For more than half a century science fiction writers have thrilledand challenged readers with visions of the future and future worlds.These authors offered an insight into what they expected man, society,and life to be like at some future time.One such author, Ray Bradbury, utilized this concept in his work,Fahrenheit 451, a futuristic look at a man and his role in society.Bradbury utilizes the luxuries of life in America today, in additionto various occupations and technological advances, to show what lifecould be like if the future takes a drastic turn for the worse. Heturns man’s best friend, the dog, against man, changes the role ofpublic servants and changes the value of a person.
Aldous Huxley also uses the concept of society out of control inhis science fiction novel Brave New World. Written late in his career,Brave New World also deals with man in a changed society. Huxley askshis readers to look at the role of science and literature in thefuture world, scared that it may be rendered useless and discarded.Unlike Bradbury, Huxley includes in his book a group of peopleunaffected by the changes in society, a group that still has religiousbeliefs and marriage, things no longer part of the changed society, tocompare and contrast today’s culture with his proposed futuristicculture.
But one theme that both Brave New World and Fahrenheit 451 use incommon is the theme of individual discovery by refusing to accept apassive approach to life, and refusing to conform. In addition, therefusal of various methods of escape from reality is shown to be apath to discovery. In Brave New World, the main characters of BernardMarx and the “Savage” boy John both come to realize the faults withtheir own cultures. In Fahrenheit 451 Guy Montag begins to discoverthat things could be better in his society but, sue to someuncontrollable events, his discover happens much faster than it wouldhave. He is forced out on his own, away from society, to live withothers like himself who think differently that the society does.Marx, from the civilized culture, seriously questions the lack ofhistory that his society has.
He also wonders as to the lack of books,banned because they were old and did not encourage the new culture. Byvisiting a reservation, home of an “uncivilized” culture of savages,he is able to see first hand something of what life and society use tobe like. Afterwards he returns and attempts to incorporate some ofwhat he saw into his work as an advertising agent. As a result withthis contrast with the other culture, Marx discovers more abouthimself as well. He is able to see more clearly the things that hadalways set him on edge: the promiscuity, the domination of thegovernment and the lifelessness in which he lived. (Allen)John, often referred to as “the Savage” because he was able toleave the reservation with Marx to go to London to live with him, alsohas a hard time adjusting to the drastic changes. The son of twomembers of the modern society but born and raised on the reservation,John learned from his mother the values and the customs of the”civilized” world while living in a culture that had much differentvalues and practices.
Though his mother talked of the promiscuity thatshe had practiced before she was left on the reservation (she wasaccidentally left there while on vacation, much as Marx was) and didstill practice it, John was raised, thanks to the people around him,with the belief that these actions were wrong. Seeing his mother actin a manner that obviously reflected different values greatly affectedand hurt John, especially when he returned with Marx to London. Johnloved his mother, but he, a hybrid of the two cultures, was stuck inthe middle. (May)These concepts, human reaction to changes in their culture andquestioning of these changes, are evident throughout the book.
Huxley’s characters either conform to society’s demands for uniformityor rebel and begin a process of discovery; there are no people in themiddle. By doing so, Huxley makes his own views of man and societyevident. He shows that those who conform to the “brave new world”become less human, but those who actively question the new values ofsociety discover truth about the society, about themselves, and aboutpeople in general. An example of this is Huxley’s views of drugs as anescape.
The conforming members of society used widely a drug calledsoma, which induces hallucinations and escapes from the consciousworld for two to eight hour periods. Those very few who didn’t, Johnincluded, mainly did not because they thought the drug either uncleanor an easy escape, one not needed in a society aiming at making lifevery simple. By refusing to “go along” in this escape from reality,John is ultimately able to break from society and define his owndestiny.In Fahrenheit 451 Guy Montag, the main character, is able to seethrough the government and the official policies of his society. Hedoes so by gradually beginning to question certain aspect of societywhich most simply accept as fact. Montag’s job as a fireman serves asa setting to show how many people passively accept the absurdity oftheir society. Instead of rushing to put out fires, as firemen todaydo, Montag rushes to start fires, burning the books and homes ofpeople reported to have books.
This was considered by most people tobe a respectable profession. But on different occasions Montag took abook out of burning homes and would from time to time read them. Fromthis, he begins to to question the values of his society.Montag’s marriage also serves a setting to contrast passiveacceptance versus questioning of society’s values.
His marriage isnot the happy kind that couples today experience but more like acoexistence. He and his wife live together and he supports her, thoughhe apparently neither loves her a great deal or expects her to lovehim.This relationship and living arrangement, with its lack of love,is Bradbury’s way of showing what life could be like if people notonly stop communicating but stop thinking and choosing, thus loosingcontrol over their lives. Montag and his wife continue to livetogether though people in that situation today would not hesitate toterminate such a relationship. Montag’s wife apparently accepts thisrelationship because it is normal for the society in which she lives.
(Wolfheim)Works CitedAllen, Walter The Modern Novel. Dutton, 1964May, Keith M. Aldous Huxley. Paul Elek Books Ltd., 1972Wolfheim, Donald The Universe Makers.
Harper and Row, 1971