Fahrenheit 451 – Control
“But you can’t make people listen. They have to come round in their own time, wondering what happened and why the world blew up around them. It can’t last.”
-Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
Although written in 1953, Fahrenheit 451 still remains relevant in its precautionary message to this day. The protagonist, Guy Montag, undergoes drastic changes in his viewpoint of books in the Bradbury classic. When he begins to search for meaning in the books he has been burning, Montag is able to think clearly for himself and realize that he can control his mind and himself. He distinguishes his own morals rather than blindly following others. Only through his experiences and awareness of the world around him does Montag see the truth. By releasing his desire to control other people in society, Montag learns more about himself and how the world is structured. From the beginning, readers can empathize with Montag because of his observations of his environment. Montag questions why anyone would stay in a house of burning books and arrives at the conclusion that some value must exist in these taboo-bound papers. The more that Montag knows, the less confused he is about what he needs to do. Fahrenheit 451 teaches the concept that exercising control in relationships is ineffective.
Interestingly, Montag is a third-generation fireman (burner of books). From a young age, he has been taught by society that books must be burned and has taken his role with pride. In a way, ignorance and the uniform has kept Montag safe from the officials and allows him to appear orthodox; however, with the power of knowledge, Montag possesses the ability to adapt and evolve and to see the truth, which is much more valuable.
It has been nearly five years since I first read Fahrenheit 451, but I remember that the character which interested me most was not main character Montag, but his wife. Montag has good intentions; he simply wants to make Mildred see the truth about book burning as he does. As an optimist, Montag believes that he can make his wife change by having her read the books. In his mind, Mildred will understand the books and not be frightened at keeping books in their house. However, Mildred is not like Guy. Mildred takes sleeping pills to a suicidal extent and watches television obsessively as a way to escape reality. She is “empty” on the inside and does not match Montag’s inquisitive attitude at all. Mildred is happier through staying with society’s conventions and Montag should not interfere with her wishes.
Ultimately, Mildred and her friends turn Montag and the books in to the authorities. Mildred could not change and Montag could not control Mildred, and no amount of attempts of “enlightenment” will produce results. Montag becomes less dependent on the people who previously tried to control him such as his boss and his wife. His independence directly increased as the amount of information he perceives increased. The message behind Fahrenheit 451 is clear: control is not a solution. In our day-to-day lives, each person needs to each be the driver of his or her own vehicle.