This week’s read was Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, which, being only two hundred and twenty pages, I read in an afternoon.
Fahrenheit 451 s a great read for those who don’t read very often or feel they don’t have enough time to read long classics such as War and Peace (of which I’m eighty pages in), which stands at around one thousand three hundred pages!
It is a classic dystopian novel which should be read by everyone. I understand that it is on the English GCSE curriculum. It was not something that I ever got the chance to study and so I felt I should read it.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, especially the larger meanings that were hiding behind Bradbury’s book-burning metaphor.
The plot focuses on Guy Montag, a fireman who is paid to start fires and burn books rather than put fires out. Bradbury clearly uses books as a metaphor for education and knowledge and the fear that society has of the educated.
The classic saying “knowledge = power” truly demonstrates the fear that Bradbury presents. He shows that too much knowledge produces a power that society is afraid of. In this futuristic world, knowledge is controlled by a higher government. This government can choose what people are listening to. Each citizen is provided with a “Seashell Radio” set that they place in their ears and watch on their wall-sized televisions.
Montag encounters a young girl, Clarisse, who makes him question the way he lives his life. Most importantly, she asks why he is burning books. Bradbury doesn’t provide a clear reason for the books being burned, but hints that it is because books are offensive.
According to Beatty, Montag’s boss, groups and minorities began to object to books that offended them. Gradually, all books and their content began to look the same. Authors began to avoid any ‘offensive’ subjects, of which are unspecified. Society began to burn books rather than allow any conflicting opinions that could separate society.
The novel was set in 1954 but has a futuristic setting. It was written before computers, the internet and in the early days of television. Bradbury was clearly very forward thinking. His televisions are projected on all four walls, and can interact with you. His creation of the in-ear radios is astonishing for a 1950s book.
I would recommend this book to anyone, regardless of whether you like futuristic novels or not. While Fahrenheit 451 is slightly fantastical, it is easy to forget the fantasy element. You become involved with the characters and the act of burning books and, therefore, knowledge.
Overall rating: 4/5
Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you are there. It doesn’t matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away.
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