Imagine a world where free will is obsolete. Nobody has any freedom; most people do not even have a yearning for autonomy. The direction the world is heading right now could possibly produce such a world. Both Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley, and Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury, envision this world which lacks liberty. These books, both of which are supposed to be set in the future, have numerous theme similarities throughout them.
Of all their common factors, the ones that stand out most would have to be the outlawed reading of books and the theme of the protagonist being a loner or an outcast from society because of his differences in beliefs as opposed to the norm. In the societies of both of these books outlawed reading is a common and almost completely unquestioned law. In Brave New World reading is something that all classes are conditioned against from birth.
In the beginning of the novel there is a group of infants who are given bright, attractive books but are exposed to an explosion and a shrieking siren when they reach out for them. This thus prevents them from wanting the books and causes them to scream and shrink away in horror at the mere sight of the books. In reference to the accomplishment of this conditioning, the director said, “Books and loud noises… already in the infant mind these couples are compromisingly linked; and after two hundred repetitions of the same or a similar lesson would be wedded indissolubly.
What man has jointed, nature is powerless to put asunder,” (Huxley 21-22). We come to learn that the basic reasoning behind this conditioning against reading in Brave New World was because “you couldn’t have lower-caste people wasting the Community’s time over books, and there was always the risk of their reading something which might undesirably decondition one of their reflexes” (Huxley 22). In Fahrenheit 451 the outlawing of book reading is taken to an even greater extent.
In this novel the whole purpose of a firefighter isn’t to put out fires, rather it is to start fires. The reading of books in their society is completely forbidden and if someone is suspected of even owning a book, the firefighters are dispatched to go to that person’s residence and start a fire. They start fires for the sole purpose of destroying books, as illustrated here, “They pumped the cold fluid from the numeraled 451 tanks strapped to their shoulders. They coated each book, they pumped rooms full of it… the whole house is going up’ ” (Bradbury 38). The most evident of the similarities in these two books would have to be the fact that the main character in both books was basically an outcast or a loner from society. In Brave New World this is, at different times, a different character. First, Bernard Marx is introduced as the outcast. He thinks just a little more than the average man in his society. He and his friend Helmholtz Watson are two men who stand apart because they actually think rather than drone around like the rest of the people.
Bernard is also much smaller than most other alphas and has a hard time both getting women and getting lower castes to do what he says. When speaking of Bernard, one of the women says, ” They say somebody made a mistake when he was still in the bottle- thought he was a Gamma and put alcohol in his blood-surrogate. That’s why he’s so stunted” (Huxley 46). It isn’t until Bernard gains guardianship over John that he is anything but an outcast. For the first time in his life he can get any woman he wants and he even believes he has power.
However, after things fall apart and the savage is no longer under his control, Bernard goes back to being an outcast and is even eventually sent off to an island alone. The second person viewed as an outcast in Brave New World would be John the savage. He never fits in while he lives on the reservation because of who his mother is and what she’d done to the reservation. He is constantly secluded from activities and looked down upon, as we see here, “He went with the others… suddenly one of the men stepped forward, caught him by the arm, and pulled him out of the ranks… Not for you, white-hair! ” (Huxley 136). Though he too has his period of acceptance when he comes to the Brave New World, he ultimately returns to his solitary ways. In the end, despite Mond’s wishes to continue with the research, John ran away and moved into an abandoned light tower to live as a recluse. Similarly, in Fahrenheit 451, Guy Montag is pretty much a loner himself. Though he is a firefighter, he secretly steals more and more books and the more he reads, the less he believes in burning them. He cannot tell anyone of this, even his wife, because they will surely turn him in.
Eventually, though, Guy’s secret is discovered and the rest of the story consists of the chase after him by the police as well as the electronic hound. He makes his get away alone and though he meets others along the way, he travels alone. The other loner in this book is Clarisse. Clarisse new she was an outcast and even said, “I’m afraid of children my own age. They kill each other… I’m responsible. I was spanked when I needed it, years ago. And I do the shopping and house cleaning by hand” (Huxley 30).
Outlawed reading and society outcast are the two themes that parallel each other in Brave New World and Fahrenheit 451. In Brave New World, children are conditioned to associate books with explosions and sirens. Who would want to read when books are considered negative? Bernard Marx and Helmholtz Watson are outcasts of society. In Fahrenheit 451, books are not even allowed to exist! Firefighters’ sole job is to destroy them using fire. Guy Montag and Clarisse are the outsiders in this novel. Hopefully the society that exists today will always have autonomy and never have free thinkers thought of as exiles.