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The Theme of Metamorphosis in the Novels of Ray Bradbury
In Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles he uses the theme of metamorphosis to show how his characters survive reality. Through the characters in these novels he is able to show their survival through personal metamorphosis. Critic Willis E. McNelly states “The central tensions that permeate all of Bradbury’s works are those of stasis, entropy, and change. Change will come, he seems to say “(173). In the end these changes come at the expense of others, but bring with them the survival of .
Many of Bradbury’s characters have sorrows they cannot put behind them, scars that will not heal – all of which causes them to hurt others”(Beachams Guide to Literature for Young Adults 1852). The characters are not able to adapt or change to suit their own needs, Without doing this they not only hurting others and themselves. For example, in The Martian Chronicles the inability to adapt for some destroys them. In Bradbury’s novels it is essential for the characters to change in order to go on with their life. The society is in which the characters either live in or lived in are destroyed, because of its inability to change, while the character, or some characters are able to survive.
Fahrenheit 451 allows a look at how a futuristic city with a totalitarian government might look and seem to be. “The core of the novel rests in the readers ability to share Montag’s slow struggle toward consciousness, to move from official book burner to reader, to rebel, to book
memorizer and ultimately to a citizen of a loving, caring, feeling world”(McNelly 174). The harshness of this government provokes Montag to rebel against it.
The differences in the characters and the futuristic setting allow for a realistic yet fantasy world in Fahrenheit 451. Guy Montag never had a problem with his beliefs, views, and culture until he got a new neighbor. Clarisse McClellan, his new neighbor made him question those beliefs and views, and ultimately set him up for the adventure of his life, which led to the demise of the world he grew up in.
“IT WAS A PLEASURE TO BURN. It was a pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed”(1). This is the first sentence and first reference to the theme of metamorphosis in Fahrenheit 451. The main problem suggested in this book is the fact that reading, let alone having a book in your possession is against the law and you can be jailed for it if you are caught. In this society there are people that challenge this law in the privacy of their own homes, bringing Montag into the picture. He is a fireman, but in this world the job description of a fireman is to start fires, where books can be found, instead of putting them out. The reason for this is to prevent people from reading. The government is against free thought, because through it change can and will occur. Wherever there are books the fireman eventually show up and burn them. Regardless of who or where, if books are found in a house the whole house is burnt to the ground, preventing change.
Montag’s change begins with the arrival of a new neighbor, Clarisse McClellan. “I’m seventeen and I’m crazy. My uncle says the two always go together”(7). This is the response given to Guy when he asks the age of Clarisse. With this statement Guy knew that she wasn’t the
normal teenager. In their brief first encounter Clarisse asks him questions that no one has even mentioned before that night. Even the little question like “Have you seen the two-hundred-foot long billboards in the country beyond town? Did you know that once billboards were only twenty feet long”(9)? These questions took Montag by surprise and he thought them to be very humorous, but her next statement made him a bit “irritable”(9). “Bet I know something else you don’t. There’s dew on the grass in the morning”(9). With this statement Montag realized he never really thought about that and became angry. Although her questions annoyed him, he pondered on them, wondering about things that his society didn’t allow, the answers.
One of the questions she asks him really bothers him, “Are you Happy?”(10). This question really affects Montag, because when he goes into his house he can’t answer it. When he enters the house it is dark and cold, and he feels out of breath, “So, with the lack of air, he felt his way toward his open, separate, and therefore cold bed”(12). Upon reaching his bed he realizes his wife is in trouble. She has overdosed on sleeping pills. As Montag watches the EMT’s drain his wife’s blood and pump new blood into her system, he realizes that Clarisse’s question is in fact a dangerous one.
Montag’s struggle with this question demonstrates his metamorphosis. Because he cannot answer the questions that he begins to ask himself, he tries to find someone or thing which can help him. His mission brings him to a man he once questioned about books, Faber. Faber is an English professor who retired after the last college closed down. Faber who has been around longer than the law against reading helps Montag answer his questions. These answers influence Montag’s struggle to violate society by change.
One visit from Beatty describes how the government feels about books. Beatty demonstrates, “A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it. Take the shot from the weapon. Breach man’s mind”(58). Sensing, Montag’s shifting opinion on books, he tries to convince him not to read books by telling him that they all contradict each other in what they say and their content. However, Beatty doesn’t effect Montag. As soon as Beatty leaves Montag, he reaches up and removes an air duct cover to reveal that he has at least fifty books hidden up there. Him and his wife, who is fully recovered, end up spending the afternoon and the next day reading passages and stories from different books.
