In Fahrenheit 451 and Brave New World, people who differed from the societal norm, are often isolated and alienated from society due to their individuality. In Brave New World, the society is ordered and structured, as such, the government attempts to hold control over everything. On the other hand, in Fahrenheit 451, the society is one in which common people are often brainwashed as books were removed from society which later lead to alienation. In my opinion alienation refers to the separation or isolation of an individual from something they should be involved in. Alienation was a major theme in both novels and though the theme was similar in both novels they were demonstrated in different ways. In Brave New World, Marx, John and Helmholtz were alienated due to appearance, morals, and intellect respectively. Whereas, in Fahrenheit 451 Clarisse, Mildred and Montag were alienated through various aspects.
Alienation in the Brave New World took the basis of three forms being, appearance, morals, and intellect. Bernard Marx was one of the many characters that was isolated in the Brave New World. He was isolated based on how he looked. Marx was an Alpha Plus which made him ugly and unusually short. It is suggested that Marx’s condition was as a result of an error made by the workers when he was an embryo in a bottle. Fanny explained this phenomenon in that, “They say somebody made a mistake when he was still in the bottle-thought he was a Gamma and put alcohol into his blood-surrogate. That’s why he’s so stunted.” (Huxley, 35) This technique used on Marx while he was a fetus, is commonly used to keep the lower class small in stature. Marx was alienated both physically and mentally from numerous people in the World State as they viewed him as not up to the same or similar standard of the other Alpha Pluses. Marx was much shorter than the average Alpha male. Nonetheless, Marx tried desperately to be accepted by the World State and was not until John was brought back from the Reservation. This is demonstrated when Lenina was talking to Fanny and asked him if he knew who Bernard Marx was and he replied in a scornful voice, ‘You don’t mean to say …?’ Lenina then questions, “’Why not? Bernard’s an Alpha Plus. Besides, he asked me to go to one of the Savage Reservations with him. I’ve always wanted to see a Savage Reservation.’. Fanny then goes to question about Bernard reputation. (Huxley, 34) This shows how much Bernard is frowned upon. This society often degrades individuals who are not Alpha’s even though they have no control over what is done in the lab when they are being produced. Even though Marx was very intelligent and educated to that of an Alpha, his height restrictions and insecurities led to his alienation.
John is another character in the novel Brave New World who was faced with alienation. He had a different sense of morality due to him being born and raised outside of the society of the “Brave New World.” John was not as fortunate as the people living in the “Brave New World” and hence his knowledge was based on the works of Shakespeare. John was also raised by his mother, Linda, on Native American customs and religions as well as Christian customs and religions. With all these factors stacked against John first experienced alienation when he was banned at the Savage Reservation from be a part of Native American rituals. Another factor that contributed to John’s alienation is the fact that his mother was not born and raised at the Reservation. This was explained by Lenina who stated, “Linda was his mother (the word made Lenina look uncomfortable)-were strangers in the Reservation.” (Huxley, 88)
Additionally, Not appearing similar in looks to the rest of the Indians living on the reservation, was a barrier in John’s ability to be a part of the Savage society. He yearned to be a part of the culture so much that he often questioned, “Why wouldn’t they let me be the sacrifice? I’d have gone round ten times…” (Huxley 87) However John already knew the answer to that. Being the child of Linda was problematic for John because she had many provocative ways that were not necessarily accepted by the wider community and as such she was disliked. The fact that the other women men went to look for Linda made them hate Linda even more. Linda feels as though, “They’re so hateful, the women here. Mad, mad and cruel.” (Huxley, 90) As a result, John too was disliked as a result of the hatred of the other women towards his mother. When John first arrived in the World State, he was unable to find a place in this new environment, as such, he is again alienated as he does not conform to the actions and beliefs of the World State. He is unable to find a place in the society as his beliefs and morals were often tested. What was a paradise to the outsiders, the place he dreamed of, was appearing to be a nightmare pushing him further and further from society and from himself, and later resulted in his suicide.
Helmholtz Watson was another character in Brave New World who was alienated. In Watson’s case he was alienated because he was very intellectual. Watson was similar to Marx in that he was an Alpha male in the World State. Helmholtz Watson was an Emotional Engineer and as such he possessed “extra power”. He used his gift to say things of importance as well as use X-rays as a medium to write. Watson was a lecturer for a University where he wrote a poem talking about loneliness. He was threatened to be expelled from the university and he was also shunned. His aim was to leu others feel what he was feeling through his writings, he wanted them to feel the emotion of loneliness which he felt. This also resulted in his writing being monitored and hence, his writings became meaningless. This caused Watson to be dissatisfied with the World State. It is key to point out that even though Watson was dissatisfied with the World State, there were times he acted accordingly to his title, Alpha. Shakespeare novels which are banned in the World State, Watson would find himself reading them and finding the way in which Shakespeare writes, genius. However, what amuses him when reading Shakespeare is the thought of having a mother which in the World State, is not fathomable. Well all these things accumulating, Helmholtz is alienated from society because he sees deeper into the society than others, he has superior abilities and, he is too intelligent. It is key to note that Helmholtz differs from Bernard in that readily accepts that he is alienated and as a result, he is given the choice of islands he where he would like to stay and request to be “ sent to an island that has bad weather,” (Huxley, 173) so he can be a better writer.
