Discuss the idea of conformity versus individuality as presented in Fahrenheit 451.

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amarang9 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Fahrenheit 451, Clarisse is the first character to challenge the social, ideological and cultural structure. She converses with Guy Montag and, in a Socratic way, provokes Montag to question those very structures for himself. It seems that Montag (and perhaps many or most people in Montag's social world) is so indoctrinated that he is not even aware that he has been mindlessly conforming all of his life. So, one of the elements of conformity in this novel is that one must first become aware of the forces that induce conformity before one becomes an individual.

This awareness can emerge from questioning behaviors, policies, everyday life practices, emotion, conditions and elements which reinforce/punish certain behaviors. This is as much a psychological as it is a social investigation. Montag begins psychologically, first questioning his own happiness. Then he goes on to consider the social reasons for book burning and the effects (conditioning) of the television shows on parlor walls. He then realizes that these practices are all part of an ideological agenda of conditioning people to be thoughtless, conformists and pushovers. And in this novel, because those forces are so oppressive, Montag must sustain his individualism by completely escaping from that oppressive world.