Lord of the Flies & Fahrenheit 451 Ryker Bullis | Period 3A

LORD OF THE FLIES and FAHRENHEIT 451: A COMPARISON

Fahrenheit 451 and Lord of the Flies

1. The Devolution of Society

Theme

Both Lord of the Flies and Fahrenheit 451 have themes involving the devolution of society. In the case of Lord of the Flies, the devolution comes through the corruption of power and the desire for a carefree life, whereas Fahrenheit 451 is set in a post-apocalyptic society that is censored and superficial.

Lord of the Flies is the story of a group of boys stranded on an island. Though they try create and maintain order; the jealousy of Jack, an internal fear of a "beast", and the tendency to focus on the superficial leads to a swift decline into anarchy. A conch shell in the novel represents the order and structure of society, but as the story progresses it becomes bleached and trivial, in parallel with the shift of the boys' attitudes from maintaining a rescue fire to wanting to hunt and have fun. Starting with Jack, each of the boys leave and join into a primitive and pleasure- and fear-driven society. This devolution is one of the main themes of the novel, and can be seen in less significant symbols like the appearance of the boys, which deteriorated from neatness to rags and war paint slowly but progressively; and the fire, which shifted from a symbol of home to a symbol of power and savagery.

Fahrenheit 451, despite being post-apocalyptic in setting, encompasses a philosophically primitive society. There are several indications of this, the first being the immediately apparent practice of burning books. Government censorship requires the services of "firemen" like Guy Montag to hunt down and torch books in a maniacal fervor. Though the reason for the intense censorship is never truly apparent, such practice represents an obvious devolution of society. Another indication is the superficiality of most of society (including Montag and Mildred at the beginning of the book). Almost everyone in the book is wholly dependent on technology, and obsessed with the fast and the now. Save for a few cases, no one is concerned with slowing down and considering their surroundings at more than face value. People use pills to get to sleep and can tune out the world around with high-tech earbuds, they have fireproof houses and matches that can light a million times, yet for all of that people are shallow, and have lost their drive.

"WHAT DO WE WANT IN THIS COUNTRY, ABOVE ALL? PEOPLE WANT TO BE HAPPY, ISN'T THAT RIGHT? HAVEN'T YOU HEARD IT ALL YOUR LIFE? I WANT TO BE HAPPY, PEOPLE SAY. WELL AREN'T THEY? DON'T WE KEEP THEM MOVING, DON'T WE GIVE THEM FUN? THAT'S ALL WE LIVE FOR, ISN'T IT? FOR PLEASURE, FOR TITILLATION? AND YOU MUST ADMIT OUR CULTURE PROVIDES PLENTY OF THESE."

In both Lord of the Flies and Fahrenheit 451 a majority of characters become obsessed with what is easy, and what they fancy in the present moment. In other words, the societies represented in both books involve a theme of devolution, especially in the failure of the majority of characters to focus beyond what will bring immediate pleasure. In both novels the mob rules supreme over the individual; the police, hound, and society over Montag and the savage boys over Ralph.

"But remember that the Captain belongs to the most dangerous enemy to truth and freedom , the solid unmoving cattle of the majority."

2. The Death of True Knowledge

Lord of the Flies and Fahrenheit 451 both involve the death of a character that represent "true knowledge" in the novel: Simon in the former and Clarisse in the latter.

In Lord of the Flies, Simon is the only character to recognize that the "monster" is really just a dead parachutist animated by the internal primal fears of the boys. His death represents further detachment from society in the novel, and is the death of knowledge beyond what the boys think they know. In Fahrenheit 451, Clarisse McClellan is a girl that ponders the world around, wanting to know how and why things exist as they do instead of just accepting perception as truth like the rest of society does. It is only after talking to Clarisse that Montag is able to realize what books could have to offer, breaking the mold of superficiality. Clarisse's death is ironic; she is hit by a car that she has avoided because it goes too fast for her to take the world in, by a driver who is so enthralled by a superficial lifestyle that they likely will have forgotten about hitting her by the time they get home. Her death again represents the death of true knowledge in the novel, a challenge of the status quo.

Freakishly similar in nature, both Simon and Clarisse are out of place in their settings, the only ones who dare to explore what no other is willing to. Their deaths, though seemingly insignificant, are in fact a major blow to the societies they live in. Without those willing to push the bar of knowledge higher, together we can do nothing but fall back.

3. FIRE

As both Lord of the Flies and Fahrenheit 451 progress, the symbol of fire shifts in meaning, though the pattern in one book is reciprocal to the other. Bradbury and Golding both recognize the emphasis and depth fire can bring to a novel, largely due to its primal nurturing, yet mysterious and dangerous, existence in our minds. Bradbury shows us that even in a society mired by distraction our minds are still captivated by the flickering evaporation of flame.

Fire in Lord of the Flies begins as a benign and civilized symbol of hope. In many ways fire is the connection to the outside world for the boys; a literal and metaphorical rescue beacon. Yet as the novel progresses, the symbol of fire becomes corrupted, first being associated with the declining order in they boys' society and finally representing a tool of savage power. Fire remains the connection to the civilized world, but morphs in parallel with the descent of society into anarchy.

In the mind of Guy Montag in Fahrenheit 451 fire begins as a symbol of destruction and superficiality. Montag is not concerned with the possibilities of what he is destroying, only with the satisfaction of seeing pages curl as they are eaten away by flame.

"FORGET THEM. BURN ALL, BURN EVERYTHING. FIRE IS BRIGHT AND FIRE IS CLEAN."

However, as Fahrenheit 451 progresses, the symbol of fire shifts with Montag's climb into higher consciousness. Fire evolves into something that can foster rebirth at the end of the novel, something that can provide warmth and light and knowledge.

"He hadn't known fire could look this way. He had never thought in his life that it could give as well as take."

Fire is an important symbol in Lord of the Flies and Fahrenheit 451, intertwined in both novels' main themes; the devolution of society and the need for intellectuals in a fun-obsessed world, respectively. It serves as a reminder of the roots of our society, the necessity of philosophy and higher thought; but also the ease with which it all can go up in smoke.

Created By
Ryker Bullis
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Credits:

Created with images by Christian Haugen - "Modriki Island" • cdrummbks - "fahrenheit 451" • jonathan229 - "MS1471_1963_Curtis_ModernClassics_JS" • Jonas B - "Anarchy" • LearningLark - "The House of Leaves - Burning 3" • Stones - "fire flame wood fire"

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