Capability of Change
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People are known for growing: growing in height, age, and in this case, as a person. In addition to growing, people can also change. Someone can go from being detestable to being admired, and so much more. A clear example of this kind of person would be Guy Montag from Fahrenheit 451, who goes from being a serious firefighter to someone who goes against the society’s laws. In Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury uses the rhetorical device of character development in order to demonstrate how people can grow and change as a person.
Bradbury shows this through the use of several factors such as discovery, relationships, and impactful experiences. People learn new things through discovery. Discoveries can be very affecting to a person in the way their knowledge may be augmented and/or their way of living can be completely changed. In Fahrenheit 451, Guy Montag discovers many things about himself, his job, and the society he lives in. These discoveries increased Montag’s knowledge about the world around him, but they also changed the way he viewed everyone and everything around him: ‘“I’ve heard rumors; the world is starving, but we’re well fed.
Is it true, the world works hard and we play? Is that why we’re hated so much? ’”(Bradbury 70). Montag wasn’t so happy when he discovered that the rest of the world isn’t as fortunate as he is. In this society, many would ignore this fact and go about their day, but Montag, who has now started to go through discovery and realization, was affected unlike the others. The care and interest Montag now has for the rest of the world is what makes him distinct from the rest of the fire crew and society.
This society may be oblivious of the world around them, but it goes to an extreme length when someone is inattentive of their own family: “‘Go home and think of your first husband divorced and your second husband killed in a jet and your third husband blowing his brains out, go home and think of the dozen abortions you’ve had’”(Bradbury 98). Montag, now being more alert of the world around him, decided to speak about the problematic state of marriage between Mrs. Bowles and her husbands. Mrs. Bowles doesn’t have much of an emotional connection to any of her past husbands as she never did cry when they passed away, she simply moved on.
Speaking out loud about Bowles’ unconnected family is something Montag would have never done, but the discoveries he has now made has changed his actions as well. Reading made Montag vigilant, careful about his actions and what he does, but his discovery of books and their meaning also made him go crazy: “‘Dentifrice! ’ He tore the book open and flicked the pages and felt the pages and felt of them as if he were blind, he picked at the shapes of the individual letters, not blinking”(Bradbury 75). Montag was in a public train when he decided to pull out a book amongst watchful eyes.
This action was risky, especially for a fireman, but his actions were of result of the desire for answers. Reading a book in public is something Montag would have never done when he was serious about his job, but books have changed him and his actions. Conclusively, through the discovery of books and the world around him, Montag became more open, curious, and questionable about everything around him. Role models and influential people can create change among the people who look up to, or appreciate, them.
Montag had several people that were of influence towards him, some of who had changed his life: “‘She was the first person in a good many years I’ve really liked. She was the first person I can remember who looked straight at me as if I counted’”(Bradbury 68). Clarisse McClellan was a seventeen-year-old who was inimitable to the rest of the society. Clarisse and Montag had a unique relationship. Clarisse will teach Montag things he has never learned before and he would actually listen to her, something many people didn’t do.
When Clarisse died, Montag was damaged by her absence, and since then, Montag would take risks and changed as a result of her. Montag began to read books and question society. However, unlike Montag’s relationship with Clarisse, some of Montag’s relationships took a while to develop, for example, his relationship with Faber: “Montag knew if he reached out, he might pull a book of poetry from the man’s coat. But he did not reach out. His hands stayed on his knees, numbed and useless”(Bradbury 71). When Montag first met Faber in a park, he knew that Faber was one of those citizens who went against the law.
Montag knew that Faber was hiding a book inside his coat, but was able to hold himself back from attacking the elderly man, showing his respect towards the man. Montag and Faber did not yet have a confidential and trusting relationship at this point, but it was a respectful connection. Montag knew that it was his job to get rid of books, but something about Faber was able to keep Montag from making a move against him. After that day, Montag and Faber have lost connection and didn’t speak. However, when Montag began to do the unthinkable, Faber was the first man he turned to: “I just want someone to hear what I have to say.
And I want you to teach me to understand what I read”(Bradbury 78). When Montag decided to read all the books he had been hiding, he went to Faber for help. He read many of the books he kept hidden, but had trouble understanding what it all meant. However, Montag did know that he wanted to do something about the way the society ran. He wanted books to be legal again and wanted to stop any other books from being burned. At this moment, Faber and Montag became closer with a plan to sabotage the other firemen. With the encouragement of Faber, Montag became more solid on what he wanted in life and in society.
To conclude, the relationships Montag had with Clarisse and Faber had a great impact on his actions and on his goal in life. Traumatic experiences can change someone’s life completely, it can make a person more cautious and/or fearful. Guy Montag has had several experiences in his life, all of which affected him in significant amounts: “‘Would you like to go to that house that burnt last night? And rake ashes for the bones of the woman who set fire to her own house! What about Clarisse McClellan, where do we look for her? The morgue! ’”(Bradbury 69).
The moment Montag witnessed a woman set fire to her own home was the moment Montag’s life was completely changed. Unlike the rest of the firemen, Montag felt like he was doing wrong for burning the woman’s books. He felt guilty by his actions, and so he decided to save at least one book from the woman’s collection. This traumatic experience caused Montag to begin his journey into books. Additionally, all of the events and incidents Montag had experienced metaphorically “numbed” him, meaning he has grown confused and steered away from the person he once was: “I’m numb, he thought.
When did the numbness really begin in my face? In my body? The night I kicked the pill bottle in the dark, like kicking a buried mine”(Bradbury 73). Montag was lost in himself. He was unsure of who he truly was without his fireman suit and kerosene. He was lost because he didn’t know what purpose he had in society anymore. He was numb because he no longer knew who he truly was. All of the incidents he had gone through caused him to stray away from the career and life he once care so much for.
Although Montag had lost himself to all of his experiences, Montag still feared going back to what he once was: “‘His voice is like butter. I’m afraid he’ll talk me back the way I was. Only a week ago, pumping a kerosene hose, I thought: God, what fun! ’” (Bradbury 85). Montag had learned a lot after reading several books. Montag learned more about the society and the wrongdoings of the firemen. Montag feared Beatty and the power he has over him. After reading books, Montag knew that he had to do something about the firemen and the action of destroying all books.
All in all, the traumatic and nontraumatic experiences Montag has had throughout his life has caused him to change sides in society. He went from being against to being for books. To conclude, a person can develop and grow as a person through impactful findings, friendships, and experiences. In Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury uses character development in order to show how people are capable of developing into a greater person. Growing in height and age may be very important in life, but developing as a person is more important, and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 shows this.