Ignorant Utopian Societies

Ignorance is always afraid of change. The societies in Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, Pleasantville directed by Gary Ross, and Allegory of the Cave by Plato are content with uniformity. Each society lives in ignorance, fear and conformity, until a catalyst is introduced to the society to share light and knowledge.

The society in Fahrenheit 451 lives in ignorance, fear and conformity. In this work, ignorance is promoted in many ways. Firemen burn books to prevent the society from learning. Books are burned so no one is more knowledgeable than the other. In the words of fire Captain Beatty, “If you don’t want a man unhappy politically, don’t give him two sides to a question to worry him, give him one. Better yet, give him none” (Bradbury 60). This quote shows how the society lives in ignorance because the leaders don’t give the citizens a choice, they are just told what to do. Teachers in the schools provide all the answers and discourage questions or intellectual growth. Gatherings and conversations between neighbors are banned. Porches and gardens where people would gather to talk and share ideas are removed. The townspeople do not think. They live in fear, if they do not conform, if they possess books, their house will be burned down.

In the book Fahrenheit 451, Clarisse is a young sixteen year old girl who sees the ignorance in her town and serves as a catalyst for change. Clarisse is different. She doesn’t follow the rules like the rest of the society, and she seeks knowledge. She is also rebellious and wants to change the way people in the society see things. Clarisse is an outcast in her school. They call her antisocial. She states, “‘It’s so strange. I’m very social indeed. It all depends on what you mean by social, doesn’t it? Social to me means talking to you about things like this,’ (Bradbury 29). This quote shows how Clarisse doesn’t conform. She is thoughtful and asks questions. Clarisse could think for herself and that challenged Fireman Montag to do the same. Clarisse also enjoys doing things that aren’t expected in the society, like going on walks and talking with people instead of watching the parlor walls. This proves how Clarisse doesn’t fit into the society and how she is the catalyst in this book.

Clarisse shares her light and knowledge affecting the society in Fahrenheit 451. When Montag first meets Clarisse she challenges him with her thought provoking questions, asking if he stops to notice the things around him including the dew on the grass or the man in the moon (Bradbury 9). She can tell that he is not truly happy. Their first encounter leaves Montag very unsettled. Even though he didn’t know it, he had been craving new knowledge. He just needed someone to show him the light. Clarisse is responsible for the change in Montag’s behavior. Montag begins to doubt the structured controlled lifestyle. He soons abandons his old habits, like burning books and starts to collect books. He even reads them, so he can become more knowledgeable. Ultimately, Clarisse was the catalyst that pushed Montag to unite with a small group of intellectuals who take it upon themselves to read and memorize books and one day rebuild a society which encourages growth and knowledge.

In the movie Pleasantville, the people of Pleasantville live in ignorance, fear and conformity. The citizens of Pleasantville live in black and white. Their lives are very repetitive. Characters are told what to do and they don’t think for themselves. For example, when Bud does not show up for work, Mr. Johnson does not know how to open the Soda Shop. They have very scheduled routines. One night, when Betty wasn’t home to make her husband dinner, his daily routine was disrupted. He couldn’t cope. He ran out of the house in fear. The characters in the movie live very simple structured lives. They do not feel emotions, they don’t need to. Their lives are black and white, and very much the same. This represents ignorance, fear and conformity.

In the movie Pleasantville, David and Jennifer both see the ignorance in the people of Pleasantville and act as catalysts for change. David and Jennifer are siblings who are transferred into the setting of a television series called Pleasantville. They are shocked by the difference between Pleasantville and the real world. Jennifer is rebellious and opinionated, while David is earnest, shy and quiet. Jennifer and David conduct actions that are out of character with the people of Pleasantville. For example, David brings a book of paintings to Mr. Johnson at the Soda Shop. When Mr. Johnson starts to feel good about expressing himself, he turns colorful. Slowly, their influence affects the town and they become the cause for change, invigorating the society.

In the movie Pleasantville, David and Jennifer share their light and knowledge with the rest of the society. They saw it as their duty to teach Pleasantville more about what real life is like. Once the people of Pleasantville are exposed to new emotions and feelings, they became illuminated and colorful. In a final court scene, David is charged with desecration of property and use of prohibited paint colors. David defends himself by saying, “‘I know you want it to stay pleasant around here…but there are so many things…that are so much better,’ (Pleasantville). He continues to say, “Every one of those [feelings] is in you all the time…if you just have the guts to look for them,’ (Pleasantville). He encourages the crowd to look deeper into themselves. He wins over the citizens. When they emerge from the courthouse invigorated, Pleasantville is colorful.

In the Allegory of the Cave the prisoners in the cave display ignorance, fear, and conformity. The prisoners are forced to conform. They have their bodies and necks chained so they can only see the shadows on the wall in front of them. The shadows and silhouettes of people and objects are the only things they know. The cave is their refuge. They are comfortable with what they think they know. They are ignorant to the outside world.

The catalyst in the Allegory of the Cave is the man who pulls the ignorant prisoner out of the cave to expose him to light and knowledge. At first the outside sunlight is alarming and bright, this does not stop the prisoner. “Last of all he will be able to see the sun, and not mere reflections of him of the water, but he will see him in his own proper place, and not in another; and he will contemplate him as he is” (Plato 2). The prisoner has an internal desire to learn more about the outside world. He is able to see with clarity there are objects creating the shadows. He is able to look at the sun. He is able to experience the beauty of the world he once knew nothing about. He is gaining knowledge. The prisoner feels pity for the prisoners left in the cave. He returns to the cave to share his experience and teach them of the outside world.

In Allegory of the Cave the prisoner returns to the cave to share his knowledge and improve the underground society. He finds that the prisoners cannot understand him. They treat him with contempt. They are comfortable with their ignorance and cannot see the light. They are fearful and hostile towards anyone who disrupts their life. While he tried his best, the prisoners chose to reject the knowledge shared with them. According to Plato, seeking knowledge isn’t easy, “My opinion is that the world of knowledge, the idea of good appears last of all, and is seen only with an effort” (Plato 2). Plato believes that everyone is capable of learning, but they have to have the desire. The truth will not always be accepted. Some people are happy living in ignorance.

In conclusion, all the societies in Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, Pleasantville directed by Gary Ross, and Allegory of the Cave by Plato live in conformity and ignorance which causes them to be resistant to light or knowledge. It takes an influential character to break through and show them knowledge and influence change. Each society reacts to knowledge in a different way. In Fahrenheit 451, the society remains resistant so Montag and the intellectuals will wait until the time is right to rebuild a new society that encourages knowledge. In Pleasantville, the society while resistant at first embraces the growth and knowledge. And finally, in the Allegory of the Cave, one prisoner is ready to accept the knowledge, but the rest of the prisoners are not.

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