1984 and Fahrenheit 451. Two literary classics set in dystopian worlds. 1984 was written in 1948 by George Orwell who, one could say foresaw, the use of telescreens, predicted that everyone could be watched by these telescreens and other electronics, and how it could affect the world today. In Fahrenheit 451, written by Ray Bradbury, books are outlawed, reading is a crime, and the firemen are brought in to destroy the books along with the house that the books were hidden. In a side-by-side analysis of these two books, Winston Smith from 1984 and Guy Montag from 451 can be viewed as character foils of each other.
Winston Smith is an ordinary guy from Airstip One’s capital London who works for the Ministry of truth. Right away in the novel, readers are introduced to how London looks and to Smith’s hidden rebellious nature. “The thing he was about to do was to open a diary.This was not illegal (nothing was illegal, since there were no longer laws), but if detected it was reasonably certain that it would be punished by death, or at least by twenty-five years in a forced-labour camp (Orwell 8).” Simple things, such as writing in a diary was punishable for death when it came to the Inner Party and Big Brother.
These couple lines gives the reader a first hand glimpse at what Winston truly believes. He rebels from the start of the book and it only continues to grow until he is caught by the Thought Police. He continues to be rebellious in his own little way by visiting the paroles, or by visiting the shops that are in that section of town, otherwise known as the freemarkets. His rebellious nature doubles when he meets Julia.
He starts sneaking off and talking to her about anything and everything that has been outlawed and they started planning to reach out to the “Brotherhood”, a secret group that was created to overthrow the Party and BigBrother. In part three, the last part of the book, Winston is captured by the Thought Police because of his rebelliousness. He spends his time waiting in a room seeing people coming in and going, most going to room 101. Room 101 is the room that holds your biggest fear(s) and is the Party’s best form of torture. In that room, Winston is tortured by his worst fear and loses whatever of his spirit he had left. They had managed to take away his rebellious nature and replace it with a perfect citizen of London, a perfect citizen who conforms and waits for his inevitable death.
Throughout Orwells’s book, Winston goes from a rebellious spirit who acts out in the slightest to not get into too much trouble, to a shell of who he used to be, a man who conforms with everything they are supposed to. Meanwhile in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, Guy Montag is the perfect high ranking fireman that everyone wishes to be. When the alarm would go off at the fire station, him and his coworkers never hesitated to go and burn the books and the house that hid them. Montag conformed to the role of a fireman and never questioned it, he was happy that way.
Orville Prescott, the writer of “Book of The Times” review on Fahrenheit 451, explains how “we fear the absolute power of states more than tyrannical than the tyrannies of the past because they strive to rule men’s minds as well as their bodies (Prescott 216).” Montag is being controlled by his government, by his job as a fireman and by his role in that world. He is conforming to what they are supposed to be and that is what it takes to fit into the role of a fireman. In replace of books, conformity is established through the television screens in citizens homes. Margaret Atwood, the author of The Handmaid’s Tale and “Fahrenheit 451”, explains perfectly how “instead of books the public is offered conformity via four-wall TV, with the sound piped directly into their heads via shell-shaped earbuds (a brilliant proleptic leap in the part of Bradbury) (Atwood 237).
” As the reader continues to read further into the story, they start to notice a change in Montag. It all started when he took the book from a pile he was bruning. From there his rebellious side starts to come out. He gathers more books and hides them in his ventilator grille, he meets with a retired English professor, and starts to make a plan to, in a sense, overthrow the firemen, the government, and bring books back into the lives of people. By the end of the book, Montag’s house was burned, his wife had called the fire station and told them everything. It was in that moment that he decided to act and get away. He ran and hid, following the old railway tracks until he found people just like him, people hiding and on the run.
While Winston started out as a rebellious spirit and was soon turned into one of conformity by the end of 1984, Montag was a conformed spirit that went to one of rebelliousness. Montag is an inquisitive, intelligent, curious, and free-thinking man and those traits are part of the reason hs downfall had started. To be a fireman, one needs to be able to act without thinking, burn without thinking and not worry about the consequences of it all. Montag thought that way for awhile, until he grabbed some books off of a pile he was burning. From then on, he let himself think of the what ifs and they whys and he started to think before he acted, he thought of the consequences. This really started to show when the firemen got a call to some lady’s house that had books in it, they planned on finding the books, torching them and, if need be, torching the lady along with them. Montag, thinking about the consequences of burning this lady’s house and the books, tried to stay out of it and when that did not work, he tried to convince this lady to leave her home and the books behind so she would not burn.
From there, Montag started to feel guilty about all the books he had burned, all the houses he had burned and all the lives he had ruined in the process. He faked being sick to get out of going to work, he started questioning why he was like this. In 1984, Winston tried to find himself, he tried to be an individual in a world full of conformity and likeness. When Julia came around, it gave him a little more of a push to get out of his comfort zone and find out who he is as a person, and, maybe, along the way take down Big Brother liked he wanted too. Living in London, Airstrip One is definitely nothing glamorous. It has terrible streets and stores, it has “vistas of rotting nineteenth-century houses, their sides shored up with baulks of timber, their windows patched with cardboard and their roofs with corrugated iron, their crazy garden walls sagging in all directions (Orwell 5).
