The stark white boards of the ceiling contrast sharply with the soft seafoam green on the walls.
Scarcely visible stencils of exotic fish dot the walls at random intervals.
A string of seashells guide the eye down from the rafters onto the four posts of the bed frame.
The whitewashed wood of the frame’s four clean lines parallel the French doors opening
onto the balcony.
The doors are open wide, and the scent of the ocean wafts in on each passing breeze.
As far as the eye can see is the vast blue ocean, broken only by the occasional fishing dinghy.
The doors frame the scene, a picturesque panorama that is so vivid I feel as if I can reach
out and touch it.
A pale sliver of sand runs along the water, corralling the powerful waves crashing down on the
Out of nowhere, the creak of floorboards in the hallway signals the presence of at least one
sibling, if not two.
Their voices penetrate the silence of the early mornings on Martha’s Vineyard.
The open balcony doors welcome the barking of dogs and the barely audible pounding of early joggers
on the sidewalk.
The corner of the bedspread lazily flaps up and down, as sunlight surreptitiously conquers every
corner of the room.
Unexpectedly the alarm clock screams out, an unintelligible rock song jarring the peaceful morning
The velvety feel of the worn floorboards on my feet is quickly replaced by pins and needles as
the dresser yet again thwartS my attempt at a morning not marred by a stubbed toe.
Obscenities stream out of my mouth unchecked and the serenity of the early morning is gone.
Chris McCandless was a young man with passionate beliefs. His passions
led him to embrace Transcendentalist thought to the fullest extent possible in a world of instant communication, overpopulation
and over planning. Krakauer relayed Chris’s story to the modern public with his own spin on old Transcendentalist concepts.
His predecessors in the Transcendentalist movement like Emerson and Thoreau helped to mold Chris’s beliefs and aided
him in embodying Transcendentalist principles thoroughly during his short life.
Arguably the original Transcendentalist, Ralph Waldo Emerson, had a prolific
career as a Transcendental Club member. He believed in the idea that every being is somehow connected; a unity between humans
nature and God. This unity is made possible by the “Over Soul.” Emerson describes this in Nature, “I
become a transparent eyeball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part
or parcel of God” (Emerson 242). Chris McCandless wholly embraced this connection with nature as evidenced by his epic
voyage into Alaska. Chris lived off the land for more than 100 days, and although it cost him his life he emulated his ideal
Transcendentalist-inspired existence as best he could.
Jon Krakauer can be considered a new age Transcendentalist. His artful
representation of Chris McCandless in his book Into The Wild concretely shows his Transcendentalist inclinations. Krakauer
tells the reader about his own experiences with nature, unconformity, and especially, self reliance. This Transcendentalist
value relates also to Chris and his great adventure in the wilderness. It was a way to show not only his prowess in the wilderness
but to show that he could do it alone. Chris could only rely on himself. This Transcendentalist ideal of self reliance is
apparent throughout Chris’s journey, from begrudgingly accepting help from Gaillen to burning his money (Krakauer 7,
Emerson’s protégé, Henry David Thoreau, was another influential Transcendentalist
thinker. Thoreau’s book Walden has become the cornerstone of Transcendentalist thought. The book studies Thoreau’s
beliefs about society and life in the context of him moving out into semi-isolation on Walden Pond. This move is certainly
unconventional and this easily could have inspired Chris McCandless to isolate himself. Chris severed almost every familial
or societal tie he had and became a vagabond. Living outside our society was exciting for Chris and practically a necessity.
The name change from Chris McCandless to Alex Supertramp is another example of his detachment from society (Krakauer 9). A
“Supertramp” is not generally accepted as a positive goal for an educated young man to be. This negative connotation
that the word carries could have easily incited Chris to adopt the name and push himself even further from accepted culture.
He also scorned government’s policies, by completely disregarding the warning signs when crossing into government property.
