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