atonement vs fahrenheit 451 Essay

Submitted By ntobin
Words: 1515
Pages: 7

The Power of Society Over Identity
“Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else's opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation,” said author Oscar Wilde. All humans, all individuals are unique. People carry personalities that define their identities, but most of the time it is influenced by opinions and views of others. Often, the interactions humans encounter with society is what severely defines who they are and how it influences their identity. Humans at the start of birth go through the phase of experience, which leads to the molding of their identity conformed to society. However, when people feel they don’t have a place in society, their identity can be hard to find. Due to their oppositions to society, protagonists Guy Montag of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and Briony Tallis of Ian McEwan’s Atonement are faced with the challenge of finding their own identities while being trapped in unwanted worlds.
The crisis of identity is at the core of Fahrenheit 451; as Montag learns from a series of mentors and teachers, he sees his own identity melding with that of his instructors. In Bradbury's dystopian world, the people in charge want everyone else to stay in their homes and watch TV. Porches don’t exist because they don't want people outside, where they could look around their neighborhoods and engage the people they live near. Books are considered evil because they make people think and question, perhaps, their current circumstances, which is why the fireman is a burner of books rather than a protector against fire. "The man who loved books, the boy who was wild for them...I ate them like salad, books were my sandwich for lunch, my tiffin and dinner and midnight munch...I carried so many home that I was hunchbacked for years...and then...why, life happened to me. I opened the pages of my fine library books, and found what, what, what?!...Blank! The words were there, all right, but they ran over my eyes like hot oil, signifying nothing. Offering no help, no solace, no peace, no harbor, no true love, no bed, no light." (Beatty, 170) Montag, who, unlike Captain Beatty, believes that books hold the answers to life, asks him why he burns books, and Beatty tells him how he became disillusioned with them after reality caught up with him. In other words, he justifies the reason for book burning, which Montag sees as wrong. Being an outlier of society causes him to blame his hands for his actions, pretending he has no agency over them. “Montag's hand closed like a mouth, crushed the book with wild devotion, with an insanity of mindlessness to his chest.” (Bradbury, 37) Additionally, the majority of the populace in Fahrenheit 451 has become unthinking, unfeeling, and shallow, centered around themselves and their technology, because that’s what society got Montag’s community, all except himself, used to. “White blurs are houses. Brown blurs are cows. My uncle drove slowly on a highway once. He drove forty miles an hour and they jailed him for two days.” (Clarisse, 9). Clarisse tells Montag about her "strange" family, the one that actually converses with each other and enjoys nature. This shows just how shallow Montag's society has become. Nobody thinks or knows about the world outside of their own. For another example, Montag cannot even talk to his wife, Mildred, described as “thin-faced, with flesh turned to pale bacon by dieting," as she’s been too greatly engulfed in the ways of society. She tamps her ears shut with little devices called Seashells, similar to earbuds today, tuning her out of the world. "'Stuff your eyes with wonder,' he said, 'live as if you'd drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It's more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories. Ask no guarantees, ask for no security, there never was such an animal. And if there were, it would be related to the great sloth which hangs upside down in a tree all day every day, sleeping its life away. To hell with that,' he…