Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Thursday, May 17, 2012


Fahrenheit 451
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


18 comments:

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

I gotta read this too. I've never read it.

bermudaonion (Kathy) said...

I missed reading this in school for some reason, but know all about it the same way you did. After your review, I may just skip the book.

Helen Murdoch said...

I only read this in the last 18 months and I think that it's strange to read a "classic" well after everyone else. We've heard so much about it, it's built up as ultra powerful, then perhaps it doesn't live up to the reputation. I enjoyed reading 451, but I got to hear Ray Bradbury talk the week I finished it and I read the very well done graphic novel of it (the artwork is fantastic) and meet that illustrator. So, I got more of an experience with this book

Jenna (Literature and a Lens) said...

Hmm, I haven't read this one before, but you bring up some interesting issues. It's good to know so my expectations going in will be lower.

Ti said...

I don't pay too much attention to the style of writing with these classics because it's usually quite different from what we see with contemporary lit, but I tend to pay attention to the themes and this one blew me away for that reason. Sure, it's taken to the extreme but we see book banning daily... daily! Schools are always added books to "the list" and it's really no different than throwing them out or burning them. Taking them from readers is bad enough.

Alyce said...

I'm so curious to see what I would think about this as an adult because I haven't read it since I was a teenager and I loved it then. I did see the movie version of it a few months ago and thought it was very good, especially considering that it was made in the 60s and really looks like a 60s movie.

Jenny said...

Haha that quote made me cringe too! I pretty much didn't relate to or enjoy anything I was made to read in school which is disappointing. But I guess I've always been against anything I HAD to do, lol. I read this in 8th grade when my reading interests were not that mature yet, so all I really remember from this is the title! I'll have to consider returning to it someday!

Young_1 said...

I keep hearing about this book and thanks for another great review i need to read this now!

neal call said...

I'm new here, but enjoying browsing your blog. I kind of get the sense that this is thrown at young adults to sort of browbeat them into liking books, and reading more. I wonder how successful it is. I liked it, I think it impacted me strongly in eighth grade, but I already loved books, and didn't need this one to nudge me over the edge. I wonder what I'd think of it now.

Athira / Aths said...

I hope you enjoy it!

Athira / Aths said...

I find some of these books are just so popular that everyone knows their stories and so you never feel like reading them. I don't think I would have read this book, if not for the curiosity over that question.

Athira / Aths said...

I have to check out the graphic novel! I didn't know there was one on this book. I enjoyed the author's thoughts that were at the end of the book and I definitely see the value of this book. I guess it is just the tiny nuances that bugged me.

Athira / Aths said...

I will be interested in reading your thoughts if you choose to read this book!

Athira / Aths said...

I guess I've realized too that I should stop paying too much attention to the writing. Part of the problem is not really knowing too much about the time period in which the book is set. Or maybe knowing something about it, but not understanding it enough. Still, you are right - so far as book banning is concerned, this book remains a must-read for those who go around dismissing book after book.

Athira / Aths said...

I have to see the movie! I don't think I have checked it out yet. But I'm pretty sure I would have appreciated the book more as a teenager.

Athira / Aths said...

I'll be curious to hear what you think of this book should you read it now. I hated being made to read too in school, but whatever I read of my own will, I enjoyed. I wish I had read this one then though.

Athira / Aths said...

You're welcome! I hope you enjoy this read!

Athira / Aths said...

Thanks for stopping by, Neal! I wonder too if that approach would work. At least in today's society, I doubt it, even though book bans do happen. Most of the time, the people crying foul aren't the students. But hopefully, there are students who are getting the message.