Fahrenheit 451 written by Ray Bradbury and The Maze Runner directed by Wes Ball show how governments use their power to utilise conformity and individuality to maintain control of the dystopian societies in the two texts. Ray Bradbury’s 2008 republishes version of his 1953 novel is set in a dystopian society that burns books in order to control dangerous ideas and ill-fated concepts. The novel tells the story of Guy Montag, a fireman who questions the book-burning policy and undergoes astonishing grief and uprising as a result. Wes Ball’s movie, The Maze Runner, is set in a futuristic dystopian society where teenagers of the next generation of ‘leaders’ are unknowingly sent to a glade which is at the centre of a giant labyrinth. The main character, Thomas, tries to convince his cohorts that he knows a way out of the maze. Both texts show examples of how governments in contemporary society use conformity and individuality to maintain control of their societies.
The term conformity means to perform or act in a certain way in addition to complying with the rules set by the governing bodies. Conformity is one of the leading themes in Ray Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451. The dystopian society that the narrative is based in demonstrates high social morals for its residents, it coerces the public to deliberate and act in the same way. The citizens in the book are a part of a population that is characterised by the author as being brainwashed by the domineering government that controls their day to day lives. the theme of conformity is found throughout Bradbury’s novel, the character’s in the speculative narrative live mundane lives; the men work, and the women stay at home and watch reality TV on their wall length televisions. The characters lives in Fahrenheit 451 are very tasteless and commonplace, however the people in the novel who are against the ways that the government uses their power aren’t regarded the equivalent of the others. They are viewed as anomalous to society, for example Montag doesn’t conform to the social standards set by society when he reads a book in front of his wife’s friends. Because this is against the ‘no-book’ rule set by the government, the women became afraid of Montag and report him to the authorities which resulted in Mildred, Montag’s wife, leaving him. The women were afraid of him because they have been conforming to the governments rules and regulations about books being banned for so long that they don’t know how to act. “Beatty snorted. ‘Oh, no! You weren’t fooled by that little idiot’s routine, now, were you? Flowers, butterflies, leaves, sunsets, oh hell! It’s all in her file. I’ll be damned. I’ve hit the bullseye. Look at the sick look on your face. A few grass-blades and the quarters of the moon. What trash. What good did she ever do with all that?’” (Bradbury, 2008; 59). The slander of Clarisse’s character demonstrates the occurrence of conformity in Fahrenheit 451. Clarisse is the only character that is closely linked the protagonist, Montag, that lives a happy and unique life. She spends her free time outside and plays in the rain, she asks a lot of questions, but all these activities are despised by society. The government in this dystopian society fear Clarisse Because she is inimitable and creative – she didn’t follow the social norms of society – so they kept a file that follows and monitors her actions.
The highly anticipated film of 2014, The Maze Runner, shows how the governments force society to conform. The government in this film force the Gladers to conform to the unsanctioned leaders, Newt and Alby by listening to and following their rules. Without having leaders to follow the Gladers would kill each other because they have no one to control their actions and no rules to follow. Conformity is found throughout Wes Ball’s blockbuster movie and also shows examples of modern contemporary society. Recently in world news the ‘American government has place sanctions on some of the most significant government and business organisations enabling and executing China’s campaign to eradicate the culture and language of more than 1 million Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang province.’ (Hiatt et al, 2019). Although tragedy happened after the movie’s release there is evidence that shows that if the government make society conform to their expectations something corrupt is going to happen. By the Chinese government creating concentration camps to ‘eradicate’ a religious belief is similar to what W.I.C.K.E.D. are doing in The Maze Runner. The Chinese Muslim community is being conformed because of their government much like in The Maze Runner. Whereas, in the Chinese concentration camps the Chinese Muslims are put there because of the communist government – that being Xinjiang province – and he only want his religion in china. In The Maze Runner the government kidnapped an abundance of teenagers and created an experiment using them as ‘lab rats’ that is supposed to try and kill the majority of them to find a cure for a disease outbreak.
The intemperance and interference are the trademarks of the principles in which Montag lives. Although it seems like a narcissistic set of morals or standards, the society is not one that celebrates or tolerates any assertiveness. Decadence and mindless entertainment are the way people live in this futuristic world. Society is all the same and therefore no one has their own sense of individuality and freedom. When society sticks to movies, sports and racing their cars, pursuits that require little to no individual thought, they are left alone by the government and society, but if they aren’t like Clarisse and the many other secondary characters in the novel that read books and are curious as to what the government is hiding. These people do not abide by the rules and are using their newly found individuality and freedom against the power of the government.
The Maze Runner shows that the control that the government has over society appears that they cannot express themselves through their individuality. As a result of the high level of control from the governing bodies means that the Gladers are forced to suppress their everything they know and remember – if they manage to remember their past – what their life was like before entering the Glade. When the government stripped the youthful teenagers of their memories, they also have their individuality purloined. Once this occurs, they all become one and aren’t their own person anymore. Correspondingly, by having their memories and personality taken the Gladers are forced to rebuild themselves based on the environment they are in and the people around them.
Both dystopian texts show that government power can overrule society into being conformed to strict rules and beliefs and not being able to be their own individual. Ray Bradbury and Wes Ball have used their power in making these texts to show that governments will do anything to maintain power and control of society.
- Bradbury, R. (2008). Fahrenheit 451 (2nd ed.). London: Harper Voyager.
- Hiatt, F. (2019). Finally some consequences for China’s concentration camps. [online] The Washington Post. Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/finally-some-consequences-for-chinas-concentration-camps/2019/10/10/0c3e99c0-ead0-11e9-9c6d-436a0df4f31d_story.html [Accessed 26 Oct. 2019].
- Somers, J. (2018). Fahrenheit 451 Summary. Retrieved 29 October 2019, from https://www.thoughtco.com › fahrenheit-451-summary-4176865