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Setting in Fahrenheit 451
Transcript of Setting in Fahrenheit 451
Fahrenheit 451 is set in a suburban city in the twenty first century. The main character, Montag, lives in a dark empty house just like everyone else. The other people in the story are all constantly surrounded by technology, which is a surprisingly accurate description when compared with what our own lives consist of, considering the story was written almost fifty years ago. The atmosphere of the story is very heavy throughout. For most of the book, Montag, the main character, is either scared, confused or angry, and seeing the world through his eyes allows the reader to experience this same atmosphere.
Some important locations of the story that come up several times are Montag's house, the fire station and Faber's house. Throughout the story, it is shown that Montag is dissatisfied with his house. He hates it. It's cold, dark, empty, and the one who is supposed to share it with him, his wife, sits in front of the TV all day, and barely talks to him. A house is supposed to be a home base for people, somewhere where they feel comfortable, but it' clear that Montag doesn't think of it that way. The fire station however, changes in Montag's eyes. At first, he thinks of it how he was supposed to think of his house. It seems to be his home base, where his friends are, and where he feels safe. Throughout the story however, this description changes, and Montag feels unsafe in the station for a number of reasons, including the people whom he thought were his friends. Finally, Faber's house. This is where Montag eventually winds up after his quest to enlighten himself, in a place he thinks is rather safe. At the end of the book, he notices that he runs there when he was in trouble almost on instinct, showing that his sense of security, his safehaven, transitions to Faber's house. Even after Faber's house was compromised, Montag found safety with people outside the city.
War is a common theme throughout the story. War is always looming on the horizon, with everyone talking about the war, preparing for the war, and it affects the setting. The air around the city is in suspense, everyone is excited for the war, not worried, not sad, but excited. That is because, for one, society is messed up, but also, life around there can get a bit dull. Sure, they have TV, they have cars to drive around in, but there is nothing for them to do that will make them feel fulfilled, nothing for anyone to do except the same thing all day, every day, and it gets pretty boring. There are a few feelings of sadness, Montag feels sad about the death of one of his only friends, and sad for everyone in the city who will never be able to experience what books have to offer, including his wife.
There is a feeling of fear that follows Montag. He is always afraid of being caught by the police for having books and for breaking the law. He is afraid to lose everything he has when he runs away. We, the audience, feel his fear. He has so much to lose, all that he has worked for in his life, and he is giving it away by reading.
The setting where the story takes place appears, to us, to be just another city. Most of us have lived in a city for a very long time, and it is hard to imagine such a personal story to take place anywhere else other than a city. It's got the same big buildings in the middle, surrounded by neighborhoods with fresh green lawns and lots of small, suburban houses.
The temperature plays a part in the setting as well, and it should, after all, it's in the title. Throughout the story things always seem to be... hot. It's never cold around the city, only hot or at a neutral temperature, playing into how Montag's life is all about fire, and the burning of books. The only time a feeling of cold comes up is when Montag goes into his own house, but at that point, cold is used to emphasize empty and dead, there were heaters in Montag's house that made sure it wasn't cold. This lets the reader infer a little bit, is the setting someplace farther south where it's warmer? Has humanity found a way to make the temperature anywhere always perfect?
It is never really said that the weather is particularly bad during the story, but because of the gloomy, tense atmosphere, we don't really feel that the weather is bright either. We get the feel that the weather is a gloomy gray most of the time, or with a storm in the distance, that is coming but never arrives.
It rains once during the story, while the atmosphere gets particularly intense, and since it is the only time the setting plays a major role in describing how the character is feeling, it becomes that much more effective of a description.
Different parts of the setting give us different effects. For example, on several occasions, the weather makes us feel depressed and unfulfilled, and the technology around everyone makes us feel isolated. The setting has a huge effect on the story, almost telling a story of it's own not about Montag, but about this giant distopia with lots of little zombies bustling around inside of it, with their technology and their stupid laws. The setting is heavily related to the characters and offers so insight as to what they are feeling and who they are. Without any of these elements of setting, the book would be so much less descriptive and so much more boring and tiresome. Ray Bradbury uses the setting very effectively to emphasize how depressing the world in his story is, and does a fantastic job in doing so.
How it changes
There are certain parts of the setting that, like characters, change as the story progresses. For example, the fire station is an important part of the setting, it is where Montag works. He visits it several times throughout the story, and each time he visits, it changes just a little bit, becoming more and more sinister. Everything about the fire station, even the people, become hostile to Montag, and he doesn't feel the same safety that he felt at the beginning of the story. The world around Montag also changes. When Montag starts running from the police, it seems like the whole world becomes some hostile environment that he has trouble navigating through, even though it's where he has lived for years.
Fahrenheit 451 is a perfect example of how setting can play a big part in a story, helping to give insight into characters and advance the storyline. Ray Bradbury does a terrific job of incorporating descriptions of the setting into the story and making them feel real. His incorporation of the setting allows us to take more from the story and to form a better mental image of what it is we are reading.