” It makes sense as to why Winston’s live is full of misery and pain. He lives in a rundown, dirty city; he has this constant fear following him around that if he says the wrong thing or makes the wrong facial expression or makes a wrong move, the Thought Police will come and get him; he is constantly worried that what he is doing with Julia is wrong, and that the “Brotherhood” does not exist and he will not be able to take down the Party and Big Brother. He only has a brief moment where he feels love and happiness. It happens around the time when Winston and Julia meet. After Julia and Winston meet, things start to look up for Winston.
He had hope that Julia and him would work out, he believed that they could actually be successful in the Thought Police not catching them and that they could take down Big Brother without any fail. That moment of happiness is over before Winston knows it when they are captured by the Thought Police and Winston is remodeled into the perfect example of what the citizens of London should look like, the perfect example of Conformity. Montag on the other hand lived a rather happy life, he did not have any fear to worry about because he was the one to create fear. He had a good job, a wife, a nice home, everything someone could ask for in his position at the time. Montag, towards the middle of the books, experiences pain and misery and fear. Montag also experienced what it felt like to no longer love someone, or realised he never loved them at all: “And suddenly she was so strange he couldn’t believe he knew her at all. He was in someone else’s house, like those other jokes people told of gentlemen, drunk, coming home late late at night, unlocking the wrong door, entering the wrong room, and bedding with a stranger and getting up early and going to work and neither of them the wiser (Bradbury 39-40).” The pain he felt during the middle of the book cause Montag to act out because he was not use to experiencing this, he did not understand why people would not see things his way: “Why doesn’t someone want to talk about it! We’ve started and won two atomic wars since 2022! Is it because we’re having so much fun at home we’ve forgotten the world? Is it because we’re so rich and the rest of the world’s so poor and we just don’t care if they are? I’ve heard rumours; the world is starving, but we’re well fed.
Is it true the world works hard and we play? (Bradbury 69-70). Winston only got his brief moment of happiness before it was all over, just like Montag witnessed pain and suffering for only a little while before he was where he wanted to be. Even the endings for these two protagonists are opposites of each other. After Montag loses the Mechanical Hound that was chasing after him to kill him for what he has done, he met a group of people along the railway track.
They were all people like him in a way, they read books and even committed them to memory. Montag managed to go to a place where both people and books could flourish without being destroyed because of it. Winston was not that lucky. In part three of 1984, Winston and Julia are found by the Thought Police and are taken away. Winston spends his first amount of time just waiting for whatever is going to happen, waiting and watching. He sees people coming and going, most of them going to the same room he will be visiting. After he runs into O’Brien in Room 101 and he faces his worst fear: rats, he loses he battle that he began with himself in the beginning of the book. He becomes another face at The Chestnut Tree Cafe.
Orwell ends the book off by leaving Winston still alive but the readers are able to piece together that after all this time, Winston is going to be killed for his crimes against the Party and Big Brother. Another aspect that makes them opposites of each other, that makes them the character foil of each other is their jobs. Montag is a high-ranking fireman who works for the government, while Winston is a low-ranking office worker for the Ministry of Truth.
Montag took pride in his job and enjoyed his job for just over twelve years. He believed he was making a good difference in the lives of others and what he was doing was right. Winston hated his job in the Records Department in the Ministry of Truth. He did not like how it was the same things over and over again. He did not like rewriting history in favour of Big Brother. Winston, the low-ranking office working did not like his job and wished for one that was better and Montag, the high-ranking fireman working for the government loved his job and would not have wished for anything else in the beginning of the novel. Part of being a worker for the Ministry of Truth in the Records Department is getting little notes with dates, times and what needs to be changed on them.
Winston, on a day-to-day basis got notes like this with the intent that he would go back to those records and change it to what the Party wanted. Winston was recreating history everyday to work in favour of the Inner Party so no one doubted them and they could stay in charge. While he was recreating history, he was also, in a different way, keeping knowledge and literature around and alive. Montag, being the fireman that he was, destroyed history. His job was to burn any books they found and then the house or building along with it.
The firemen’s motto was: “burn em’ to ashes, then burn the ashes” which gives the reader an even better look as to how serious they take burning the books and everything they have touched. While Montag destroys history that comes with these books, he is also getting rid of the knowledge and literature that comes with. Part of the reason he does all this is because he believes it will make everyone happy. Idris Parry, writer of “New Novels”, wrote: “Possession of books is a crime against happiness, so the fire brigade is alerted only to burn down house where books are found (Parry 220-221).
” Montag, somewhere in his mind at some given point, truly believed that burning the books, destroying all this history was for the greater good, it was going to make everyone happier. In the end, Montag destroyed and got rid of history and Winston recreated it.After a side-by-side analysis of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and George Orwell’s 1984, the two protagonists, Guy Montag and Winston Smith, can be viewed as character foils of each other.
Two literary classics, one about the burning of books and the other about the dangers of dictatorships and electronics, Works CitedAtwood, Margaret. “Fahrenheit 451″Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451. Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, June 2013Parry, Idris. “New Novels” Prescott, Orville. “Book of The Times” Orwell, George. 1984.
Martin Secker and Warburg Ltd, 1949