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To Rebel or Obey Is a Choice for Everyone

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Societal pressure is the influence on people by others to change one’s behaviors to conform the rest society. To improve on society, one must rebel against its standards. Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 clearly conveys the considerations one makes when choosing to either rebel or conform. Conformity in Bradbury’s world means an empty and unhappy lifestyle in which all thought and emotion is sacrificed. However, there is safety in a constrained mindset. When one rebels, they face the consequences of going against the grain. A rebel runs potentially risking hazards in the pursuit of an improved life. Thus, one must choose between conformity and being safe but superficial or rebelling and true fulfillment but risking danger. Rebellion cannot significantly improve society unless society is willing to accept change.

Most people choose to conform to society because although it is superficial, it is safe. There are two things that make people individuals; their intellectual thoughts and their relationships. Both of these are essentially nonexistent for those in Montag’s society. When people lose the ability to have either, they have also lost their individuality. People in this society have no books, meaning they also lack authentic thoughts and opinions. Education became extremely limited when the government first began removing sources of intelligence. This response resulted from the idea that when people produce different opinions, division and disagreement arise in the community. Anything controversial was taken away to make society unified in a singular understanding of things. Unfortunately, as books became swapped for quicker and easier substitutes almost all people didn’t even care, choosing to conform to the rules put over them.

A book reading rebel named Faber states “Remember, the firemen are rarely necessary. The public itself stopped reading of its own accord.” With this reminder, Faber is stating that the firemen, those who are tasked with destroying remaining books, are simply technicalities. The government need not do much to stop people from reading because most people don’t have the desire to read anyways. This means they have lost a device in which they can differentiate themselves from other people. Furthermore, an ability to be close to others has been lost. We see this in the lack of emotion between Guy and Mildred. When people are no longer able to care about one another, they also lose a part of their individuality. Montag asks Mildred “‘Will you turn the parlour off?’ he asked. ‘That’s my family.’ As a term of any meaning and significance, ‘family’ has become obsolete in Mildred’s mind. The very thing perpetuating Mildred’s unhappiness, technology, has become a part of her identity. She isn’t even aware of this. Regardless of how depressed life might become, most of this society will not be able to change because over time people have become increasingly unaware that they are even unhappy. There have been attempts to show those in the society the truth about books, and yet every time, the supporters of the book’s end up with their house burnt to the ground.

One might imagine the uneducated in society experiencing some meaningful moment of revelation or insight which then inspires them to join the rebellion, but this is never the case. Many people are not ready to face reality. For example, when Montag reads a poem aloud to Mildred and her friends, they are forced to face the uninformed, malicious society they live in and to recognize their own purposeless existence. One woman remarks as she leaves, ‘…I won’t come in this fireman’s crazy house again in my lifetime!’ Mildred and her friends emotional reaction reflects the remorse, disgrace, and anxiety that they desperately try to subdue on a daily basis. The ladies report him to the fire department for having a book, thus, Montag’s home is burnt to the ground.

There is a mindset of conformity which almost all people cannot seem to separate from. As such, even if there were a greater proportion of people more willing to initiate rebellion, people take signals from the world around them, especially other people, on how they should behave. An article by ABC news “Why Do People Follow the Crowd?” Talks about the demonstration Primetime set up which explores like minded people producing change in the individual thinker. It was observed that when most others reached a conclusion different from the individual, this person was more likely to skew their views. “‘I think I tend to do that, doubt myself when everyone else has their own opinion,’ Barbara said.” This doubt in independent thought causes even more of this society to remain at peace with life, regardless of how it can detrimentally affect them. The more people that choose to accept the world as it is, the more that follows.

People who might have created change no longer will due to pressure to conform, and because of the danger associated with rebellion. Society remains void of creativity and true happiness. With no emotional or intellectual lives and no ability to grasp onto it again, the people in this society have lost their individuality and aren’t capable of obtaining it again because they choose conformity.

