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The Rights and Freedoms in Fahrenheit 451


After World War II, United States was growing in success as a seeming winner of the war; yet, growing alongside of it, was an universal fear and stress about technology and ideology– the summation of the oncoming Cold War. As a young writer in the middle of this mid-twentieth century panic in between the Capitalistic U.S. and the Communist USSR regime, Ray Bradbury, like numerous others, communicated and protested the impracticality of the concealed war through a series of short stories and books released at the time. Of those, The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451, published consecutively in 1950 and 1953, respectively, still remain the best gotten for their adventurous take on the American mass culture hysteria and the unreasonable policy passed by Congress throughout the Cold War. An episodic novel, The Martian Chronicles concentrates on the American supremacy and conformity complex through a series of independent narratives that follow the American dominate of Mars. It typically hints at the filtration and damage of concepts in the world, elements that are more totally checked out in Fahrenheit 451. Popular for its extensive example of federal government censorship and meaningless materialism, Fahrenheit 451 walks through the metamorphosis of a book-burning fireman as he understands the need of the understanding and ideas produced from books and stories. In both worlds, Bradbury emphasizes the procedure of conformity– initially, purification of popular opinion to an ideology through mass appeal and bulk pressure, and then, eradication of future differing viewpoints that may birth under the recognized cleansed society. Nevertheless, Bradbury’s attitude on the procedure, as shown by character analysis of the 2 novels, modifications with time, growing grim as the Cold War movements escalated at the time of publication.

Ray Douglas Bradbury was born in Waukegan, Illinois on August 22, 1920. Considering that he was young, Bradbury was understood to have a future in liberal arts. As a lifelong enthusiast to drama literature, and poetry, he declared that his significant influences include Edgar Allan Poe, William Shakespeare, and later on contemporaries such as Aldous Huxley. Bradbury often hinted and referenced the style and works of his favorite poets and authors to pay regard to their contribution to literary arts. Besides being an author, Bradbury was also a popular playwright and film writer, professions that were especially targeted and harassed during the McCarthy Era. because of his experience with the Cold War reactionaries, Bradbury questioned the stability of freedom of expression in his books. As exemplified by The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451– both about American obsessive control of ideology– Bradbury’s personal witness of his time influences and stands as crucial aspects in his books. As he mentioned in an interview in 1980, the Cold War Period was probably the mind-settling period for Bradbury’s criticism of government, when he “was alerting people … [when he] was preventing futures” (Hoskinson).

To demonstrate his disapproval about the Cold War policies, Bradbury initially starts extended importance of bulk conformity in both of his books. Through particular characterization, Bradbury provides the matching relationship in between majority and minority, in which the former dominates the latter and cleanses the general public with mass appeal and pressure. In the two books, the federal government’s justification for these conformity policies is the resulting consistency and happiness amongst the people; yet, as many critics has understood, the metaphors of these books represent the matching early Cold War policies that brought about narrow-mindedness in individuals and in terms, “Bradbury’s strong distrust of [those] ‘majority-held’ views” (Hoskinson).

Several of The Martian Chronicles episodes contain clashes in between majority and minority that arise from the effort to purify concepts; most considerable of them all is “And the Moon Be Still as Bright”, initially published as an independent short story in 1948 (Hoskinson). In the story, Captain Wilder is the leader of the 4th Exploration team to Mars and in terms, the main figure of the bulk. His identity as the will of the bulk is highlighted when he is challenged by an outcast team member, Spender, who, unlike the other colonizing team members, wishes to protect the lost Martian civilization. Wilder stands by his identity throughout the story whenever he speaks with Spender; and later, he wins the fight with Spender, representing the success of the bulk. Later on, Wilder acknowledges, however more ever, begins to doubt the bulk:

Who are we, anyhow? The majority? Is that the answer? The majority is constantly holy, is it not? Always, always; simply never wrong for one little unimportant small moment, is it? … how the devil did I get caught in this rotten bulk? (Bradbury, Chronicles, 95)

In executing his duty to purify minority, Wilder himself becomes conflicted with, as Hoskinson puts it, “the problem of uniqueness vs. conformity.” By establishing the bulk and additionally, slamming the majority through its own leader, Bradbury sculpts out the usage and faults of bulk pressure.