When a women’s group comes over the next day Montag has a mental breakdown, well at least in the eyes of the lady’s, he takes all of the books from their hiding place and throws them at the other people in his house. After everyone leaves screaming Montag goes to work. As soon as he gets there the alarm goes off, on the way to the house Montag answers his own questions “I can’t do it, he thought. How can I go at this new assignment, how can I go on burning things? I can’t go in this place”(110). With this comment Montag realizes that he no longer be a book burner, but to preserve books. When Montag snaps back into reality he realizes that it is his house that they are going to burn. Trying to stop his fellow workers, they send a mechanical hound out to kill him. Montag with the help of his new thoughts is able to escape, escape from the craziness of society.
Montag strives for his chance to change or rebel. An example of the usual teenage rebellion period only that Montag is in his thirties. “The plot revolves around a “fireman’s”
conversion from book burner to preserver”(Baron 113). Fareheit 451 is a classic story of a characters drastic transformation despite the views of society.
The Martians Chronicles has many versions of change in this story. First, the second part to the meaning of the word metamorphosis, which is physical change. The Martians have the ability to physically change their appearance to the form of their own will. Also in this story the human population of Mars must metamorphosis to establish a new colony after the earth is left in rubble from a third World War, which happens to be nuclear. Only the humans who have separated themselves from Earth are able to survive by staying on Mars the rest go back to Earth and die from the nuclear fallout, which occurs afterwards.
“The Marian Chronicles, the reality of life on Mars is seen primarily from the point of view of the colonizers from Earth In either case, both the Earth men and the Martians are unable to accept the reality of the others existence”(Fletcher 87). By either species not being able to believe in each other the first few expeditions to this new world ends up with the Martians killing the Earth men, but come the fourth expedition the Earth men find that almost the hole Martian population has been killed by the chicken pox. The next thing you know is that Mars is populated by Earth-people.
When the first explorers to this planet arrived the Martians killed them because they believed they didn’t exist. Martians have a special quality to them; they are able to metamorphosis into any form that they please including looking like humans. With this ability to change the Martian culture is never able to realize that there other species out there. On the second mission to Mars, the explorers are put in an insane asylum. This insane asylum was filled
with different things and people, all of which are Martians that believe they are from another planet and have transformed themselves into a creature, which they think, comes from that planet. The next day a Martian psychiatrist comes to talk to them and he ends up killing the captain, who he thought was imaging that he was a human, and was making through his own thoughts the other crew members real. After he shoots the captain he realizes that the crewmembers where real, because they are still there. He shoots them also, but then the psychiatrist sees the spaceship where the crew has taken him and ends up shooting himself because he thinks he has been infected with this insanity also.
On the third mission, the crew lands finding a quiet little town like one on earth during the fifties. The crewmembers come to find out that all of their dead family members like their mothers, fathers, grandparents, brothers, and sisters, who are all deceased on Earth, live on Mars. Every ones childhood home is there along with those family members, even there exact bedroom. Through the night the captain of the expedition comes up with a theory about what is happening in this quaint little city. “Suppose all of these houses aren’t real at all, this bed not real, but only figments f my own imagination, given substance by telepathy and hypnosis through the Martians, thought Captain John Black”(46). It turns out that this very hunch or theory is really the truth and that the crew of this fourth expedition is brutally murdered that first night. So now this is four failed missions that end in death for the Earth people.
The next mission to Mars is very much a success because, when the next crew gets there, there is no one inhabiting the planet. The only thing they find is the remains of the Martian population, which has dwindled down to a rare few. The cause of death determined by the new
crew is the chicken pox, which wasn’t introduced into the Martian culture until those four earlier expeditions to Mars.
Only a few Earthlings change in this story, but it is necessary for those few to change in order to survive. With the first sign of trouble on Earth, the few Earthlings who weren’t able to change and separate themselves from Earth end up going back. In the words of critic Michael Levy, “Only those few humans who have truly become Martians, who have truly separated themselves from the Earth, can achieve a new childhood, a new innocence, and remain on Mars”(Beacham’s Guide to Literature for Young adults 1853). What he is saying is that each human has come to the new planet of Mars to escape what was going on. The disaster that strikes Earth allows the ones who have accomplished their Metamorphosis of regaining their lost childhood and innocence are the ones that stay on Mars and Survive.
Fahrenheit 451and The Martian Chronicles both of these novels emulate what Bradbury is trying to explain. That without the proper change in a person or peoples life what happens to them could either end their life or make it very miserable. With these two books we have seen both these occurrences first in Fahrenheit 451 without the ability to change Montag’s life is miserable, but when he finally realizes this he changes and becomes a lot happier when he leaves his old society. Also, in The Martian Chronicles we see that when the Martians aren’t able to adapt to the reality of life on other planets, they end up dying by a disease that with the help of humans could have been cured. Another thing is that by the humans not being able to change and put the events on Earth behind them, they have to go back to Earth and later die in the nuclear fallout of World War III. “He reveals these tensions [Metamorphosis] frequently in short stories,
but even Major works like The Martian Chronicles or Fahrenheit 451″(McNelly 173). The accomplishment made characters from both books overcome great odds just to change and become what they want and have always wanted to become.
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