In contrast, when one chooses to rebel, they choose the risk of danger but also true fulfillment. The symbols of improvement, the rebellious book readers, embody that which society is lacking. When a person stands up and fights to become different and unique from others, when they strive to better themselves and to be their own person, they are an individual. Individuals do not succumb to peer pressure, trends, or fads. Rather, they are uniquely themselves. In Fahrenheit 451, Clarisse is the first to protest the format of society. When encountering Montag, she tells him ‘I like to smell things and look at things, and sometimes stay up all night walking and watch the sun rise.’ Above all, Clarisse abstains from the typical empty acts of the society such as immersing in television. She speaks with Guy Montag and supports his questioning. He is striving to understand, for himself, why he is unhappy. This means he does unusual things, things outside the norm, and forges his own path in doing them. He seeks out answers for his individual happiness. As he converses with Faber, he articulates part of his apprehension, ‘We have everything we need to be happy, but we aren’t happy. Something’s missing. I looked around. The only thing I positively knew was gone was the books I’d burned in ten or twelve years.

So I thought books might help.” Reading books is the greatest act of rebellion because it is considered disruptive to engage in thoughts that are not in line with the government. As Montag develops, he concludes that the targets of society do nothing with reality, or with the affliction he feels at the lack of value placed on human life. The moment of truth appears when he is coerced into burning his books; after this moment, all his choices are influenced by his individuality, instead of society’s standards or his need to conceal his feelings. By the conclusion of the novel, Montag understands that he is appreciated by the people who make an effort to listen. Montag was so brainwashed that he was completely unaware of his mindless conformity over the course of his life. So, first a person has to become cognizant of the forces of conformity before one can transform into an individual. This can result from questioning policies, demeanors, everyday actions, and situations that reinforce certain behaviors. After, one can begin to seek greater meaning in life. Montag begins by first investigating the meaning behind his own happiness. Then, he goes on to contemplate the true reasons for book burning and the effects of television. He then finds that all of these things are part of a plan to train people into being thoughtless conformists.

All book readers have come to this life-changing conclusion, and but there doesn’t seem to be any effort to convert others. This is because society isn’t ready for it, and putting themselves out there means great danger. Professor Faber is a resigned English teacher. He confessed to Montag that he caught on to what was happening to humanity and essentially did absolutely nothing to prevent it, and that when he finally made himself heard nobody was listening. Subsequently, Faber and the other rebels are memorizing books, and Faber remarks, “We’ll pass the books on to our children, by word of mouth, and let our children wait, in turn, on the other people.

A lot will be lost that way, of course.” The fact that the rebels prefer to wait and continue the legacy of books within their own group suggests that in this case, the risks outweigh the reward. But without a greater effort from the individual, it is impossible for society to change. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Well done is better than well said”. Given how Bradbury composes Montag’s world, the power of the individual is not always noticeable. It is a world that pursues to abolish the voice of the individual and assure that thought is eliminated. However, as the novel advances the true power of the individual becomes evident. Martin Luther King’s, Letter from the Birmingham Jail states “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”. Because the one in power will never easily give up freedom, society must insist it is given. People can always find a place to speak up, even in the most challenging moments. When one decides to rebel, it can be full of risk, but the true risk lies in never discovering the true meanings of life. Without effort from the individuals to change society, it cannot be changed from rebellion.

Conformity can potentially be seen as positive in terms of meeting societal norms and expectations. At the same time, it can also become destructive when society’s freedom of thought and expression is impaired and the individual is undermined. It is imperative that people rebel when there is a restriction of these natural rights even though it might cost one’s security, hurt one’s relationships, or even disrupt a community’s harmony. The individual cannot thrive with lack of natural rights. In Fahrenheit 451, it is conveyed that knowledge is at the root of thought and expression, and without it, one cannot lead a fulfilled life. Society is ultimately made of the voices and choices of the people. Because of this, change comes from the bottom up. Unless the people yearn for a change, nothing will become different. As such, without action from rebels and some acceptance from the people in society, there can be no chance of an improved society.

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