Society's Values in Fahrenheit 451: Description & Analysis

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In ''Fahrenheit 451'' by Ray Bradbury, the dystopian society that makes up the setting for this story has deviated from the priorities of our culture. In this lesson, we will look at the values of society in this novel.

Values in Fahrenheit 451

Have you ever felt trapped in a world gone mad? That is how the protagonist, Montag, feels in the dystopian society in which he lives in Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. While our values, or beliefs, tend to prioritize family, faith, education, and freedom, Montag's society's standards revolve around entertainment and fun, putting very little emphasis on family or the value of human life. Let's find out more through examination of some key characters.

Fun is the priority in this society.
fun park

Clarisse is an Outcast

When Montag, the protagonist, meets Clarisse, his teenage neighbor, there is something strange about her. She is different from most of the people he knows. Instead of distracting herself with mindless media and trifle amusement like all the other kids, she spends her time observing the world around her and pondering the brilliance of life. In a culture where everyone moves too fast and consumes too much entertainment, Clarisse slows down and actually enjoys strange activities like walking in nature. Which is how she can notice details most people would miss, like the fact that there are billboards stretching 200 feet long in the countryside, since people drive cars so fast they need huge advertisements and lettering to have time to read them. Simple things she does, like walk in the rain and enjoy flowers, would astonish the rest of society.

In the city, people are constantly distracted by fun and don't have time to think. The government likes it that way and seems to turn a blind eye to delinquency. Thinking too much can be dangerous, especially because it has the potential to lead to inequality and conflict. Clarisse comments on how the police don't even care about ticketing people who speed, or even those who racing in jet cars in the middle of the night - so long as they have a hefty insurance plan. There does not seem to be much regard for human life as people speed through town, hitting everything in the roadway for sport. Clarisse comments on how many of her classmates have been shot and killed or have died in car accidents. Ultimately, Clarisse is hit by a car and killed.

Mildred's Family

Mildred, Montag's wife, represents everything that is wrong with society. Mildred is obsessed with television and calls the characters on the screen her 'family.' She doesn't care that Montag has to work hard at a job that makes him miserable, as long as she gets her entertainment. Though she already has three TV walls, she nags that it's only $2,000 to get a fourth one. She doesn't care that the cost is one third of Montag's annual salary and demonstrates how entertainment trumps the company of her own husband '…I should think you'd consider me sometimes. If we had a fourth wall, why it'd be just like this room wasn't ours at all, but all kinds of exotic people's rooms. We could do without a few things.'

Mildred says she is happy, but in her first scene, she has overdosed on sleeping pills and nearly dies. Of course, Mildred doesn't remember taking them and doesn't believe Montag when he tells her about it the next morning. Montag becomes frustrated with Mildred because there is no depth to their lives. They can't even remember how they first met. In the end, Mildred turns in her husband for harboring books and leaves him without a second thought.

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