Which role does individuality play in Fahrenheit 451?

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The society in this novel discourages questioning and free-thinking; these exact actions are the things that tend to separate one person from another. Our unique questions, thoughts, and actions are what make us individuals.

Clarisse McClellan is the main symbol of individualism in this novel. While others spend their time...

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The society in this novel discourages questioning and free-thinking; these exact actions are the things that tend to separate one person from another. Our unique questions, thoughts, and actions are what make us individuals.

Clarisse McClellan is the main symbol of individualism in this novel. While others spend their time in mindless entertainment that discourages individual thought, Clarisse prefers to study the world around her and form her own opinions on things. Her great dislike for conformity is shown in a conversation she has with Montag about the society's educational system. She says that the teachers "just run the answers at you." She compares the students to funnels and the teachers's information to water that is poured down the funnels. She claims that their facts and information are dishonest when she says they "[tell] us it's wine when it's not." Her perspective is that education should be about asking questions and finding the answers for yourself, as opposed to memorizing someone else's observations. She also shows her disapproval of society's blind allegiance to conformity when she states that "[people] all say the same things and nobody says anything different from anyone else."

Through Montag's unique interactions and conversations with Clarisse, he begins to embrace his own individuality. His departure from the rest of society's uniformity of thought is the basis for the rising action throughout the majority of the novel.

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In Bradbury's dystopian society, the authoritative regime champions conformity and severely oppresses individuality by censoring literature, prohibiting intellectual pursuits, and arresting anyone expressing their unique, personal interests. The government views individuality as a threat to its stability and punishes citizens who do not conform to popular culture. Individuals are considered enemies of the government and anyone who does not conform to society's shallow culture is closely monitored or arrested.

Clarisse McClellan is one of the most unique, memorable characters in the story, who epitomizes individuality and self-expression. She is also the catalyst for Montag's self-examination and transformation. Because Clarisse is a likable, charismatic girl who is naturally intuitive and curious, she is considered a threat to society and put on a watch list. Faber is another individual who is forced to remain indoors and hidden because he fears being arrested by government agents. The second Montag expresses his individuality by reading books, consulting Faber, and discussing literature, he is considered an enemy of the state. Through Clarisse, Faber, and Montag, Bradbury champions individuality while warning readers about the dangerous outcomes of government censorship.

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The novel makes a strong and dramatic defense of the value of individuality and the individual's right to exist in society. What most defines an individual is his or her own mind. Control a person's mind and individuality ceases to exist. In Montag's society, the government stamps out individuality through mind control. By outlawing books, burning them and punishing those who persist in owning them, the government usurps each person's right to think--to be a separate and distinct individual in society and to become whatever one chooses to become.

Montag's relationship with Clarisse reminds him of what it means to be a thinking individual and sets him on his dangerous but fulfilling path to act independently of the state. Once Montag begins to think for himself, he is free. The state no longer controls his mind, and he is his own man. When he joins with others like himself in the novel's conclusion, we can infer that a new and better society will emerge from the ruins, built by people who think for themselves, those who have courageously reclaimed their individuality and preserved human history and philosophy through the books they have memorized.

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