his wife, Montag answers Clarisse's question in the negative. When he discovers that his wife Mildred has taken an overdose of sleeping pills, his alienation is intensified. Bradbury uses the roar of jets overhead as a counterpoint to Montag's scream, thus pitting his character's human sounds and feelings against the roaring sounds of technology. With the introduction of other mechanical devices, such as the equipment used on Mildred by the medics, the television parlors, and the Mechanical Hound, Montag's alienation from a society that has embraced mass culture and thoroughly discouraged individual thinking intensifies. In scene after scene, Montag becomes emotionally alienated from his work, his wife, and the people he works with. As this alienation increases, he reaches out to books and to the people who value them. His escape from the city to the refuge of the book people offers hope. He has escaped the alienation of the...
(The entire section is 815 words.)
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Bradbury's primary theme in Fahrenheit 451 is the importance of independent thought and intellectual freedom. He sees reading as a key method of cultivating intellectual curiosity. Books confront readers with a variety of conflicting opinions and ideas, forcing them to think for themselves.
Bradbury portrays an overdependence on technology as a threat to intellectual development. Montag's escape from the supposedly infallible Mechanical Hound shows that an active human mind is superior to even the best technology. In Bradbury's novel, education's emphasis on technology leads to a culture where people understand how things are done but never bother to wonder why things are done. Such an education discourages people from developing their creative abilities, and as the narrative points out several times, those who cannot build destroy. The result is a society where fanatical, destructive behavior, such as the firemen's book-burning, flourishes.
(The entire section is 140 words.)