Archetypes in Fahrenheit 451

In this article you will learn about the archetypes in Fahrenheit 451, the dystopian novel by Ray Bradbury, which contains examples of various archetypes commonly seen in literature throughout the ages.

What are the Archetypes in Fahrenheit 451?

Guy and Beatty are representative of the archetypal hero and shadow hero in Fahrenheit 451.

Guy, whilst he begins towing the line of government policy, comes to realise the truth and uses courage, bravery, determination and physical strength to stand up for the things he believes in against all odds of success.

In Beatty we see the shadow, or opposite, of Guy’s hero archetype – a man who goes along with the status quo despite possibly not being happy with it, who is willing to use manipulation and deceit to achieve evil ends and who sees only darkness in the world around him.

Faber acts as the archetypal mentor and wise old man of the story.

Whilst not directly partaking in the action himself, he uses the wisdom and knowledge he has gained throughout his life along with his intelligence and innate sense of morality in order to guide and teach the hero, Guy.

Clarisse acts as the archetypal herald of the story, the person who helps the hero realise that the world as they are used to it is not right and that they need to reconsider their world view and act in order to change things.

Clarisse as the herald passes on the archetypal ‘call’ to the hero, to stop the books being burned and save the knowledge they contain from being destroyed.

The archetypal transformation also takes place in the story, both the transformation of Guy as a man from accepting of the old world order to being a hero prepared to stand up for what is right, and the transformation of the old world into the new world which Guy and the Drifters will not be able to rebuild.

Fahrenheit 451 Book Summary

  • Guy is a fireman tasked with carrying out the book-burning policy of the government.
  • Initially Guy enjoys burning books but is disturbed by a girl named Clarisse, who tells him she is crazy.
  • At home Guy finds his wife unconscious from an overdose but doctors tell Guy they have so many overdoses to treat they must ration the treatment.
  • Mildred wakes happy and unable to remember the overdose.
  • Guy continues to meet Clarisse, who talks about attending therapy, but is saddened when she stops meeting him.
  • Guy is disturbed when a woman sets herself on fire rather than give up her books, and he steals a copy of the Bible.
  • Guy tries to talk to Mildred but she is now incapable of even simple thought, only able to tell him Clarisse was killed by a car.
  • Guy considers giving up his job. Guy’s boss Beatty explains the book-burning policy is due to shortened attention spans and protests against content.
  • Guy reveals to Mildred he has collected various books and she attempts to destroy them.
  • He tries to convince Mildred something is wrong with the world and that the books contain information which may fix it.
  • He contacts a professor named Faber, who agrees to help and gives Guy an earpiece so he can guide him.
  • Guy reads poetry to Mildred and her friends, despite Faber’s protests, before burying his books.
  • He goes to the firehouse and hands his Bible over to Beatty, who confesses he was once a book-lover but now thinks them worthless.
  • A call comes in for the firemen to go to Guy’s house.
  • Beatty tells Guy that Mildred and her friends reported him.
  • Guy does as instructed and burns down his house.
  • Beatty discovers the earpiece and threatens to kill Faber, so Guy kills him, wondering if Beatty set him up as he wanted to die.
  • Guy flees and contacts the Drifters, a group who have escaped society.
  • Bombers fly overhead and drop nuclear bombs on the city but the Drifters are far enough away to survive.
  • The group walk towards the city to rebuild with knowledge from books they have memorised as their guide.

Fahrenheit 451Archetype Examples

  • Hero
  • Shadow hero
  • Mentor

Want more literary archetypes?

Go check out our extensive list of archetypes in literature to find out more about the characters seen in literature throughout the ages.

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