Fahrenheit 451 Summary

The most famous work of Ray Bradbury Fahrenheit 451 refers to the direction indicated as pessimistic future ideas in the subcategory "anti-utopia." This is the name that indicates the temperature at which the paper ignites, in the context of this book. The main idea of Bradbury's novel is a warning against the expected negative consequences of a still so new phenomenon in the 1950s as watching television programs.

Book Summary

State power has a fire department with a police function, whose task is to find and burn books. The fire brigade uses a flamethrower that generates a heat level of 451 degrees Fahrenheit (232 degrees Celsius). This is the temperature at which the paper burns. All people, in this state of a future life, do not know remorse, and moral doubts are completely eliminated in this society. Instead, the public dedicates all their free time to primitive, meaningless transmissions from oversized TV screens with "flat" films and blunt advertising or flipping through senseless magazines that have no informative content. The aim of this inhuman regime was to stupefy people so as not to allow them to independently and critically think, not to mention an uprising against state power.

Guy Montag

The protagonist in this story is the firefighter Guy Montag, who is fully convinced of the correctness of these views and is passionately engaged in his dubious activities. This gives him a sense of strength at work and has a definite charm on him for a long time. Opportunities for professional careers inspire him.

Uneducated Guy represents the average population in the process of the described gloomy future. Nevertheless, he is curious and skeptical. His wife, Mildred, also fully meets the characteristics of the average person. The system is personified by the head of Guy, Captain Beattie.

But there are people, who are in opposition to the rules of the system and are trying to form their own opinion, independently determine the form of intellectual reflection. This is the former professor of literature Faber and Clarisse McClellan.

Clarisse McClellan

The task of Guy and his colleagues is to search for books and destroy them with flamethrowers. Reading and possession of books are strictly prohibited by the state. For non-compliance with this requirement, severe punishment is threatened. Only when he meets the beautiful young Clarissa by chance on the street, he gets the first impulse to think about his actions. She is from an unconventional family, where they love nature and do not idolize the hyper technologies of their time. Clarissa is one of the members of a group of dissidents who study whole books by heart and compensate for the burned literature by listening to each other.

He realizes that despite her youth, Clarissa is more mature and intelligent than his thirty-year-old wife Mildred. Relations between her and her husband are dispassionate and cold and are limited only to watching TV. When his wife makes an attempt to commit suicide, Guy realizes that this is not the result of internal experiences, but she was simply impressed by watching TV. After further meetings with Clarissa, he begins to guess that he meets with a convinced opponent of the system. On the other hand, he wonders if he is in love with her. In any case, Clarissa gives him new food for thought and has an increasing influence on him.

Cardinal Changes in The Way of Thinking

Gradually the way of thinking of the main character changes and he decides to read the book, which had to be burned. He begins to read and doubt the correctness of his life. His work gives him less pleasure, and he mentally retreats more and more from his state and soon realizes that this is an inhuman regime. The act of a woman caught in possession of books who refused to leave the home intended for burning produced a decisive impression on Guy. The woman poured herself kerosene and died with her books.

Guy is looking for his place in life and meets an old man named Faber in the park. Faber becomes Gai's mentor in his emergence as a new personality.

At this time, his wife tells him about the death of Clarissa. Guy refuses to go to work, but his boss Beatty visits him and tries to inspire him with thoughts about the correctness of existing life and order. After Beatty left, Guy brought home several books and tried to attach his wife and her friends to them, but without success. After Guy came to work, the fire crew called to burn another house. When they come to the challenge, it turns out that it is necessary to burn Guy's house. His own wife betrayed him. Guy burns books, and his own house, but Beatty's boss finds a walkie-talkie with the help that Guy contacted the professor. In order not to betray Professor Gai sends a flamethrower against Beatty's superiors and kills him. From this moment he is considered a state criminal.

He joins a group of dissidents. Granger, a well-read person, is the leader of these people. He immediately integrated Guy into the group and made friends with him. Guy and his new friends leave the city and hope that in the future they will have the opportunity to build a new society after their return. At this time, the war begins, and the story ends with the bombing of his native city with nuclear bombs, as a result of which it was completely destroyed.

Novel Structure and Symbols

The structure of the novel Bradbury is set by a system of oppositions, piercing the entire narrative such as light and darkness, noise and silence, vanity and tranquility. In part this was reflected in the title and composition of the chapters: two of the three were constructed in this way.

In the first (the Hearth and the Salamander), the key role belongs to the ambivalent image of the flame that unfolds through these symbols. A salamander is an animal that lives on fire, and it is also the emblem of the work of firefighters who do not save books from the flame but burn them. It is not by chance that it is in this chapter that the protagonist of the novel, Guy Montag, meets Clarisse. Her expressive face and sincerity contrast with the frozen features of Mildred, and the warmed-light veranda of the house, where the Clarissa family talks, with the darkness and cold of his bedroom.

The image of the candle is closely connected with the image of the hearth, which also does not lend itself to an unambiguous interpretation. First, the candle as a natural light source is contrasted with the artificial light of electric lights of advertising and television walls. Secondly, the flame of a candle is associated in the hero's mind with the fire of love (Clarissa's face seems lit by a candle). Finally, the flame of a candle is likened to faith and fidelity to own principles.

Another important symbol is a mask as a necessary sign of a civilization dominated by aggressive mediocrity. Bradbury describes this type of society, the main feature of which is destructivism and selfishness. So, Montag constantly feels on his face a convict smile of a fireman as a sign of his profession, and only meeting with Clarisse melt this icy immobility. It is characteristic that the face of his wife is also like a mask, and her soul, like the souls of almost all their acquaintances, is constantly associated with emptiness.

The second chapter is called "Sand and Sieve," which is an indication of the futility of all efforts to fill the life in this city with meaning. The third chapter of "Burning Bright" is a hidden quote from Blake's poem "The Tiger." Here there is a final arrangement of accents, and Guy Montag makes his only possible choice, moving to the side of a light, not a dark flame. It is symbolic that he leads the chain of people walking in the finale, whose memory preserves the wisdom and knowledge of books.

Some Conclusions to Be Made From This Book

  • Society goes by the path of self-destruction;
  • A person has strength and power in his hands, he is simply afraid to take risks;
  • A person is afraid to live the way he wants;
  • Everyone's inner world is the richness of the universe;
  • Every life is unique and important;
  • Happiness is inside each of us.

These statements can be the strong thesis for essay writing in literature and other humanities.