Monastery Mystery vs. Montag

Blog Post #3

Jenna Levandowski, Liz Miller

September 22, 2015


The Name of the Rose (1986): Jean-Jacques Annaud, Sean Connery, Christian Slater

Fahrenheit 451 (1966): Francois Truffaut, Oskar Werner, Julie Christie

by Jenna Levandowski and Liz Miller

September 22, 2015


The society portrayed in the film’s official argument was that books distracted people from their unchangeable reality. Giving people access to an escape, such as books, took away the values and strength of real life, therefore diminishing the socially constructed values on family, duty and the home at this time.

The everyday life like in a society that bans books is centered around the television and the interactions related to it. The television creates opportunities for the viewers to “interact” and stay connected with the tv, believing that they are actually a part of what is occurring on the screen. The average household looks like a schedule built around the television. As soon as Montag comes home he is whisked into the living room to eat dinner in front of the television, when he comes home his wife is socializing and meeting with her friend group, by watching tv together. They depend on their media for everything, including the glue that holds their relationships together. Today our society relies on the screen for everything; the news, talking with family and friends close by and far away, our academics, our entertainment, everything in between is structured around some screen; whether it be a tv, phone or computer, now we just have different ways of accessing the screen, and the ability to constantly connect with it for whatever desire we might have.


Montag begins to question his social position because of the woman who approaches him on the train and her situation and perspective striking a chord with him. He begins to revolt and start to read because the woman asked him if he read the books that he burned. He didn’t have a real substantial answer, other than why would he, because it is against the law, so it sparked something in him to start to wonder what was in these books that his career centered around burning. I read books in my personal time, but have to make the effort to do so, knowing that if I don’t it could mean something bad for my life or soul. I am disappointed in myself when I fall behind or forget to read on a semi-regular basis.

When Montag tells his wife and her friends: “You’re nothing  but zombies, all of you… You’re not living, you’re just killing time!” they react when he starts reading to them out loud by becoming emotional. They have never heard these words, and the poetry and lack of intent other than for the author’s motives of publishing ideas unfold as Montag reads for them.


In comparison to The Name of the Rose, Fahrenheit 451 shows a time of indeed darkness when information was decidedly shared with the general public. Monks wrote script on the information that the monastery wanted available to the public, but kept hidden the source of this information, which were other texts that may have had ideas or beliefs that weren’t held by the monastery itself. In Fahrenheit 451 it was a time where information from books was completely forbidden because of the societal structure at the time. Giving the opportunity of fantasy to people was counterproductive to the continued ideals and social structure at the time.  


In The Name of the Rose, a monk, William of Baskerville, and his apprentice, Adso of Melk travel to an abbey famous for their scriptorium and end up investigating a series of murders while trying to understand where all the books went. The movie touches on the conflicts between reason and religion, it explores the theme and implications that arise from censorship of information and who has the right to impose that on society.  The movie is slow paced and has grotesque images and scenes that do not try and romanticize the dark time period as Hollywood usually falls into pattern of doing. The movie requires more focus and attention than lots of other films for it can be often hard to understand the dialogue going on within scenes. The scenes are also light by candles rather than artificial studio lighting which give a much more realistic look into the time period.

The scriptorioum is the room within the monastery that was used for copying, creating, and illuminating books. It was the monk’s job to reproduce books to create libraries for other scholars to enjoy. Monks take on the positions of the copiest, translators, researchers and thinkers. These are monks who are contain different skills that have the ability to share knowledge and discover ways of thinking that are untraditional to the religious institution. The elimination of many of these positions through the murders show that those places in superior positions within the monastery are threatened and feel their values questioned by many of the books they chose to hide at the top of the tower. Venerable Jorge is a perfect example of this, he believes that what is written in the bible and what has been considered traditional religious texts, as ways that govern the people are the only modes of information that are worth learning and practicing. He does not see the need for the exploration of new knowledge because he does not see a problem in what has already been learned and created.  

The final scene demonstrates the power of knowledge, William educates Adso that these books were not hidden up here because they are rare and delicate but because they contain ideas and stories that contain differing views from what the monks believe and stories that contradict some values that the monks share. This book was able to symbolize a theme for the pursuit of reason, ethics, and knowledge that is gained from developing a variety of different understanding than simply being limited to select knowledge. While this movie was set in 1347, and Fahrenheit 911 was a futuristic society, they both present the similar case that the ‘dark ages’ are portrayed as a time where people are not given the right to be able to develop agency over the knowledge they can pursue because those within larger institutions believe that they will not be able to enforce a functioning society without enforcing similarity.    


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