Can you provide examples of Man vs. Society in Fahrenheit 451?

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The most obvious example of a man vs. society conflict throughout the novel Fahrenheit 451 is Montag's struggle to educate himself and become an intellectual in Bradbury's dystopian society. In Bradbury's dystopian society, it is illegal to own books, which makes Montag a wanted man. He is forced to run and hide from the authorities throughout the novel because he possesses illegal books. The authoritarian government censures knowledge by burning books and sends the Mechanical Hound to track down Montag, who is on the run. Other characters throughout the novel also struggle against the dystopian society. Clarisse is treated as an outcast for her peculiar behavior and is kept under the close watch of authorities. Faber is forced to live an isolated life because he is an intellectual. Granger and his group of traveling intellectuals are also forced to live on the outskirts of society because they value and seek knowledge. 

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In Fahrenheit 451, there are a number of examples which demonstrate a conflict between Man and Society:

  • Montag vs. the Majority: According to Beatty, it is the majority who first turned their backs on books and encouraged the government to introduce the fireman system. Montag's real battle with the majority begins in Part Two when he develops an "insidious plan" with Faber to bring down this system and to reintroduce books into society.  But the majority are unwilling to embrace literature, as we see when Montag reads Dover Beach to Mildred and her friends. Montag does, however, put this plan into action when he plants a book in a fellow fireman's house and calls in the alarm.
  • Montag vs. the Government: After killing Captain Beatty in Part Three, Montag does battle with the government: they send the Mechanical Hound after him and broadcast the chase on live television. This conflict is resolved when Montag escapes the city while the government publicly executes an innocent man.
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Provide a few man vs. society quotes from Fahrenheit 451.

The society that exists in Fahrenheit 451 does not appreciate academic learning, in-depth reading, and quality education. They have evolved into a society that demands pleasure over learning, visual and audio entertainment over reading, and recreation, such as driving fast cars, over education. Anyone behaving differently than this hedonist standard of living is considered antisocial or a misfit. For example, Clarisse McClellan is a 17 year-old girl who behaves differently because she has an uncle who teaches her about life before the current society. Beatty describes how she as an individual was viewed by society:

"She was a time bomb. The family had been feeding her subconscious, I'm sure, from what I saw of her school record. She didn't want to know how a thing was done, but why. That can be embarrassing" (60).

Clarisse was different, so they got rid of her. She really was an innocent victim because she had no defense against a society that didn't like her individuality and free-thinking spirit.

Next, Montag is at odds with society as well. He looks around at his life and feels as if something is missing. He notices a few things about society that disturb him and he tells his friend Faber about them as follows:

"Nobody listens any more. I can't talk to the walls because they're yelling at me. I can't talk to my wife; she listens to the walls. I just want someone to hear what I have to say. And maybe if I talk long enough, it'll make sense" (82).

The above passage shows that Montag struggles against the accepted norms in society that seem to divide people rather than bring them together. In an effort to explain things to Montag, Faber says the following:

"The whole culture's shot through. The skeleton needs melting and reshaping. . .The public itself stopped reading of its own accord. You firemen provide a circus now and then at which buildings are set off and crowds gather for the pretty blaze, but it's a small sideshow indeed, and hardly necessary to keep things in line" (87).

Faber's explanation centers around the fact that people, not a controlling, evil government, are the problem with society. Values have shifted since before the wars and the change of society. Faber used to teach college English, and he saw a decline in interest and appreciation for literature until finally it was outlawed. A shift in society's whole mind frame brought down the quality and value of literature, deep thinking, philosophy, and the like. When society went one way, there were only a few individuals who held onto the old values. The few in Fahrenheit 451 who fight against society, then, are Clarisse, Faber, and Montag.

 

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