Since of the publication chronology, themes of The Martian Chronicles, such as the one above, are typically more fully explored in Fahrenheit 451. Whereas the majority-minority conflict is limited to each of Chronicles episodes, the concept of filtration is the essence and is discovered throughout F451. Characters such as the spouse of lead character Man Montag, Mildred, and Captain Beatty, represent the nature and features of a cleansed mind of the majority. Mildred– with her head filled with government-issued daytime drama on “parlor walls”(Bradbury, F451, 130), her ears addicted to “electrical ocean of noise” (Bradbury, F451, 10) for 10 years, and her attention period lasting no greater than a couple of seconds– she is the poster-woman of the materialistic and ignorant population. She even values the imaginary characters on TELEVISION more than her partner. When Montag asks her, “Will you turn the parlor off?” she refuses and responds, “That’s my family” (Bradbury, F451, 46). McGiveron explains that this sort of mindless behavior “is the result of the public’s active desire to avoid debate … in favor of easy satisfaction and, ultimately, intellectual conformity.” Though he argues that the general public bulk is the reason for this filtration, federal government policy definitely plays a part in spreading and taking full advantage of conformity to mass appeals, thus removing controversy and strengthening consistency. Captain Beatty of the Fire Department understands this well. As an uncommon intellectual who really concurs with the government, Beatty, too, “much like [s] strong entertainment” (Bradbury, F451, 61); however he likewise stresses the requirement for an uniform public. “We need to all be alike. Not everybody born free and equal, like the Constitution states, however everyone made equal” (Bradbury, F451, 55). However, by defining Beatty as the antagonist of the story (who is later on burned to death by Montag), Bradbury shows his displeasure to Beatty’s ideas of conformity. In fact, the opposing intellectual character and the help to Person Montag, Faber, identifies Captain Beatty as “the most hazardous enemy to fact and liberty, the unmoving cattle of the bulk” (Bradbury, F451, 104). Similar to Wilder, the bulk representative in Chronicles, Beatty is antagonized due to the fact that of his symbolic identity; nevertheless, it is important to keep in mind that Wilder of the early Bradbury publication is self-antagonized, and Beatty, from Bradbury’s later work, is deemed as opponent by another character, while he himself still believes in the absolute will of the bulk. The augmentation of the symbolic character’s belief in majority-held views through the publication years parallels the development of McCarthy Movement (roughly 1950-1956) and U.S. federal government and public push for advance weapons (caused by USSR becoming a nuclear power in 1949). This parallelism of literature to truth not just legitimizes the pretense of Bradbury’s Cold War criticism, however likewise reveals the evolution of Bradbury’s disillusion with federal government conformity policy– from believing that it could alter, to completely downcasting it as antagonistic to the people’s flexibility.

After the act cleansing perfects and destroying any present opposition in society, Bradbury continues onto the next action of federal government policy to obtain peace– removing any future possibilities of various opinions so that the uniform ideology sustains. Bradbury already reveals the elimination of chances to find out new ideas through the popular book burning occasions in both of his novels, however he also demonstrate how federal government responds to recently stimulated ideas post-purification by presenting defiant characters in his worlds. In addition, these rebels of various books, though similar in their characterization, have different ending to their interactions with the governmental censorship. Standehl of The Martian Chronicles is targeted by federal government injustice for celebrating Edgar Allen Poe, but he is able to defeat censorship officials and continue his complimentary expression; nevertheless, in the later publication of Fahrenheit 451, Clarisse, an overdue who questions social ideology and structure, is eliminated for her habits. The truth that Bradbury’s characterization of the end to these hooligans depresses in time indicates his growing cynical view on the consequence of totally free private expression in the genuine American society of his time.

In chapter “Usher II” of The Martian Chronicles, Bradbury already explains Earth as a conformed and carefully censored world. Distinguished and high-ranking people of society and government condemn books, dreams and imagination; common citizens are all “Clean-Minded” and believe “the Burning [of books] was a good idea” (Bradbury, Chronicles, 165). A censoring organization called the “Moral Climates” is established and is, at the time of the story, responsible to have actually the recently colonized Mars “as cool and neat as Earth” (Bradbury, Chronicles, 166). In the middle of conformity, Standehl develops a scary home, “Usher II”, on Mars to commemorate Edgar Allen Poe, who explained a house of the exact same name in among his scary stories. This act, certainly against the social facility of restricting supernatural and imaginary books, leads to Standehl’s arrest by Garrett, a Private Investigator of the Moral Climates. However, Standehl is not censored like the majority of the outlaws in Bradbury’s stories– he in reality techniques Garrett, and later on, kills him together with all of the other “‘majority guests’ [to your house of Usher] with different approaches to murders seen in Poe’s stories” (Hoskinson). The reality that Standehl is able to not just preserve his liberty of expression in the type of working out Poe’s fantasies, but also succeed in “paying back … the antibacterial government for its literary fears and conflagration” (Bradbury, Chronicles, 170), shows, what Hoskinson called, a person’s unusual “ominous triumph over the majority.” More ever, in identifying Standehl with such success, Bradbury shows hope in reforming his own federal government from its removal policies of anti-communism.

