Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and 1984 by George Orwell demonstrate the struggle of men against an oppressive government. Both stories establish the atmosphere of dystopia and the fear of consequences that can act in an unpredictable way through character development. All single characters are alienated because of their inability to conform and struggle to hide it from the relentless supervision of the government. Eventually, this struggle leads to their conflict with some representatives of the government, which serves as the voice of the author, who presents absurd principles, on which the society is based, to the reader. The characters represent the authors’ point of view of a utopia without the veil of ignorance. Though written decades apart and by two very different authors, the characters of Fahrenheit 451 and 1984 closely mirror each other.
Clarisse McClellan, a seventeen-year-old girl, is the one, who thinks about and questions the society, in which she lives. Her interest in nature and everything that surrounds her make the girl an outcast and very different from everyone around her. However, Clarisse, “a free spirit whose giddy inhalation of their natural environment has deeply unsettled Montag’s purely functional existence” has shocked the main character of Fahrenheit 451, due to she is the only happy person, which Montag has ever met (Adams 1). Clarisse symbolizes the beauty and nature of the old world. Because of her young age, the girl represents life before technology and mass media. Clarisse died in the same way as the old world did; she was killed by a car, being a symbol of killing technological progress. Clarisse can be compared with Julia from Orwell’s 1984 in the sense of being an inspiration for the main character of the novel. However, she is completely different from Mildred, another character of Fahrenheit 451.
Mildred Montag, the wife of the main character of Fahrenheit 451, spends her life watching programs on the television and talking to her neighbors and relatives on the screens hanging on three walls of a room in their house (she begs the fourth wall). However, according to Amy E. Boyle Johnson, the role of television in Fahrenheit 451 differs from the one in 1984. “Unlike Orwell’s 1984, in which the government uses television screens to indoctrinate citizens, Bradbury envisioned television as an opiate” (Johnson 1). Mildred is isolated from her husband and from the rest of the world. She has joined the artificial mass culture and does not want to differ from others. The woman is sure that people on the screen, to whom she talks, are her family and treats them as such. After Mildred Montag has learned that her husband hides books, the wife reports him. Therefore, Mildred can be considered as a metaphorical sheep, being satisfied with the stories and lies, which she has been told since the day of her birth, and is not interested in search of alternatives. That is why Mildred Montag is different from Julia. Throughout the whole story of Fahrenheit 451, Guy Mildred is ahead of his wife and is doing everything to make her believe in what is right and logical from his point of view, while in 1984, Winston is behind his lover Julia in taking action and realizing the idea of rebelling. Guy Montag does not feel love for Mildred from the beginning of Fahrenheit 451, in contrast to Winston, who falls in love with Julia in 1984. Mildred offers Guy the image of a man, which he does not want to follow, and for her husband, she is a symbol, which he does not want her to be. In 1984, Winston feels free with Julia, who helps him see that they can enjoy their life at least for a while. Therefore, both women lived with the protagonists and were damaged because of it: Julia was tortured and transformed and Mildred was killed. The former is far more realistic and intuitive than her lover, and this differs her from the latter. Julia understands the Party doctrine better than Winston does.
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One of the most important themes in both Fahrenheit 451 and 1984 are isolation and alienation that are best shown through Guy Montag and Winston Smith. Both of them realize their difference from their societies and cannot share the same values with them. The main character of 1984, Winston Smith, constantly observes the irony of the world around him. In the back of his mind, Winston has an ongoing feeling that society is not such as it is supposed to be. He is the hand of the government performing duties at the Ministry of Truth. As the story progresses, Winston becomes aware of his individuality more and more and cannot hide it anymore. For the first time, he breaks the rules by buying a diary in a shop situated outside the community and starting his journal of thoughts; it is strictly illegal. On the day Winston wrote Down with Big Brother, he realized he was against the government. When O’Brien gave him a forbidden book, he was surprised by reading it in the same way as Guy, and “instead of thinking about the book, he savors the feeling of reading” (Clune 33). In Fahrenheit 451, Guy Montag becomes one of those, who are aware of problems in their society. “There are too many of us, he thought. There are billions of us and that’s too many. Nobody knows anyone.” (Bradbury 14) Montag is in a similar situation as Winston. He is a fireman, who burns books instead of putting out fires, being the hand of the authority similar to the character in 1984. When Guy is asked if he is truly happy, he begins to realize that something is wrong with his world, and he is alone in it, due to everybody is brainwashed and mindless without individual thoughts or points of view. Both alienated characters of Fahrenheit 451 and 1984 feel the pressure of the government. In 1984, Winston is tortured for not loving Big Brother, due to it is considered a crime. Orwell reveals the horror of dystopia through O’Brien, who reminds the death of an individual saying, “We do not merely destroy our enemies, we change them” (Orwell 265). Similarly, in Fahrenheit 451, fire chief Beatty discovers Montag’s crime of loving illegal books. Although Guy and Winston both live in societies, where they do not share the values of the government, the former has always been part of it. While, Smith remembers in society before such changes as the appearance of television screens, two minutes of hate, and Big Brother, Montag has no idea of life before unintelligent people and the government, under which he lives. However, Guy is not defeated by the latter unlike Winston; he overthrows it and becomes one of the “book people” to preserve writings for the present and future generations.
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Both Captain Beatty and O’Brien are the hands of the government that fight against rebels. The first one is a chief at the fire station, where Guy is working. Beatty knows all about books and considers them dangerous for society. In addition, he obliterates the beauty of nature, entraps Guy, and tries to arrest him, but Montag kills him. Captain Beatty’s death can be considered as an instance of a shift in the world around him. He plays the same role as O’Brien in 1984, due to he is a great mind reader, and that is why he can reveal the protagonist’s secret (O’Brien caught Winston, and Captain Beatty read Montag’s thoughts). Being a high-ranked member of the Inner Party, O’Brien represents the government and all its cruelty and contradictions. He befriends Winston Smith in the workplace and pretends to recruit him to join the Brotherhood. However, on the day the Thought Police arrest Winston, O’Brien becomes his torturer. In spite of enduring extreme pain, Winston continues to admire his enemy referring to him as a teacher, father, and confessor. He is no more terrified of the reality of complete social power and is confident of its immortality. Captain Beatty, in the same way as Big Brother, and O’Brien have access to forbidden and rare items, such as books and wine, and symbolize everything that is wrong in society.
In spite of being written decades apart by two different authors, the characters of both novels Fahrenheit 451 and 1984 are quite similar. Winston, Montag, Clarisse, and Julie were very brave, standing for their personalities and rebelling against the government and society notwithstanding the resistance from Captain Beatty, O’Brien, and Mildred. Both novels demonstrate the efforts people take in fighting against an oppressive government. The fear of the government’s abuse of technology and power at the cost of human individuality is presented through the characters of Fahrenheit 451 and 1984 and shows the usefulness of their attempts to awaken people and point out extremely unpleasant consequences of their ignorance.