The books are to remind us what asses and fools we are. They're Caeser's praetorian guard, whispering as the parade roars down the avenue, "Remember, Caeser, thou art mortal." Most of us can't rush around, talking to everyone, know all the cities of the world, we haven't time, money or that many friends. The things you're looking for, Montag, are in the world, but the only way the average chap will ever see ninety-nine per cent of them is in a book.
Guy Montag is a fireman. Not a fireman that put out fires and rescued people from crumbling rubble, but a fireman who burnt books and even people who chose to be burnt with their books. That's what their system dictated. That's how things have been for as long as he could remember. He's never questioned the system or entertained any curiosity towards books and their contents. That is, until a sixteen-year old girl stops him one day and asks him a lot of questions that are beyond him. These questions make him both curious and angry because he never thought about them before but he didn't want to feel cornered by her questioning either. But then a few days later, he never sees her again and something he does as part of his job (something he has done for many years) makes him pause and question the status quo, thus opening a can of worms.
Fahrenheit 451 is yet another book that a lot of people have read in school but I am only now reading it for the first time. And just like many books that are read by the younger population (Brave New World, Animal Farm, Fountainhead), I wonder if perhaps I might have identified with it more then.
I've always wanted to read this book, because one of the commonest references to this book that I come across is the idea that - if you could save a book, which would it be? There are plenty of challenges around this question and plenty of bookish games as well. The last 40 or so pages of the book are what addresses this question, and when I reached that point, I tweeted this:
And that's exactly what I still feel. Not that the ending was eye-popping-worthy or shocking. It was just impressive and satisfying. It oozed a feeling of respite coming a world that was bent on destroying books. There are plenty of passages that condemn books and even more that indicate the ignorance of the people who question the value of books. Unlike in the other "utopian" societies I have read about, Fahrenheit 451 didn't arrive at its bookless state through the evil State's draconian laws or after some insensible war. People slowly stopped being interested in reading, and began entertaining themselves in front of the television. When the State saw that people were happier without books, they decided to ban reading completely and that's where the definition of firemen changed. Even to firemen in the present world of Fahrenheit 451, the idea of stopping fires is laughable.
Although I enjoyed the concept of the book, and would definitely recommend it to any one, I had issues with the preaching and the stream-of-consciousness flowing through most of the book. Those two aspects sorely reminded me of Brave New World, and while I get the need for the authors to preach to get the point across, I guess I can simply not stand any form of forceful advising. I could also see how the stream-of-consciousness was necessary since Montag gets a shock of awakening and all he could think of was why some people protected books. But his transition from the I-don't-really-care to the Books-are-important felt way too abrupt and unconvincing to me. And that's the other reason why the narration bugged me initially.
Oh, and what's up with all those horrible metaphors that made me cringe terribly?
Her face was fragile milk crystal with a soft and constant light in it.Eh what?
There were quite a few like that which didn't make for pleasant reading. Despite the issues I had with this book, I do feel that it is one that people should read. Honestly, I don't think such a world would ever come to pass, but I liked the concepts that were explored in this one, even if the book felt poorly executed.
I borrowed this book from the library