What is the atmosphere of "Fahrenheit 451"?

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ms-mcgregor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The atmosphere in Fahrenheit 451 is one of frustration and confusion. At the beginning of the novel, Montag, the main character, has just begun to question his job of burning books. He meets Clarisse, who asks him if he is happy. Montag realizes he is not truly "happy" and then walks in on his wife who has just tried to commit suicide. When he calls for help, he gets only a robotic response to help revive his wife because suicide attempts are so common. Thus, in a society where everyone is supposed to be "happy", that common emotion is elusive. This starts Montag on his quest to find "happiness" which he comes to realize means the ability to think freely. Books offer that chance and he is frustrated with his job and the society in which he lives because it prevents his ability to think freely and read the books which contain the ideas he begins to cherish. In his frustration, he tries to sabotage other firemen and to change the power structure of his own society---only to find that he is now considered an enemy of the state. His only hope is to leave his society altogether and live with the Forest People. Fortunately, for Montag, his desire for change comes rather quickly because in their search for happiness, they have ignored an international crisis and war soon annihilates the "happy" society.

pmiranda2857 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There is a surreal quality to life in the pages of Fahrenheit 451.  Certainly, Ray Bradbury creates for the reader a sense of distortion in the existence that prohibits books. There is a sense of fear and isolation also from people, as well as those in authority. Books are forbidden, so are the feelings associated with them, the responses elicited, the individual inspiration one gets from books. Relationships are shallow and indifferent as well. 

"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."