I'm writing a book report on Fahrenheit 451, and I'm not sure what a theme is.
I can explain all the themes by myself but I don't really understand what one is, so can I please have a simple list of them?
One theme is alienation. Montag experiences genuine loneliness for the first time after talking with Clarisse. He starts to question the robot-like way he and most citizens have gone about their lives. His alienation from this society is difficult but it is what allows him to think more creatively and to become an individual.
Conformity is a theme. As Montag's thirst for knowledge steadily increases, he conforms less and less with society's rules and he eventually rebels against its oppressive practices.
Another theme is the paradox of technology. The paradox is that technology can lead to progress but it can also be used to hinder types of progress, even to the point of regression. In Fahrenheit 451, technology is used to pacify citizens via television and pills. Technology is also used to destroy knowledge via the burning of the books.
Knowledge is an equally important theme. Knowledge can be linked to individualism (which must emerge from alienation and non-conformity) since Montag must rebel from the world he knows, literally to break the law, in order to obtain and be exposed to new knowledge. With that knowledge, his need to rebel increases. It is only with this new knowledge and his new thirst for knowledge that he realizes another theme which has been missing in his life, and that is freedom.
All of these themes are related to each other. The wanderers Montag meets must memorize some books because they have been destroyed. Thus, these people become knowledge, underscoring the idea that knowledge is a living, evolving, progressive thing. Therefore, change is also a theme. This is an ironic theme because the book begins with this statement:
It was a pleasure to burn. It was a pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed.
In the beginning, Montag's idea of "change" was destruction. By the end of the novel, he sees change as transformation, freedom, individuality, evolution and progress. Lastly, it should be noted that this final optimistic view of change is about the evolution and triumph of the human spirit; not the triumph of the technological suppression of humanity.