1984 vs Fahrenheit 451: Compare & Contrast
Both “1984” and “Fahrenheit 451” are dystopian and futuristic, with the former being published in 1949 in England, and the latter in 1953 in the USA.
In Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury writes about a future where books are burned and no one is allowed to own them as it is thought that they cause disruption. This book is filled with metaphorical language, with Bradbury using a lot of similes throughout the book. There are a lot of allegorical references in the book; symbolism being a central theme to the writing. In 1984, Orwell portrays a totalitarian world with heavy government surveillance on all individuals (“Big brother is watching you”) and no room for dissent. He uses paradoxes a lot in his book.
In 1984 the lexis used is quite simple. Orwell uses language that is easily understandable and informal. The language used in Fahrenheit 451 is also simple and informal, although it may seem hard to a young reader of today; however, the book is intended to be easily readable for all ages.
The central character of 1984 is Winston Smith, who works at the “Ministry of Truth” and is constantly revising official historical records to correspond to the Party’s version of how the past was. The central character in Fahrenheit 451 is Guy Montag who is a fireman and who has only just come to realize how unfulfilled his life seems. What is interesting is that Smith is unhappy with his life from the beginning, and has dissenting views with regards to “The Party”, and is later tortured in the “Ministry of Love” to change his ideas and become completely loyal to The Party and its ideals, whereas Montag is happy with his life in the beginning and it is only when he is challenged and made to think, that he realizes how futile his life is. Montag does not end up conforming to the State ideals, but in fact, he becomes one of the “intellectual individuals” who are, in fact, not tolerated by the state.
In 1984, Smith falls in love with Julia and has a sexual relationship with her. Julia is also unhappy with the system and wants it to change. On the other hand, in Fahrenheit 451, Mildred, Montag’s wife, is brainwashed to the extent that she does not want to talk about anything other than what’s on television, and is depressed without even acknowledging it. What is somewhat similar in both these characters is that in the end, they kowtow to the State ideals, with Julia renouncing Smith and Mildred leaving her “book reading” husband.
O’Brien in 1984 can be equated with Captain Beatty in Fahrenheit 451. Both of them worked for the State, with their task being the removal of any or all rebellion, the role of the former being “reeducating” the dissenters, and the latter’s being burning of any books found in any house. Both agreed to the ideals of the State and discouraged any dissent. What might be slightly different is that Captain Beatty, as Montag later finds out while thinking, wanted to die (or be killed), as he was unhappy with his role, whereas O’Brien completely embraced the ideals.
The old man in 1984, who rents the room to Smith and Julia, in the end, turns out to be a State official. That is one of the reasons why if one has read 1984 before Fahrenheit 451 while reading the latter, one expects Professor Faber to also turn out to be the same, however, that is not the case. Professor Faber is a self-professed coward, who does not like the way things are run but does not have enough gumption to change the system.
The main themes of the books are quite similar; they tell of futuristic times where there is no individuality left and where the State dictates what you have to do. The only difference in the way things are done is that in 1984 the masses live in poverty and misery, whereas in Fahrenheit 451, the citizens live relatively well and are well provided for.
In 1949, when 1984 was written, the Cold War had just begun, and so Orwell used this platform to explain how and why this caused the change. He has borrowed a lot from real life, with the Thought Police being very similar to the Gestapo and NKVD, and the State very similar to the Communist regime of Russia. The “unperson” concept, also, was very similar to the enemies of Stalin being declared “nonpersons”. Orwell used all these similarities to denounce communism (one of the reasons why the book was banned in the USSR). He gave this point to explain what would happen if the world were to be converted to the USSR style communism and how repressing it would be to live in such times.
Fahrenheit 451 was written in 1953, the Cold War was still going on, however, Bradbury does not talk about it at all. Even though the main idea of the book (book burning) was borrowed from the 1930s Nazi regime’s book burnings, the McCarthy hearings had a lot to do with the idea too. It is because of this “artistic repression” that the McCarthy trial caused that Bradbury wrote this book. The book-burning was in a way state censorship, something that the US government was enforcing during those times. Moreover, Bradbury went on to expound how television can be used as an opiate of the masses by the state if so controlled; something that, even now, some groups proclaim.
Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 541. Ballantine Books, 1953.
Orwell, George. 1984. London: Secker and Warburg, 1949.