Clarisse was one of the characters alienated in Fahrenheit 451. She depicts alienation through her experiences being rejected from school. Clarisse can be described as a very observant and intelligent person and as such, this is what cause her classmates as well as her teacher to despise her. Because everyone else in the society is of lesser intellect that Clarisse, they find her insane and strange. The resulting factor of this is that Clarisse is removed from school and because she is “insane,” she has to attend sessions with a psychiatrist. The struggles faced by Clarisse depicts how much she is affected by being alone even when she is around people within her age range. Nonetheless, she becomes companions with Montag. She highlights their friendship where she states, “you’re not like the others. I’ve seen a few; I know. When I talk, you look at me…The others would never do that.” (Bradbury, 21) This even aids in her alienation as she befriends someone who is not in her age range. Montag is twice Clarisse’s age and he is also seen as very off by members of the society. Clarisse knows with herself that she is isolated from society. She explains the alienation she receives by stating, “I’m antisocial, they say. I don’t mix. It’s so strange. I’m very social indeed. It all depends on what you mean by social, doesn’t it?” (Bradbury, 13) Even though she became close to Montag, the way in which society as well as her peers viewed him resulted in her drifting from being such close friends with Montag. Clarisse is fragile in that after being pressured by society she diminishes after because she became so overwhelmed. Her ‘atypical behavior’ as viewed by members of the society causes her sudden demise.
Another character who was alienated in Fahrenheit 451 was Mildred. Mildred was the wife of Montag. Mildred always wanted to extend her family. As such, she and Montague often argued about “the forth wall torn out and a forth wall-TV put in” which from Mildred’s point of view, “was only two thousand dollars.” (Bradbury, 20) This specifically highlights how lonely of a person Mildred is and shows her level of innocence. Mildred’s loneliness increases when Montag denies her from extending the family. She goes as far as to question whether she is of importance in Montag’s life as she wishes he would consider her sometimes. (Bradbury, 20) This led to her relationship failing and as a result, she alienates herself even more. Her questioning their relationship highlights the fact that their relationship is materialistic and shallow. She says certain things, such as questioning his love for her, to guilt trip Montag. Mildred’s alienation led her attempted suicide. Montag finds her with an empty bottle of sleeping pills and unconscious. Montag assumes that, “maybe she took two pills and forgot and took two more, and forgot again and took two more, and was so dopy she kept right on until she had thirty or forty of them in her.” (Bradbury, 37) This is a clear indication of Mildred’s depression due to her being oppressed by the system and could possibly be her seeking a way out from the society.
Lastly, Montag, the main character in Fahrenheit 451 too was faced with alienation. Montag was very vocal about how he felt about society and as such he placed a ‘target’ on his back. Being a fireman in the society, he was faced with conflicting thoughts. He is of the belief that society has “everything they need to attain happiness however something is still missing from his life” (Bradbury, 78) As such, Montag is miserable and anxious as he is living a lifestyle in which the community wants him to conform to however, he knows that this isn’t the way he wants to live. This is expressed by Montag’s frustration in that, “Nobody listens any more. I can’t talk to the walls because they’re yelling at me. I can’t talk to my wife; she listens to the walls. I just want someone to hear what I have to say. And maybe if I talk long enough, it’ll make sense.” (Bradbury, 82) Because of this, Montag feels alienated and as such, he decides to disobey the law and begins a collection of books after which he was caught and becomes a criminal having no choice but to leave the city.
Overall, both novels depicted alienation through several characters. Nonetheless, they are both similar in that in Brave New World, Watson was alienated because he was seen as very intellectual. Similarly, in Fahrenheit 451, Clarisse too was a very intelligent individual and was alienated because she was different from the others in her class. Therefore, it can be deduced that characters are often alienated because they are ‘too intelligent.’ Another similarity seen is between John in Brave New World and Montag in Fahrenheit 451. Both characters were alienated because they had different moral values than those in the society. John grew up in a different environment initially and as such he viewed things differently; Montag even though he was raised in that society saw certain factors that were problematic, being the removal of books. Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, shows how people who are different or don’t fit in the society become alienated similarly to Huxley’s Brave New World, which depicts that people are often isolated due to their appearance morals and intellect in that society.
- Aldous Huxley. Brave New World. Chatto&Windus, 1932. Internet Archive, http://archive.org/details/ost-english-brave_new_world_aldous_huxley.
- Bradbury, Ray. ‘Fahrenheit 451.’