He also placed, “none-of-your-goddamn-business,” as his social security number when filling out working papers
(Krakauer 119). Chris’s indifference towards the community’s conventions and thoughts clearly exemplifies many
aspects of Transcendentalist thought, best represented by the following quote. Thoreau said in Walden, “Public
opinion is a weak tyrant compared with our own private opinion. What a man thinks of himself, that is which determines, or
rather indicates, his fate” (Thoreau 256).
Transcendentalism is defined by Merriam-Webster as, “a philosophy
that emphasizes the a priori conditions of knowledge and experience or the unknowable character of ultimate reality or that
emphasizes the Transcendent as the fundamental reality.” However, the great minds of the Transcendentalist
movement would cringe at this definition. Transcendentalism is embodied by many things: self-reliance, a connection with nature
and oftentimes a certain unconformity to society’s norms. This unconformity would have made the Transcendentalists abhor
a uniform definition to label their movement. It would have mocked their adherence to self-reliance and self discovery. How
could any philosopher find themselves if society has already labeled them? Chris McCandless, the young self-proclaimed “Supertramp”
in Jon Krakauer’s Into The Wild, was one of these philosophers, his life personified many ideals of Transcendentalism.
His story continues to motivate thousands to reflect and rethink their lives around the principles of self-reliance, nature
Emerson, Ralph Waldo. “Self Reliance.” The American Experience.
Prentice Hall: New Jersey, 1989. 242-243.
Emerson, Ralph Waldo. Nature. The American Experience. 240-260.
Krakauer, Jon. Into The Wild. Anchor Books: New York, 1996.
Thoreau, Henry David. Walden. The American Experience.
Prentice Hall: New Jersey, 1989. 254-260.
By Ray Bradbury
"It was a pleasure to burn," Ray Bradbury opened his novel, Fahrenheit
451 with these words, a bold statement that would set up the drastic changes to come in the novel. The protagonist, Guy
Montag, is a fireman whose job is to burn books, quite the contradiction to what firemen do in our world. This alternate society
is one in which issues of reality and conformity play a tremendous part in shaping the world Bradbury created. Through symbolism
and irony Bradbury also manages to create a cohesive novel that is a pleasure to read and mull over.
Conformity is a critical theme in Fahrenheit 451. The society depicted
by Bradbury is a nameless, faceless group that is all the same. All diversity is gone, and thanks to the differences that
we now celebrate books have gone by the wayside. As Captain Beatty said, "Technology, mass exploitation, and minority pressure
carried the trick, thank God. Today, thanks to them, you can stay happy all the time, you are allowed to read comics, the
good old confessions, or trade journals," (58). Now that books are gone, most people's minds have depreciated into a state
of simply going through the motions of life. Each person is alive, yet deadened on the inside. A perfect example in Bradbury's
work is Mildred, Montag's wife. Mildred is so wrapped up in her parlor walls that she cannot even think to embrace the new
world of opportunities that her husband is offering her with his stolen library. Conformity is significant because it is the
rigid mold that Montag breaks when he embraces the wealth of knowledge that books can bring. Fahrenheit 451 suggests
how dangerous it can be to rely on the pack. The pack mentality can lead to the selfish behavior that comes with not caring
about your life or of those around you, as was the case with Mildred throwing Montag’s life away for the concern of
her parlor family and the comforts she associated with them. This warped sense of values is another issue in Fahrenheit
451, the concept of reality.
Reality is a variable concept in the setting of Fahrenheit 451. The
lack of knowledge of what was truly going on in the world created a bubble around the citizens in Bradbury’s society.
This bubble became a perfect surreal place where your life was what you made it in the most literal sense. Depending on how
you set your parlor walls or your seashell earphones you could converse with Jesus one minute and your dream date the next.
The ease at which your dream life can become reality undermines the values that have been instilled in readers since birth.
