The Problem of Identity in Fahrenheit 451

2021-05-20 15:22:01
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It has always been difficult for people of any age to become aware who they really are. The question of a persons identity is one of the most salient in Ray Bradburys widely-acclaimed novel Fahrenheit 451. Throughout the book, the protagonist, Guy Montag, is struggling to associate himself with someone else someone stable and devoid of doubt in order to put an end to his inner conflict. The theme of identity also manifests itself in the topic of numerous suicides that people in Montags world repeatedly commit that subsequently leads to their blood changing and being brought back from the dead.

In the beginning of the novel Montag seems to have no doubts and be content about his life and occupation. Book-burning is something he takes for granted since both his father and the grandfather were firemen too. In the ultra-modern society he is living in, sameness and ordinariness are supposed to be the biggest values. Therefore, as long as Montag does not meet anyone different he is quite satisfied with his life. Sameness is one of the constant characteristic of his world and he does not question it as long as he perceives it as a natural thing. Montag starts to cast doubt upon everything about him after he meets young and romantic Clarisse who shows him that there is much more to this world than destroying the books and watching endless TV shows. That is when he notices his striking resemblance to other firemen and his identity crisis begins:

Had he ever seen a fireman that didn't have black hair, black brows, a fiery face, and a blue-steel shaved but unshaved look? These men were all mirror-images of himself! (Bradbury 15)

After meeting Clarisse Montag feels that something must be wrong with the world he is living in as people in it never stop committing suicides. The theme of identity is also raised in the scene where Mildred is getting someone elses blood and Guy is trying to understand if she is the same person as before the suicide. In fact, he even wants his wife to become a different person, not this lifeless programmed TV-zombie she became after almost all the walls of their apartment had been transformed into TV-panels:

If only they could have taken her mind along to the dry-cleaner's and emptied the pockets and steamed and cleansed it and reblocked it and brought it back in the morning. If only(Bradbury 7)

Changes in Montag progress after he with his colleagues burns an old woman in her apartment full of books. At this point Montag is sure that something must be missing from his society since it does not seem to make anyone happy: those who are against the system would rather die than live without books and those who accept the system choose to commit suicide as well. The only things that he can detect as missing are the ones he continuously destroys, so Montag turns to books and starts to look for answers in Faber, a former college professor he met one day in a park. Faber tries to explain to Montag that the world used to be different and books were not the only type of receptacle where [they] stored a lot of things [they] were afraid [they] might forget (Bradbury 37). People from the past watched different movies, appreciated nature and music and reflected a lot about their life. Montags identity seems to melt with Fabers and he is afraid he is going insane as parts of his body start to live their own life. His confusion and perplexity coincide with general chaos and disarray in his world. Finally, Montag solves his identity crisis by joining the people in the woods who try to save books for future generations by literally becoming them memorizing them by heart. He becomes Ecclesiastes and takes solace in Grungers worlds that one day the load [they]'re carrying with [them] may help someone (Bradbury 73).

To sum up, Ray Bradburys Fahrenheit 451 can be successfully interpreted in the light of identity seeking. A person can hardly bear to be one faceless cog in the machine and the destruction of this unified system symbolizes Montags rejection of its values. The community in the woods where each person represents a book glorifies the world where everyone is blissfully different and full of sacred meaning.

Works Cited

Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451.1953, Accessed 1 Oct. 2016.

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