The terrifyingly prophetic novel of a post-literate future.
Guy Montag is a fireman. His job is to burn books, which are forbidden, being the source of all discord and unhappiness. Even so, Montag is unhappy; there is discord in his marriage. Are books hidden in his house? The Mechanical Hound of the Fire Department, armed with a lethal hypodermic, escorted by helicopters, is ready to track down those dissidents who defy society to preserve and read books.
The classic dystopian novel of a post-literate future, Fahrenheit 451 stands alongside Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World as a prophetic account of Western civilization’s enslavement by the media, drugs and conformity.
Bradbury’s powerful and poetic prose combines with uncanny insight into the potential of technology to create a novel which, decades on from first publication, still has the power to dazzle and shock.
Hallelujah! A classic I love! My 2013 New Year’s Resolution was to read or re-read classics to see if age makes a difference in whether or not I enjoy them. I had a horrible start with The Great Gatsby and only a little less horrible second attempt with The Catcher in the Rye. Then I got the smack down with Watership Down; I couldn’t even finish that one.
As I was strolling through Barnes & Noble, I found an edition of Fahrenheit 451 that matches other editions of classics I have been collecting, so I grabbed it and thought, “Hmm. Dystopian fiction. Banning books. That story sounds right up my alley.”
I should have started my resolution with Fahrenheit 451 to better motivate me. This book was phenomenal. It makes me wonder how I managed to read this once without remembering much. I remembered more about the movie than the book, and the movie isn’t all that spectacular, it’s campy. That alone makes it worth watching, but be warned, the movie is extremely different than the book. That was disappointing and with the new upward trend in reading (according to a 2009 study performed by the National Endowment of the Arts), now would be a great time to remake the movie. Hint hint Ridley Scott.
When I volunteered at a library, books that were circulated out could not be donated or sold in a used book sale; they had to be recycled. In my mind that is the same as destroyed. I was aghast. I had to rip out the page with the bar code and throw the book into the recycling bin. I felt naughty. Fahrenheit 451, along with Hitler burning books, is probably the root of that naughty feeling. I wonder if today’s youth, who may read more eBooks than physical books, would have the same qualms about destroying or recycling books.
Even at an online bookstore, where they will convert some books into eBooks and email them to you, by taking the book apart, scanning in the pages and then recycling the book, felt naughty. It took me a long time to be comfortable writing notes in a book other than a textbook. And when I saw The Tao of Pooh and The Te of Piglet at a used book sale, I bought them even though I already own them. They looked so lonely.
So I should really be carrying around Fahrenheit 451 like others might carry around a Bible. It is a chilling warning of what could happen and one of my personal nightmares.
I remember the whole book burning from when I read it way back when, but I didn’t remember a lot of the other things in there that we see every day, today. It’s creepy.
The wife spends most of her time in the living room where the walls are televisions, sometimes interactive. She refers to some of the characters as her family. How many times have we been so invested in shows that we feel like we know those fictional characters personally? Breaking Bad? Sons of Anarchy? Dr. Who? We like to think it is all in good fun but look at all the marketing around some of these movies and shows. It’s insane. Is it difficult to imagine a future when we stay up all day interacting with our television, vote for our leaders based on height, looks and names, oblivious to the war that is going on because, “It’s always someone else’s husband dies, they say” p91?
What about political correctness? Or hurt feelings?
White people don’t feel good about Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Burn it. Someone’s written a book on tobacco and cancer of the lungs? The cigarette people are weeping? Burn the book. Serenity, Montag. Peace, Montag. p57
What price is too high to pay to gain serenity and peace? Who gets to decide?
One of the biggest lessons to be learned from Fahrenheit 451 is the following-
Mr. Montag, you are looking at a coward. I saw the way things were going, a long time back. I said nothing. I’m one of the innocents who could have spoken up and out when no one would listen to the ‘guilty,’ but I did not speak and thus became guilty myself. p78
I know a lot of people avoid the book Agenda 21 because Glenn Beck’s name appears on it even though he did not write it; Harriet Parke wrote it. There is a scene in Agenda 21 when one character is explaining to another that freedoms were not lost overnight; they were lost one at a time. When the first thing happens, it doesn’t seem like a big deal, so no one says anything. And so it continues until one day you wake up and wonder where all your freedoms went.
This is what the previous quote is warning us about. When someone comes to take our freedoms away, like freedom of the press or freedom of speech, it is going to come with an eloquent speech about how it is a good thing-
We must all be alike. Not everyone born free and equal, as the Constitution says, but everyone made equal. Each man the image of every other; then all are happy; for there are no mountains to make them cower, to judge themselves against. p55
That sounds quite reasonable, doesn’t it? Actually, it makes me cringe. I hope there is never a day that it sounds reasonable and noble to me.
The writing is superb and the story captivated me from the beginning. Fahrenheit 451’s solution to the banning of books was incredible. I don’t want to ruin it for you; all I’ll say is I don’t know if I am capable of that. I guess if I had to, I would rise to the occasion. It is a chilling story and if you are a bibliophile like I am, it is indeed a horror story.
Reviewed by Christina
August 14, 2015