The values that with hard work and a bit of luck everything can be yours. The cheap imitation of that ideal life that Mildred
and many others appreciate through their technology does nothing for them but waste away their days. Bradbury suggests that
this reality is slowly creeping up on us everyday, new technological advances are happening everyday and if we aren’t
careful they may gain too much sway over our minds. Bradbury used issues to focus the book, it's these issues plus his use
of symbolism and irony that create the artful prose in Fahrenheit 451.
Irony is defined by Merriam-Webster's as, "the use of words to express something
other than and especially the opposite of the literal meaning." Irony is used in the novel in reference to both Montag's profession
and the Mechanical Hound he faces at work. The Mechanical Hound lives in the firehouse where Montag works. As humanizing as
it can be to have an animal in the workplace, this hound is far from a welcoming fixture. The Hound is an automated assassin.
The Hound is ironic in two senses. One, it is not the warm loving firehouse dog that the reader expects to find. Two, the
hound begins the novel as one of Montag's most useful coworkers and yet by the end the Hound becomes Montag's greatest enemy.
Irony is also prevalent in being a fireman in Bradbury's fictional world. A fireman's job description is destruction. Firemen
routinely reported to households around their area and burned them to the ground. What was wrong with these houses? They harbored
books. These sanctuaries of knowledge in a world that's gone mad became targets of firemen, an ironic twist that draws the
reader into this world of contrasting parallels.
More important than the element of irony in Fahrenheit 451 is Bradbury'
use of symbolism. Symbolism runs throughout the novel, integrating every aspect of the story as a recurring symbol. The first
part, aptly titled "The Hearth and the Salamander", fire is a warm helper. To Montag fire is a joy, a beautiful piece of his
life that can never be extinguished. Next, the second part "The Sieve and the Sand" is the passing of time, where fire's role
is unknown and ambiguous to Montag. The final part, titled "Burning Bright", shows the full transformation of Montag. He finally
embraces the power of knowledge and has grown to accept the fact that knowledge is worth all the strife it causes. His epiphany
can relate back to the title of the part, he has plenty of burning questions within him but now he has the resources and power
to find the answers.
Bradbury also used Montag's thoughts to frame critical moments in the novel.
The third person limited narrative point of view allows for in depth looks into Montag's thought process, one example of this
led to a quote that I found deeply provocative. "A carful of children, all ages. Go knew, from twelve to sixteen, out whistling,
yelling, hurrahing, had seen a man, a very extraordinary sight, a man strolling, a rarity, and simply said, 'Let's get him,'
not knowing he was the fugitive Mr. Montag, simply a number of children out for a long night of roaring five or six hundred
miles in a few moonlight hours, their faces icy with wind, and coming home or not coming at dawn, alive or not alive, that
made the adventure." This quote pulls together all aspects of the book. It shows the pack mindset that comes with rigid conformity
and it shows the distorted reality that these people live in where killing a man is not so out of the ordinary. The quote
shows the irony of what we don't expect to happen nearly occurring and the symbolism of fire is present in the burning headlights
that train on Montag in what he believes to be his last moments of life.
This quote also touched me on a more personal level. Over the summer when
I was driving in the car with two of my friends we saw a mutual friend on the side of the road riding his bike. One of my
friends said to the driver, "Hit him," joking of course and she swerved towards him to scare him. At the exact moment we swerved
he swerved towards us too, just to scare us. We collided with his rear tire and as he fell to the ground I thought we had
killed him. It was the scariest moment of my life and needless to say, as I read this scene it was all too vivid. My friend
was fine, we had been going well under the speed limit so he just bruised his knee but I felt lucky ever since the incident.
When I read this book my overall impression of this society was that it was far-fetched yet not an impossible stretch of the
imagination. However, this quote made the novel very realistic. This society where teenagers ran rampant and unchecked, where
knowledge and reason fell beneath human consciousness, where a man's life could just be tossed aside could possibly be our
future. Bradbury's tale was spun with realistic details and images that pulled the reader in, Fahrenheit 451 is a book
that must be read by anyone who wants our global society to remain dynamic and moving forward.