A typical narrative structure involves five steps that are traditionally employed in order to develop the story. These five steps include an exposition, rising action, a climax, falling action, and then a resolution. This essay explores how Ray Bradbury’s, Fahrenheit 451, follows the traditional five step narrative structure. Bradbury uses the five-step structure in order to evolve his storyline. Bradbury may have used this traditional narrative technique to defy the untraditional content of the book. Being that the book is about ending books, and ending traditions, it seems fitting that the narrative structure would remain as close to traditional as possible. This essay will examine the manner that Fahrenheit 451 unfolds, and this essay will categorize the chronology of the narrative into the five-step traditional narrative structure.
The story starts with a typical exposition. The exposition is the stage in the narrative when the author sets the stage for the rest of the story. Therefore, in the exposition, there will be a problem that is established. The problem will be presented so that the reader understands the nature of the characters’ dilemma in the story. Basically, the exposition sets up the significance of the story. In Fahrenheit 451, the main character, Guy Montag, is initially delighted as he watches some books burn while at work. He describes a smile that is, and has been, forever burned on his face. The reader now understands that in the book, Montag’s purpose as a fireman is not to put out fires, but rather to start them. And, the reader learns that he burns books when Clarisse asks him if he ever reads the books he burns, to which Montag exclaims that it is illegal. The exposition includes the conversation between Clarisse and Montag, because as she gets to know him, so does the reader. The knowledge that Montag has burned books for over ten years since he was twenty is divulged. It seems that the exposition starts to intermingle with the rising action early on in the book, during the conversation with Clarisse.
Arguably, the second step, the rising action, starts when Clarisse asks Montag if he knows that there is dew on the grass in the morning. Montag is irritated to discover that he cannot recall if he knows this. This is the point that Montag begins to question whether or not he is happy; he is suddenly confronted with the idea that he has lost touch with what is authentic. Then, Clarisse blatantly questions him whether he is happy, and this, he cannot find his answer. This is the beginning of the rising action, because now, it remains to be proven if Montag is happy living a lie, or if the truth is worth pursuing. Then, as if on cue, Montag’s wife is found sleeping with a bottle of pills that are empty, though Montag knows that there were thirty of them earlier. After an impersonal encounter in the hospital, Montag’s wife denies that she would have taken thirty pills, and because she cannot remember the night before, this is her truth. The same thing is happening on a smaller scale at this point in the narrative, because the reader can draw the analogy that without books, there is no memory, and therefore, history did not happen…if Mildred’s logic holds true. Montag starts to evaluate his own choices and practice reflection. He did not do this prior to Clarisse’s question whether he was happy. Montag starts to read, and this is when the action really starts to rise.
The third step in the narrative structure involves the climax, and this is when Montag cannot hold in his knowledge of reading, and he is completely upset by his wife, along with her shallow friends. His wife has constantly ignored him to watch her scripts. He retaliates by reading a poem, thus revealing that he has broken the law and could end up with severe consequences. This climax also shows that Montag has transformed as a character from how he behaved in the beginning of the novel.
The fourth step in the narrative structure is the falling action. This is the step where all the pieces start to work their way to resolution. Montag has to run from the authorities once his wife turns him in, and during his escape, he reconnects with what he was missing: authenticity. Just as when Clarisse questioned him if he was happy, and if the grass had dew, he discovers that he sees the sky and stars for the first time. Montag is hiding in a barn, and all he wants are the basic necessities of life, and moreover, time to think and reflect.
The fifth step in the narrative structure is the resolution. This resolution is sort of promise of the cycle of things. Montag finds a community, led by Granger, who have dedicated their entire lives to memorization of books so that the world’s memory does not become like Mildred’s memory of the pills: non-existent. All of the people in the community share the values that Montag has, and he is able to confer with them. They make grand plans to have the books that they have memorized reprinted. Just as the reader starts to feel a sense of hope, Bradbury sends a jet that bombs the peaceful colony. There really is not a resolution, per se, because the reader feels like the horrors are only getting worse.