The last time someone spoke out against the government was probably relatively recently. Americans today can talk about politics unreservedly. Though, centuries ago, this would have been punishable by death. There were two ways of going about this. One way would be conformity, to surrender to the governments wishes by reserving any criticism for trifle thoughts. The other way would be individuality, to criticize the authority and be its target.
This theme, conformity versus individuality, is ubiquitous not only in todays society but in Ray Bradburys Fahrenheit 451. Distraction and pleasure seeking is the trademark of the culture in which Montag lives in. Even though these may sound like very beneficial values, the culture doesnt tolerate self-expression. Self-indulgent and mindless entertainment is the custom, and as long as the people in the society of Fahrenheit 451 stay to sports, TV, and driving fast, they are left alone by society. But when individuals begin to question the reason for living a life like that, and start to look for answers in books and convey their suspicions, they become threats. The questions that they ask may cause other people to realize the sad truth that their culture was designed to keep them from having an open mind. For that reason, the people in the society of Fahrenheit 451 who express their individuality end up becoming social outcasts.
Bradbury depicts an ultramodern society in which conformity is highly valued. Beatty believes in conformity and describes it as a positive aspect of society. He argued that conformity in behavior prevents violence and conformity in jealousy keeps artistic and brilliant people from standing out. This can be good because then the other people wont feel bad. Beatty made a very strong point by saying We stand against the small tide of those who want to make everyone unhappy with conflicting theory and thought (Page 62). What Beatty is saying here is that conformists are programmed to believe in the same things without any questions asked, living a comfortable, boring life, and when someone criticizes their way of life it sparks a flare between the two.
Conformity can be positive, but it can also be extremely negative. It doesnt seem to lead to an internal happiness; it just leads to a felling of displeasure and sadness. Mildred is perfect illustration of a conformist, she always does what ever the societal norm is, and even when it puts her and the ones she loves in danger. When she tries killing herself, she even did it the same way everyone else did. We get these cases nine or ten a night Someone else just jumped the cap off a pillbox. (Page 15-16). She had tried killing herself by overdosing on sleeping pill, just like everyone else. Everyone is doing the same thing, there is no variety, People dont talk about anythingand nobody says anything different from anyone else (Page 31). In this way we see that the portrayal of conformity in behavior is similar to the way we conform in our society.
Conformity can be found everywhere in todays society, good or bad. A really great example of good conformity is at Kennedy. The Green Team at Kennedy it trying to get people to recycle and not use plastic bottles. People have begun to follow what the Green Team is doing and use reusable water containers instead of plastic water bottles. Not only is it a good conformity but it also is saving the earth. Bad conformity can be found everywhere, especially in the media. TV shows and Advertisements depict people being perfect and beautiful looking when its mostly airbrushing that makes them look that way. The Youth then begin to think thats what people should look like and they want to look like that. Knowing that they cant look like the models in the Advertisement, the youth sometimes become depressed. The belief that Physical beauty is more important than intelligence is a very common habit throughout the world, especially in schools and as a result, people may often conform to accept values of appearances rather than focusing on the values of a persons gifts and talents. Conformity can be involuntary, so someone could not even know that they were following others. Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth (Kennedy). What this is saying is if a person conforms to others then theyre giving up their freedom to whom theyre conforming. If they do this, they cannot grow, or have their own thoughts or opinions or act on them. They remain under the direction of whom they conform to and cannot flourish.
Individuality is a great thing to have; it makes a person unique, unlike anyone else on earth. Individualism makes societies grow, they come up with new ideas and inventions. It gives the world variety. Individuals urge to ask questions that may agitate the statues quo at risks to themselves, but the rewards to society and citizens may be great.
Individuality is good most of the time, but there are situation were being individual isnt the best thing. Since individuality is looked down upon in the society, anyone who is an individual has to appear a conformist. Having to live a lie every day to avoid being caught takes its toll, psychologically. Being and individual can be unpleasant and lonely, especially in a society where equality means sameness and conformity is the way of life.
Individuality shows up all over the place in todays world, whether it is good or bad. Good individuality is made up of people like Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Where would Todays society be at if those people never stood up to conformity? These people were extremely important in history, the only way they became so important was by being an individual and going against the system. With out individuality, events like the Industrial Revolution and the Civil Rights Movement would have never happened. Individuality is very important in the growth of a society. Then there is bad individuality, the people who go out of their way to cause pain and suffering. al-Qaeda is a good example of bad individuality. They attack the United States on 9/11 with 19 hijackers who died in the attacks, and nearly 3,000 victims. Osama bin Laden founded the Islamic extremist organization al-Qaeda. He was the individual one and others followed him.
When one doesnt choose to live their own life and follow the rules placed by others, neither change nor growth will occur in a persons life. Montag chose to love by this passage near the end of the story. He learned that by following his own rules he would be the controller of the outcome in his life. Once he began to demonstrate actions that he felt were acceptable, his personality changed enormously. This story was a perfect example of what may happen when a human is told what to do, instead of having the option of doing what they truly believe they should do. According to John F. Kennedy, Conformity is jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.