Fahrenheit 451 and 1984 - The Fear of Utopia
Uploaded by r2x criticom on Apr 07, 2001
Several conflicting frames of mind have played defining roles in shaping humanity throughout the twentieth century. Philosophical optimism of a bright future held by humanity in general was taken advantage of by the promise of a better life through sacrifice of individuality to the state. In the books Brave New World, 1984, and Fahrenheit 451 clear opposition to these subtle entrapments was voiced in similarly convincing ways. They first all established, to varying degrees of balance, the atmosphere and seductiveness of the “utopia” and the fear of the consequences of acting in the non-prescribed way through character development. A single character is alienated because of their inability to conform – often in protest to the forced conditions of happiness and well being. Their struggle is to hide this fact from the state’s relentless supervision of (supposedly) everything. This leads them to eventually come into conflict with some hand of the state which serves as the authors voice presenting the reader with the ‘absurdity’ of the principles on which the society is based. The similar fear of the state’s abuse of power and technology at the expense of human individuality present within these novels speaks to the relevance of these novels within their historical context and their usefulness for awakening people to the horrendous consequences of their ignorance.
In these novels the main characters are, or become, unable to conform to the society’s standards. These characters represent the authors’ view of the ‘utopia’ as they see it with the veil of ignorance removed. In 1984, for instance, we start out with a character, Winston, who is constantly observing the ironies of the world about him. Through his job at the ministry of truth, he becomes a hand of the state, creating fiction to support its endeavors: “Comrade Ogilvy, unimagined an hour ago, was now a fact … he would exist just as authentically … as Charlemange and Julius Caesar.” (1984, p54) As the book progresses he becomes more aware of his individuality and eventually is unable to hide it. Similarly in Fahrenheit 451, Montag becomes aware of problems with his society, but not logically - emotionally. It disturbs him greatly when a medical team that helps his wife appear and disappear within a matter of minutes: “There are too many of us, he thought. There are billions of us and that’s too many. Nobody knows anyone.” (F451,p14) He becomes further agitated when...