Fantastic Mirrors in Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451

Before we read a science-fiction novel, we tend to curious about what technology, future, and transformation that would be consisted in the novel. This label had adhered and clung so badly so that it would be difficult if we discussed a science-fiction novel without touching those topics. Therefore, when we read Fahrenheit 451, we would realize that those aspects were dominant and gave a big contribution to the novel for being analyzed and discussed by us as critics.

In Fahrenheit 451, technology that developed was firemen.  Differ with firemen now, they did not bonnet and extinguish fire. Instead, they started fire. We would be surprised when we know that what they burned was books. They would burn any books they could find. Indeed, another technology was also invented to find books faster. There were alarms in every house. People could use the alarms to call firemen when they saw their neighbor saving the books so that the firemen could directly go to the house and burned their books. Besides, to prevent people from running away others invention called mechanical hound was created. It was a mechanical dog who would chance the runner. The hound had a great ability in sniffing and tracking its victims from long distance.

Fahrenheit 451 was published 1953 in America. We also wonder how readers in that year could imagine the technology that presented in the novel. How did the novel work? It should be hard to imagine the technology since the technology itself was not real and just a fantasy so that it would be better and beneficial to know how fantasy work by grasping Todorov`s comprehension. In The Fantastic, Todorov stated that the character of fantastic world lived in the “world which is indeed our world, the one we know, a world without devils, sylphides, or vampires, there occurs an event which cannot be explained by the laws of this same familiar world” (25). Therefore, we realized that the readers were not in the same world as the character in the novel. Then, how the people could understand the technology in the novel when they never saw it or use it before?

The novel used ‘history’ to help the readers understand its content. When the novel was published in 1953, there were many issues about censorship of socialism, eroticism, and sexuality in the early 1950s in America. Therefore, when the novel focused in how books are banned, the readers would be directly connected to the issues. In other words, if books represented knowledge, then the banning books could represent silent of all knowledge in America. It reflected the issued and therefore the novel had a role as a mirror or lens and the technology which created in Fahrenheit 451 was located in the paraxial area based on what Jackson says in the Fantasy: The Literature of Subversion,

This paraxial area could be taken to represent the spectral region of the fantastic, whose imaginary world is neither entirely ‘real’ (object), nor entirely ‘unreal’ (image), but is located somewhere indeterminately between the two. (19)

However, the narrative located in the paraxial area “in which light rays seem to unite at a point after refraction seem to collide” with the reality of America. Therefore, when we read Fahrenheit 451, it became a window to see America in 1950s. It was like a time machine bringing you back to past. However, in fact, although the technology, the story, and the characters intertwined with America in 1950s, those things were never real. It just a reflection as when you look at the mirror. You would see your reflection, but it was never there.

Nonetheless, it was not only the text that used mirror to fantasize reality. The novel also used metaphorical mirrors to Montag, the main character, to identify himself, to recognize what he really is. It was clear that when we see at the mirror we could identify ourselves and this concept was used for the main character as well.

 The first time the novel used mirror was after Montag burned books. When Montag came back to firehouse, “he might wink at himself, a minstrel man, burnt-corked, in the mirror”(4). At the time, Montag was mirroring, but he saw himself without thinking. Hence, this first mirror was not used by Montag to exam himself, but it was only used to satisfy himself.

Conversely, the novel finally used mirror to examine Montag`s self when he met with Clarisse and it was clearly reflected.

He saw himself in her eyes, suspended in two shining drops of bright water, himself dark and tiny, in fine detail, the lines about his mouth, everything there, as if her eyes were two miraculous bits of violet amber that might capture and hold him intact. (7)

In another page, Clarisse helped Montag realize that he was wearing a mask.

How like a mirror . . . her face. Impossible, for how many people did you know who refracted your own light to you? . . . How rarely did other people’s faces take of you and throw back to you your own expression, your own innermost trembling thought? (11)

Therefore, Clarisse played a big role to disillusion Montag from ‘unreal’ to ‘real’. She represented honesty and fact because she is the only one who “talk[ed] about how strange the world is” (29). Clarisse therefore, was like a mirror becoming a reflection to show Montag what he really is.

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