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Some people go throughout their lives living under a veil, whether it is intentional or not. Here in America, most people choose to live like this without ever knowing there are other options out there. They get up in the morning, go to work, come home and go to sleep. They listen to their music and watch their programs and probably pay attention to the news every day. The problem is, some of those people never question what they have and how it came to be, just that they have their life and that is all that is important. That is what America is all about, doing what you want and being able to ignore all the wrong in the world.

Having this freedom can be considered a fault because too many things are taken for granted. For example; a male in his mid-twenties working for a living, owns his own vehicle, has a nice apartment, high-tech toys for his entertainment. He never has to worry about where his next meal is going to come from or if someone is going to come and haul him off to jail. He believes his government is corrupt and evil, they make his life horrible, yet he won’t put in the effort to vote for his politicians. If only he could go live in Iraq for a week under Saddam’s rule and learn how hard life can really be, maybe the veil over his eyes would be lifted.

The saying goes, “Don’t believe everything you hear.” After the World War, people were terrified of anyone who was different. An upstanding citizen could laugh the wrong way and would be termed a communist even when most people didn’t understand what that word meant. This happened because the media told the American people what to think. If you were different, then you were evil, and this included works of literature. Just like the Nazi’s, groups would get together and burn books right in the street, shouting and cheering like God himself was joining in. Heaven forbid someone should be creative and use their freedom of speech to express themselves. Eventually the book burning stopped, and thankfully the experience inspired some authors to use it to their advantage.

One of these authors was Ray Bradbury and he created a world that just might have happened if things had been different. “Fahrenheit 451,” was set many decades after the book burning period. People stopped being themselves so no one would ever get upset, even the Bible was banned because other religions didn’t agree with it. Instead of individuals, there was a sad society going from one day to the next doing exactly the same thing. There was no color left, no dreams, no desires, just air. In our world, Fire Fighters are hero’s, people who save lives and protect our most prized possessions. In Bradbury’s world, fire fighters destroy them by burning any house down that has a book inside of it. They don’t even care if people are inside; it is their job to keep the public in line.

Guy Montag was one of these men. He lived his whole life under the veil created around him, never questioning it, just doing what everyone else did. He was married to a woman named Mildred who he had no real connection with, and had never looked up at the stars. Then one day he met a young girl named Clarisse, who was everything he wasn’t but wanted to be. She was full of life and joy; she found everything in the world interesting and didn’t care what anyone thought of her. Clarisse opened Guy’s eyes to the real world, made him want to think on his own instead of following society. She was his savior, and he broke out of that world because of her.

There was a movie made a couple of years ago that had very similar characters to Bradbury’s. This movie was called “American Beauty” and the main character’s name was Lester Burnham. He was going through life numb, just doing the same routine day in and day out. The difference was his veil covered just his life. He was caught in a marriage with a woman that was just as cold to him as Mildred was to Guy. Lester didn’t have anything that made his life worthwhile, until a young girl named Angela came into the picture. Angela would be about the same age as Clarisse, and though their personalities definitely clash, the affects they had on Guy and Lester are very much the same. When Lester saw Angela for the first time, he said, “It’s the strangest thing. I feel like I’ve been in a coma for thirty years and I’m first now waking up(American Beauty).” He began to stand up to his wife, quit his job that he hated, and found something that brought happiness to him. His wife Carolyn was somewhat similar to Mildred where she made the decision to destroy Lester’s life, but instead of calling the fire department, she was going to do it herself.

The Burnham’s neighbor, Ricky, was probably more like Clarisse overall. He looked at everything and wasn’t afraid to be curious, it was all beautiful to him. Life was a wondrous creation he could constantly be caught up in, even a plastic bag dancing in circles for an hour. Ricky did have an impact on Lester, not quite as much as Angela, but he made him want to live life more carefree and open to more possibilities.

Unlike Lester and Guy, some people live under a veil purposefully. They don’t want to open their lives up to happiness and new things. One character from John Osborne’s play, “Look Back in Anger,” lived his whole life this way. Jimmy Porter lived in a tiny apartment with his silent wife, worked a low-paying job, and complained about anything and everything. He was a well educated man who was never happy with anything and liked it that way. Jimmy believed that the only way to feel anything was if it was negative, so he constantly talked down to people about their lives and how small and insignificant they were. He wanted someone with him that would be just as unhappy and opinionated as he was.

Even though Jimmy could take on almost any job he wanted, he chose to stay at a poor one so his life would always be bad. He was against everything rich people were for, creating a constant downfall for him. The thing is he wasn’t really for the working class either since he talked down to everyone that wasn’t as educated as him. He was bored with his life because his friends didn’t have the knowledge to keep up with him, and he wanted nothing to do with the people who would be able to. Jimmy is a hypocrite in wanting the rich to suffer because they have too much. He has everything he wants and yet he closes himself off from enjoying anything. His wife Alison wasn’t even enough to open him up.

Alison was an interesting character because she had so many thoughts and feelings she wanted to say out loud to Jimmy, but never opened her mouth until she was at her lowest point. She let him bash her and her family the whole time they were together, all the while knowing that he just wanted her to speak up and think for herself. She was selfish knowing she could control him in the way of him lashing out at everyone. Alison would turn to Jimmy’s friend to defend her when all she had to do was talk to him. She kept herself there when she could have had any life she wanted. And when she finally went away, she couldn’t stand being away from Jimmy. She was probably more pitiful than Jimmy since she couldn’t find her own path, only what others put before her. Neither of them wanted to break out of their sad little life because that was the only way they didn’t feel numb.

Everyone has some kind of veil over their eyes, whether they know it or not. When it comes to Americans, too many people choose to never lift that veil and look at what is out there. One main concern is the environment and how we are going to keep it safe. Another is population control for the world. It is important that we are educated on some of these issues at a young age, but no one seems interested in enforcing it. Like Clarisse, someone needs to take a stand and start making a difference, even if it is just to one person. A chain reaction will occur and maybe our planet will survive for another millennium. Otherwise we will just go on with out daily lives and ignore all the things that really matter, and one day our world will end like the city in Bradbury’s book. We have to stop living behind this wall, acting like nothing will ever happen. Our world can not end up like Guy’s or Jimmy’s; we need to have a world full of Clarisse’s and Ricky’s.

Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451. The Ballantine Publishing Group, 150.

Osborne, John. Look Back in Anger. Penguin Group, 157.

American Beauty. Sam Mendes. Jinks/Cohen Company. Perf. Kevin Spacey,Annette Benning, and Peter Gallagher. Dreamworks Pictures, 000.

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