Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury

This science fiction classic dates from the early 1950s.  It seems that I have been going through a classic sci-fi ’50s jag in the past few weeks.

In this Hugo Award winner, we are introduced to the futuristic world of Guy Montag.   Montag has been a fireman for the past ten years, and seemingly a happy one at that.  Firemen in this future do not put out fires, they start them.  Their purpose is to burn illicit books and the houses of those who have them.

One day he meets his neighbour’s daughter, Clarisse and his world begins to alter beyond anything he can imagine.  Doubts begin to creep in and he actually starts to think.
The self-immolation of an elderly lady who’s house the firemen are meant to burn finally tips him over the edge and what had been hidden behaviour and thoughts (sneaking books and hiding them in his home) becomes more and more erratic.  In the end his wife, Mildred, reports him for having books in the house and his Fire Chief brings him to his own home to burn it and the books.

Interestingly ideas around censorship (self or externally imposed) are not meant to be core themes.  Instead it is meant to be the idea that television, in the book this is represented by the ‘families’ on the parlour walls, reduces the interest in reading literature and results in a world view that has knowledge worn down and presented in the smallest and fastest sound bites possible.
Perhaps this is the case, but I still found much to think on in the area of censorship, especially that which comes about from our own laziness of mind.  It is implied that the state that we find Montag living in is a direct result of the choices of “the people” before him.

I also found the idea of giving up responsibility for your own life and thoughts disturbing.  Having no desire to learn and read is truly an anathema to me, as is the idea of not thinking for myself.   But the book is very much of its time.

I would give it a solid 3 stars.  It provokes thought and a realisation that freedoms can be fleeting if taken for granted.

Today in history: 1923 – Alan Shepard was born. (American astronaut)

It’s a very sobering feeling to be up in space and realize that one’s safety factor was determined by the lowest bidder on a government contract.
– Alan Shepard

2 thoughts on “Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury

  1. I almost picked that up from the bookstore the other day. I thought it was about a fireman who secretly starts fire, an arsonist. I would have gotten it if I knew it was that original. Good review.


  2. I loved this book. It felt so relevant to today despite being written in the early 50s. The things I’ve read about it since have given me more food for thought, but even if what I took away from it was not what was intended it really was, as you said, thought provoking. “Who knows who will be the target of a well read man”. Indeed.


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