Literary Criticism of Fahrenheit 451
Don’t worry, be happy, or at least that’s what everyone in Ray Bradbury’s book Fahrenheit 451 thought. No matter what was going on around them, war, crime, or death, they were always happy Or were they? Ray Bradbury wrote books about censorship in society forming around being censored totally or partially from books and television. In Fahrenheit 451 the main character, Montag, is a fireman whose job it is to burn books to keep the public from reading then and coming up with their own thoughts and ideas and not the ideas that the government puts in their heads. Wile he is burning books one day he opens one to read it and becomes obsessed with reading books. He turns on his fire chief and burns him, and goes to live with people who also read books and memorize them so that they can be reprinted then society is ready for them again.
Three people that show that they are happy on the outside but are not truly happy are Montag, Mildred and Mrs. Phelps.
In the story, Montag, who is a fireman for the city thinks he is happy until he meets a neighbor girl named Clarisse. Clarisse is considered an oddball in the society of Fahrenheit 451 because she is “antisocial” in their world which actually means that she is social by today’s standards. She talks to people about things instead of the people of 451 who talk about meaningless things that have no substance. Peter Sesario says that’s she is considered to be this way because, “She was a sensitive, observant person who questioned society and was consequently eliminated by the government (3).
“One day as Montag and Clarisse are walking down the street Clarisse says to Montag, “Are you Happy?”(10). Montag is speechless and before he could come up with and answer Clarisse is gone. As he enters his house he talks to himself, “Of course I’m happy. What does she think? I’m not?”(10) When he is saying this he looks up to the ceiling where he has Hidden books which are things that actually make him happy instead of the things around him which he thinks makes him happy. She also notices that when Montag laughs it is a fake laugh and that he doesn’t really mean it when he laughs. Also when he smiles it is not a real smile which further goes to show that he isn’t happy.
Another character that seems like she is happy but really is not happy at all is Mildred. She is Montag’s wife and she is not happy at all even though she believes she is. One way she shows that she is not happy is that she tries to commit suicide one day by over dosing on sleeping pills while Montag is at work. Montag comes home to find her laying on the floor passed out and an empty bottle of sleeping pills beside her. He calls 911 and two men come to his house wearing nonstainable reddish-brown coveralls and two specially made machines. They came to pump her stomach and clean her blood.
The two men pumped her stomach and thought nothing of it. Critic Edward Eller says, “They act as casually as handymen doing a fix-it-up job (2).” As the men’s machines are doing the work one of the men who is talking to Montag and says, “Hell! We get these cases nine or ten a night (15).” This shows that it is not only Mildred that is unhappy but many other people in the society of Fahrenheit 451. Also she considers the people in her soap operas to be her real family and not her husband. She can not even remember when she and Montag met.
She gets depressed when she can not watch her television shows and wants Montag to buy her another wall so she can have all 4 walls for television.
One other person who seems happy to the reader at first but in all actuality is not, is Mrs. Phelps. One day as Mrs. Phelps is talking about children and how she would never have them because it is not worth it Mrs. Bowles says .