If everyone in society had the same beliefs, academic standards, and life styles, would the human race be at peace? Fahrenheit 451, written in 1953 about the near future and the entire social problems it has, and the movie Pleasantville made in 1998 about a perfect society, could prove through their similarities and differences how the results are about the same. In both works, the themes are that knowledge and power go hand in hand, and also that repression of freedom can be very dangerous.
The main character of Fahrenheit 451, Montag, is an average man of his society, fulfilling his duties as a fireman. In this novel, a fireman destroys books by lighting houses on fire. After having a seemingly innocent person commit suicide in their apartment because the firemen were going to burn down her house, he begins to ponder the true nature of his job. This is very similar to the experience of David from the film Pleasantville. David is an average high school student who enjoys watching television on his free time. One day his sister and David get into an argument and one thing led to the next, when all of a sudden they were in the television show that David enjoys watching. David cautions his sister, Jennifer, that they must take on the roles of the characters that they replaced (Bud and Mary Sue). Soon after being in the show, they realize that everyone shouldn’t be equal, and begin to question the rules of the society. Both Montag and David use their inquisition about society to bring about change. It could not have been done without a catalyst to start the process.
In the novel, Fahrenheit 451, a high school student named Clarisse, who questioned Montag, and asked him if he was truly happy with his life. Montag actually had to think this over and in the end he found his answer to be no. Mr. Johnson, owner of the soda fountain, opens the eyes of David, now called Bud. After David had missed his late shift with Mr. Johnson, Mr. Johnson had to close up by himself. The next afternoon, they both had a conversation. Mr. Johnson explained how he had to wash and dry the cups, instead of just washing them. He also stated how it took him a lot longer to lock up the store because it was routine that Bud would always be there to help him. Right then and there, David knew that change had to occur. He believed that the people should enjoy themselves and not have to stick to the same things every day. When the books are brought into both societies, a period of joy/enlightenment comes into effect. Shortly after this period, another period occurs, but one of chaos results instead.
In Montag’s society, books were illegal and frowned upon. He took a book home from a fire call. He then began to read this poetry book. He was very happy and did not understand why man would burn books. Then his wife, Mildred had company over. Montag was listening to their conversations and was frustrated with the same conversations every gathering. It got to the point where he stood up and read them a poem. This made one of the women cry. The next day, Montag received a call to burn down his own house. This is where the chaos began. Montag took the flame thrower and killed his boss and went on the run. The city sent out a chase to find him, but couldn’t. Soon after he met up with other refugees, they decided to recreate mankind to be perfect. In the movie, David picks up an art book and brings it to Mr. Johnson. Mr. Johnson begins to paint with extravagant colors, which was banned in society.
He began to paint portraits and how he felt the city was. This upset most of the townspeople in the same way that Mildred’s friend was offended. Riots broke out and many people were very upset. The mayor of Pleasantville called a town meeting and separated those who did not follow the traditional ways. These people were easy to separate because instead of being the standard black and white, they were colored with actual colors. The mayor of the town can be compared to Montag’s boss, Beatty, in that they both try to preserve the order of their society. It is very ironic that fire is used to eliminate books because fire is the source of knowledge and is primarily used to warm people, not destroy and combust the very knowledge it created.
In both Fahrenheit 451, written by Ray Bradbury, and Pleasantville directed by Gary Ross, the themes that repression of freedoms can be dangerous and that knowledge is power are both proven. In the novel, Montag shows how knowledge is power. He is able to memorize a book and join the elite group of people and move on to attempt to rebirth mankind to be tolerant and educated. David shows how repression of freedoms could be dangerous. When he gives the gift of knowledge to Mr. Johnson, a riot breaks out based on the ideas publicized by the art. This changed the society forever. Both works are similar yet different but can prove a common point that repression of knowledge cannot exist in a “perfect world”