Study Guide

Fahrenheit 451

by Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451 Themes

Themes

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 mechanical society he left behind. Perhaps he will help establish a better one by remembering the words in the book he will commit to memory. The suggestion Bradbury makes is that by staying connected to books, which are a reflection of other people's thinking, we stay connected as human beings one to the other. Books, then, are an antidote to alienation.

Apathy and Passivity
By portraying many characters as passive figures who never even wonder about their lot in life, Fahrenheit 451 seems to...

(The entire section is 815 words.)