As society constantly evolves, burdening expectations and norms continue to rapidly develop, resulting in considerable pressure from others in the community. Gradually, In the novel Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, the significant message is that expressing individuality, rather than conforming to societal norms, leads to one being truly happy.
Bradbury uses Clarisse’s values contrasted with societal norms to imply that individuality leads to happiness. When she first meets Montag, she declares to him, “You’re not like the others…When I said something about the moon...you looked...The others would never do that” (Bradbury 21). The fact that he looks at the sky after Clarisse remarks about the moon illustrates that he is curious, thoughtful, and inquisitive, a sharp distinction between not only other ordinary firemen, but the population as a whole. In addition, the author foreshadows the beginning of Montag’s endeavors to be unique in a society that holds sameness above all. This marks the first time Montag is recognized to be different and is the catalyst for his journey of self-discovery, forcing him to reflect on his life and values. Furthermore, throughout the first chapter, Clarisse continues to highlight distinctions between Montag and herself, and the rest of society. Montag inquires why she is never in school and she explains, “I’m antisocial, they say. I don’t mix. It’s so strange, I’m very social indeed...social to me means talking to you about things like this” (Bradbury 26-27). In the eyes of society, “antisocial” is used to describe a person with attitudes or interests unlike most others, and Clarisse expresses dissent towards being shunned simply because she behaves differently. She prefers to have insightful conversations, ask delicate questions, and observe the natural world, rather than containing her thoughts and spending every day in front of the television. Explicit opposition between Clarisse’s personality and the negative perspectives regarding dissimilarities sustained by this dystopian society reinforce the idea that lack of individuality has resulted in not only loss of communication and understanding, but also personal freedom and happiness.
Beatty’s beliefs regarding education represent that dissatisfaction with life is ultimately caused by willingness to conform. Faber reminds Montag, “The Captain belongs to the most dangerous enemy to truth and freedom...unmoving cattle of the majority...terrible tyranny of the majority” (Bradbury 104). It is apparent that society has grown to develop an unfounded democracy where the majority still dominates, but the majority have been consumed by mindless entertainment and a fear of intellectualism. It has finally reached the point to where resistance towards these norms is viewed as a threat to the “terrible tyranny of the majority”. Being Captain of the fire department, Beatty is critical to the prevention of “truth and freedom”; he is a strong enforcer of the practice of burning books and despising knowledge. Although he constantly emphasizes the worthlessness of books, he frequently quotes from them especially when aggravating or attempting to confuse Montag. This hints at his covert interest for literature, however controlling a crucial position authority. However, despite his critical status in society, it is clear that Beatty has grown discontent with his own life. After killing Beatty, Montag comes to a sudden awareness that “Beatty had wanted to die...how strange...to want to die so much that you let a man walk around armed and then...you go on yelling” (Bradbury 116). After burning his own house, Montag raises the flamethrower at Beatty, and it is ostensible that he is going to torch him. Instead of trying to save himself, Beatty deliberately continues to provoke him. It is likely that Beatty wanted to die due to his love for literature, inability to grasp the nature of this changed community, and the vicious quality of his occupation. The situation is ironic because Beatty invites his fate for the same reason Montag begins to read books, the fact that both are discontented with their lives. Therefore, the character of Beatty and his outcome reflect the little escape from this destructive dystopia caused by oppressive authority.
Additionally, the author uses Granger to demonstrate how resistance to conformity and retaliation are necessary to better society. Granger shares his grandfather’s words to Montag and his group, “It doesn’t matter what you do...so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it” (Bradbury 150). Granger believes that everyone person must leave something behind to improve the world, and has been taught that change only comes with challenging and questioning ideas so it will endure. He goes on to describe that what his grandfather really changed was himself. This thought inspires Montag to learn that what is considered normal is not necessarily what is most beneficial, aiding him to develop strength and lead the group back to the city after it has been bombed. The author uses Granger’s recollections of his grandfather to further suggest the importance of rebellion. His grandfather also mentions, “I hate a Roman named Status Quo...live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds” (Bradbury 150). This alludes to a Latin phrase meaning the existing state of affairs. Granger’s grandfather encourages him to choose his own path and refuse to conform. Granger memorizes books with a group of runaway intellectuals, and makes a point to not follow the “status quo”. Granger, his past experiences, and refusal to live like others contribute to instilling a desire of freedom in Montag.
The central message of the novel Fahrenheit 451, written by Ray Bradbury, is that in order to find happiness, one must stay true to themselves and refuse to adhere to societal expectations. In the light of this dystopia, individuality is seen as a threat to citizens, while conformity maintains obedience because societal norms discourage education and questioning cultures. In order to improve society and avoid discontentment, one should reject conformity and become comfortable with differences among peers, live by unique principles, and uphold individuality to maintain personal and intellectual freedoms.