“I didn’t write this book, it wrote me”, Ray said about Fahrenheit 451. Well, I only read it and this is my review. Minor spoilers ahead.
The story of the book is placed in an unnamed society (but heavily hinted to be in the United States). Set up to be in a not too distant future from today’s society, but with some key differences. One of the differences that separate our real world from the books fictional one, is that in Fahrenheit 451-land books are outlawed.
The banning of literature comes from the idea that books make us unhappy – plant doubt in our minds, make us critique, discuss and discover new concepts without an end in sight. The government’s simple solution was to forbid books and monopolize information; everything you know should come from restricted networks of state-owned media, ending the misery of being exposed to opposing ideas. Structure the narrative for the citizens so they get a safe and controlled system to believe in. All in the name of the greater good.
“We must all be alike. Not everyone born free and equal, as the constitution says, but everyone made equal”
– Captain Beatty
The firefighters in Fahrenheit 451 are the ones responsible for getting rid of the books by burning them. Anonymous reports of book-sightings make an alarm go off in a nearby fire station and the firefighters within it get dispatched to investigate if literature is found they light’em up. But why is this task given to the firefighters? Modern housebuilding techniques made the houses non-flammable, and with that, removing the need to have someone on standby to save houses from wicked flames. Rebranding the job, giving the employees some new equipment, some fresh guidelines and you have the book-hunting squad that is the main focus of Fahrenheit 451.
“Oh, God, the terrible tyranny of the majority”
One of the firefighters is Montag, the protagonist and the engine that drives the story forward. We get to follow Montag as he slowly starts to wake up and begins questioning the society around him. I don’t know how much of himself Ray Bradbury put into the character, but Montag’s frustrations feel very realistic – his frustration of not being able to have someone to talk about his discoveries with, no friends to discuss what he has seen and heard. Montag can’t even connect with his own wife. A wife who is trying to drown out her own depression with soap opera tv-shows, loud music, and way too many sleeping pills.
If you woke up from a nightmare and everyone around you is still asleep, wouldn’t waking people up be the right thing to do? This is the tough spot the author has put Montag in. The seriousness of the fact that not everyone wants to wake up, is a constant theme in the book. How careful Montag has to be not to catch the spotlight of the ones keeping watch over the sleeping is always present; His colleagues in the firefighter station want to preserve the status quo. Their work depends on it and in that, their livelihood and the civilians, in turn, lean on them, supporting each other to uphold society.
The talent Ray Bradbury has for serving a great story on only 15-20 pages and leave you (usually on a cliffhanger) to sort out the pieces, was his greatest strength! Fahrenheit 451 follows Mr. Bradbury’s formula for when he created a longer novel: Pick out concepts from some shorter tales and refit them together – this works very well in this particular book – A steady stream of fantastic features, every page wants to be read fast so you get to enjoy the next one. It’s so, so tempting (and sometimes too easy) to draw parallels between Fahrenheit 451 and what’s happening in our world today. Great literature echoes through time, a warning from over 60 years ago resurfaces to warn us.
The book is hard to put down and I recommend it to anyone that wants to be
a little lost in fiction but also challenged while enjoying themselves.
“He was part of us and when he died, all the actions stopped dead and there
was no one to do them just the way he did. He was individual.”