Civil Disobedience In Fahrenheit 451

6626 Words27 Pages
"And the Leaves of the Tree Were for the Healing of the Nations": Literature and Civil Disobedience in Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 Senior Paper Presented in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements For a Degree Bachelor of Arts with A Major in Literature at The University of North Carolina at Asheville Fall 2008 By Alina Gerall Thesis Director Dr. Deborah James Thesis Advisor Dr. Blake Hobby Gerall 2 Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 is a blatant criticism of suppressed creative thought. The novel follows Guy Moritag, a firefighter who, rather than putting out fires as we expect, is partially responsible for setting fire to the houses of people who harbor and read books. Montag meets a young girl, Clarisse McClellan, who encourages…show more content…
In his widely-read and hugely influential essay, Civil Disobedience, Henry David Thoreau says that it is the obligation of citizens to be "a counter friction" and to do everything possible "to stop the machine" (Thoreau 8). Mahatma Gandhi coined the term "satyagraha" to describe his philosophy of non-violent civil resistance, a concept, which can be seen as early as in Aristophanes' play, Lysistrata, where women upset the social order by withholding sex, ultimately gaining power through a nonviolent act. Thus, while Thoreau articulates what most Americans have come to understand as nonviolent protest, this tradition can be located in the literary tradition of antiquity. John Rawls attempts to define civil disobedience in a modern context in his A Theory of Justice, published in 1971, and comes up with the following concise definition: "a public, nonviolent, conscientious yet political act contrary to law usually done with the aim of bringing about a change in the law or policies of the government (Rawls 364). Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 is a work of speculative fiction in which the book's protagonist, Guy Montag, disobeys the civic order by reading. As such, he refuses to uphold the rule of law, stops starting fires and burning books, and begins to memorize works of literature. Doing so, he commits crimes against the State, all the while…show more content…
A form of civil disobedience that both individuals and a group of rogues practice, reading appears as a subversive act capable of undermining the social order. Thus, for those who fight the totalitarian government seek the healing of the nations and an end to oppression and mass ignorance. Rather than bear arms, they bear books. As a work much like Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience/' which calls for blatant challenging of the status quo, Fahrenheit 451 challenges the institutions that encompass our lives and demonstrates literature's ability to cultivate human autonomy. Criticism of Bradbury's works, specifically Fahrenheit 451 can easily be divided into two categories: criticism of the work as literature and criticism of the work as science fiction. Though the distinction may seem to be merely semantics, it becomes important when considering the development of the critical conversation surrounding Fahrenheit 451. In his article tracing the development of science fiction (often abbreviated SF) criticism, Istvan Csicsery-Romay explains that "popular SF criticism emerged from the vibrant discussions conducted in the pulps, the popular SF magazines that were the main vehicles for SF publication in the USA from the 1920's to the 1950s" (CsicseryRomay 45). It was in these pulps that Bradbury got his start in publishing; his first published work was "Hollerbochen's Dilemma" in a 1938 issue of Imagination! magazine.

More about Civil Disobedience In Fahrenheit 451

Open Document