How can Existentialism be applied to Fahrenheit 451?

Here is the answer and explanation to the question How can Existentialism be applied to Fahrenheit 451?

How can Existentialism be applied to Fahrenheit 451?

Fahrenheit 451 is a dystopian novel, so we are more than familiar with the idea of radical freedom. In this novel, there is a greater focus on existentialism since it focuses on the individual. The individual must take hold of truth for themselves; they must not just live everyday life like everyone else. They need to experience the truth and then incorporate it into their lives. This extends to morality as well, because if one wants to be moral they need to choose that path based on their own beliefs. A lot of these concepts tie in with religion and God, because that is what these characters are searching for – they want something that will allow them to be free from society and make their own choices about how to live their lives: ”

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One of the key themes of existentialism, both religious and secular, is that the individual must appropriate the truth for themselves, must take hold of it and incorporate it into their own lived experiences. For the existentialist, this is the ultimate expression of the radical freedom with which we are all endowed and which is the defining characteristic of the human condition.

A good example of this attitude in Fahrenheit 451 comes in the relationship between Faber and Montag. Faber hopes to encourage Montag to discover the joy of reading, not just for its intrinsic worth but also because it will transform his whole outlook on life. But Faber, like Virgil with Dante in The Divine Comedy, can only lead Montag to the gates of heaven. It’s up to Montag to take that crucial final step, to make a free existential act of commitment in discovering the politically and personally transformative power of books.

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Existentialism posits that individuals in an apparently meaningless world must search for meaning by forming themselves out of decisions made through their own free will. In Fahrenheit 451, Montag begins becoming aware of the harsh, cruel and alienating nature of the society he lives in through his friendship with Clarisse and experience watching a woman burn to death with her books, and decides to make choices using his own values, rather than the morals of the society he exists in. Montag creates himself by forming relationships and making decisions, such as reading books, through his own free will within a hostile society. Much of the action in Fahrenheit 451 is due to the decisions that Montag makes, and existentialism emphasizes the freedom of choice and lack of essential human nature that would allow one to form themselves through autonomous decisions at odds with the values of their social context.

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