Yet, it is essential to note that “Usher II” is initially published in 1950, when the “Second Red Scare” led by Joseph McCarthy was just solidifying its ground. By 1953, the year Fahrenheit 451 was released, the Anti-Communist crusade had reached its peak with its arrests, accusations, and general harassments. In this later book, Bradbury offers a much graver representation of the result for outspoken hooligans.

In Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury again constructs a world in which conformity is vital and viewpoints are criminal. Schools, starting earlier and earlier to muster complete brainwash of kids’s minds, need their students to accept and praise materialism and lack of knowledge. As the brand-new generation born totally surrounded with extreme indoctrination, the seventeen year old Clarisse McClellan is a surprising castaway who still believes in concerns and wonder. She slams that her schoolmates “call a lot of cars and trucks or swimming pools primarily and state how swell … however they all state the same things and nobody states anything different from anyone else” (Bradbury, F 451, 28). Instead of following that socially accepted behavior, Clarisse selects to ask the why in demonstration and in homage to the part of inherent humanity that pursues individuality. Yet, although her behavioral protest to the social teaching resembles Standehl’s disobedience against the recognized condemnation of fantasy and books, she does not have the same remarkable fate as Standehl. As Captain Beatty, the representative of the bulk and the company follower in the recognized structure of conformity, later on discusses–“She was a time bomb. She didn’t want to know how a thing was done, however why … The poor lady’s much better off dead” (Bradbury, F 451, 58). And she is. The deadly end of Clarisse, most likely made by Beatty and his bulk bunch, “demonstrates how intolerance for opposing ideas assists cause the stifling of specific expression and for this reason of thought” (McGiveron). Yet this process opposes the outcome of Standehl, as he is in the end victorious in the fight of individuality v. conformity. One might suspect this polarizing contrast of Clarisse’s fate from Standehl’s in facing pre-established government guideline to be an error in Bradbury’s philosophy, however given the historic context, this in reality may be due to the modification of his approach. Chronicles is a collection of short stories Bradbury released in the years 1944-1950; since then, lots of issues that Bradbury addresses in Chronicles had changed, or intensified. When Fahrenheit 451 was published in 1953, the McCarthy motion was at its height when all opposing opinions appear to cause allegations and outcasting. And not only was it a time for the Red Scare, it was likewise when people were just normally so concentrated on the absolute Americanism that they either oppressed or ignored any contradiction to their ideology. Such a change in social and political absolutism must have shifted Bradbury’s view on federal government tolerance to flexibility of expression, from enthusiastic to grim.

Many critics declare that The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451 consist of prophetic analysis of the future. Yet, while the creativity that Bradbury reveals within his stories suggests that he has the capacity to anticipate the future, the act of doing so requires an active desire to see the unidentified. Bradbury’s mindset in his books suggests a more dismal and passive incentive. Through his increasingly bleak portrayal of characters that manifests the different sides of government’s combat to conformity, Bradbury expresses his developing disillusionment with the future of liberty of expression and government tolerance of it. The reality that Bradbury does not focus on the practicality of his worlds, such as Mars having sustainable air for people to reside on and kids finding out about materialistic trivia for school, eliminate his reward to prophesize. Rather, Bradbury means to stimulate the comparable grim emotion in his readers so that they can comprehend and take care in their action to conformity. As he stated in his 1980 interview and his conversation with the Los Angeles Times thirty years later on, “I’m not a futurist. Individuals ask me to anticipate the future, while all I wish to do is prevent it.”

Works Mentioned

Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451. New York City: Simon and Schuster, 2012. Print.

Bradbury, Ray. The Martian Chronicles. New York: Harper Perennial, 2011. Print.

George, Lynell. “Ray Bradbury Passes Away at 91; Author Raised Dream to Literary Heights.” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 06 June 2012. Web. 16 May 2013.

McGiveron, Rafeeq O. “What ‘Brought the Technique’? Mass Exploitation and the Decrease of Thought in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.” Extrapolation 37.3 (Fall 1996): 245-256. Rpt. in Contemporary Literary Criticism. Ed. Jeffrey W. Hunter. Vol. 235. Detroit: Windstorm, 2007. Literature Resource Center. Web. December 2012.

Hoskinson, Kevin. “The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451: Ray Bradbury’s Cold War Novels.” Projection 36.4 (Winter Season 1995): 345-359. Rpt. in Contemporary Literary Criticism. Ed. Jeffrey W. Hunter. Vol. 235. Detroit: Windstorm, 2007. Literature Resource Center. Web. January 2013.

“Ray Douglas Bradbury.” 2013. The Bio Channel site. December 2012. http://www.biography.com/people/ray-bradbury-9223240.

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