A Comparison of the Novels “Looking Backward” and “Fahrenheit 451”

The 19th century was a time of constant battle where no one was satisfied or happy with what was occurring. Many people dreamed of a different lifestyle for America and overall wanted change. The two novels, Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy and Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, share the flaws going on in the American society and corrections that should be made to them. The books have many similarities and differences, and overall do a good job at portraying different aspects of what life was like during the early 19th century.

Both Looking Backward and Fahrenheit 451 focus on flaws of how Americans were treated and how their life was so controlled by the government. In Looking Backward, the author describes life in 1887 as “a prodigious coach which the masses of humanity were harnessed to and dragged toilsomely along a very hilly and sandy road” (Bellamy 4). Bellamy illustrates how people were going through the motions of living their daily life, being miserable, because of the constant battle between the equal share of wages. The same concept of a controlling environment was explained throughout Fahrenheit 451 where many people were acting almost like robots, mimicking what was happening on television and in so called “TV families”.

People in Fahrenheit 451 have been trained to become obsessive over following directions and listening to what their TVs tell them and even view “the televisor [as] ‘real’. It is immediate, it has dimension. It tells you what to think and blasts it in” (Bradbury 80). The government in this novel has prevented freedom for the people and making them all conform into being the same.

Additionally, both of the books took the perspective of what a person’s ideal corrections to the life as an American would be. In Looking Backward, the main character Julian West had a dream where he woke up in the year 2000s where life had changed into a society where the people started to work together, instead of against each other. The people felt that they had revolved into being people of “equal wealth and equal opportunities of culture which all persons now enjoy have simply made [them] all members of one class” (Bellamy 76). Money would be distributed through a “credit corresponding to his share of the annual product of the nation” and this credit is on a “credit card issued [to the person] with which [they] procure at the public storehouses” (Bellamy 42). This distribution of wealth and equality was a way of correction the flaw of different powers fighting over the distribution of money.

In Fahrenheit 451, the main character Montag, started to look at his reality a little differently and comprehend what life would be like with books in the real world outside of the TV controlled world. He realized that “nobody listens anymore. I can’t talk to the walls because they’re yelling at me. I can’t talk to my wife; she listens to the walls” (Bradbury 78). The socialization of day to day life was diminished by the actions of the government, resulting in many people not even noticing the harm they were causing themselves by being so immersed in the TV screens.

Although both Looking Backward and Fahrenheit 451 had many similarities about a common flaw in American society, the two novels have many differences with Looking Backward being a utopia and Fahrenheit 451 being a dystopia. Looking Backward is a utopia because life and working conditions in the 2000s took a drastic increase and was described where “health and safety are conditions common to all industries.

The nation does not maim and slaughter its workmen by thousands, as did the private capitalists and corporations of your day” (Bellamy 33). The life Julian West woke up into in Boston was a complete turnaround of what his life was like in 1887. Many positive changes occurred to make the society and the people’s livelihood better. Bellamy’s version of Boston in 2000 did not involve war or any conflict among the people. The people cared for the health and safety of those around them and did not have harsh working conditions and strikes, like the ones that occurred frequently in 1887. Fahrenheit 451, being a dystopia novel, took a negative approach at what society was like. The society was very controlling and did not allow many people to have the freedoms like they did in Bellamy’s novel. In Fahrenheit 451, the government had turned against the people, and controlled what they watched on TV and what they did in their daily lives.

An example of this was when people were searching for Montag after he ran from getting in trouble when books were found at his house. The TV screens instructed “everyone in every house in every street open a front or rear door or look from the windows” (Bradbury 131-132). People would follow what these screens told them because they did not know better. Additionally, in contrast to Looking Backward, Bradbury’s novel implied that war was going on, and the people were not happy and living a free life. After Montag had successfully ran from the Hound, “the first bomb struck” symbolizing that war was going on around them (Bradbury 152).

Both Bradbury and Bellamy used different symbolization throughout the books to emphasize the events that were occurring during the time the books were written. During 1887, the time Looking Backward initially took place, labor strikes and battles for wages were very common. Many people were unemployed, or not receiving the pay that they deserved. This resulted in many workers going on strikes, but the companies were so powerful that the strikes never produced a solution. Bellamy stated these issues more clearly in his novel than Bradbury did by stating “nothing had, however, occurred to modify the immemorial division of society into the four classes, or nations … since the differences between them were far greater than those between any nations, nowadays of the rich and the poor, the educated and the ignorant” (Bellamy 3).

Bellamy was simply stating how drastic the difference was between the rich and the poor, and how many of the rich did not care if the poor had money or a safe workplace. In Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury mentions situations where bombings occur in the town they are in, and with Bradbury’s novel being published around 1955, the cold war was occurring, which relates to the bombings from the book. Bradbury described the bomb affecting Montag by “[knocking] the air across and down the river, turning men over like dominoes in line … Montag crushed himself down, squeezing himself small, eyes shut” (Bradbury 153). Bradbury incorporated aspects of the war in his novel, but didn’t make it as apparent, or stand out as much, like Bellamy did.

Looking Backward and Fahrenheit 451 are both novels that further explained what life was like during 1887 and the 1950s, but also included a futuristic perspective of what changes could happen according to the authors. The novels had many different similarities and differences with each other, especially with one being a utopia and the other being the opposite, which is a dystopia. Despite the similarities and differences, the book overall incorporated many flaws in American society and corrections that could be made.