“It was a pleasure to burn.
It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed. With the brass nozzle in his fists, with this great python spitting its venomous kerosene upon the world, the blood pounded in his head, and his hands were the hands of some amazing conductor playing all the symphonies of blazing and burning to bring down the tatters and charcoal ruins of history. With his symbolic helmet numbered 451 on his stolid head, and his eyes all orange flame with the thought of what came next, he flicked the igniter and the house jumped up in a gorging fire that burned the evening sky red and yellow and black. He strode in a swarm of fireflies.” (page 1)
Title: Fahrenheit 451
Written by: Ray Bradbury
Publisher: Ballentine Books
Publication Date: 1953
Paperback: 158 pages
In honor of the new Fahrenheit 451 movie here is my review of the book:
Firefighters set fires and that is the way it has always been. Books are a disease to society and that is the way it has always been. Guy Montag is content with his life and is the way it has always been – at least until Clarisse McClellan moved onto his street. Upon their first meeting, this strange girl with uncensored curiosity and imagination, asks Montag questions that lead him down a path of no return. He starts to think there must be something in the books which make them worthy of burning but the only way to find out is to read them – and that is forbidden.
There are books to burn, houses to burn, and knowledge to burn, but is there is a way to escape it all?
*We’re going to do things a bit different this post. This spring, I wrote an essay on why Fahrenheit 451 is a classic and I’d like to use it as the main part of this post. Hope you enjoy.*
Pigeons, Daytime Television, and Other Reasons Books Become Classics
How does a book become a classic? Is it when it passes the test of time? Or if it speaks on a universal subject? Or contains beautiful, jaw dropping prose? I find myself leaning more towards Italian writer, Italo Calvino’s view, stated in his book, Why Read the Classics? A classic is, “A book that has never finished saying what it has to say(.)”(1)
Fahrenheit 451 (pronounced: four-five-one) was written in 1953, by author Ray Bradbury. While many claim the book is about government censorship(2), Bradbury has stated many times that it is really about how television and radio are destroying the people’s interest in reading literature. People often argued with him on this point but he retained this view until his death in 2012. Televisions are “(u)seless,” Bradbury said during an interview. “They stuff you with so much useless information, you feel full.”(3)
But if no one can agree on the book’s hidden (or perhaps not so hidden) meaning, why is Fahrenheit 451 considered a classic?
I believe the first reason is the powerful prose Bradbury used. Animal traits and appearances are used to describe machines,(4) such as the Mechanical Hound with “its eight legs spidered under it”(6.a), and the hospital machine that looked “like a black cobra”(6.b). Fire is depicted as, “a swarm of fireflies.”(6.c) which devours, “the flapping pigeon-winged books.” (6.d) One of the most beautiful passages is when Montag enters his room after meeting Clarisse McClellan. “He felt his smile slide away, melt, fold over and down on itself like a tallow skin, like the snuff of a fantastic candle burning too long and now collapsing and now blown out. Darkness. He was not happy.”(6.e) Another favorite of mine paints a vivid image of Montag’s thoughts as he escapes. “He floated on his back when the valise filled and sank; the river was mild and leisurely, going away from the people who ate shadows for breakfast and steam for lunch and vapors for supper.”(6.f) This book is full of sections that make you want to reread, and re-reread them, until you can recite the words by heart.
The second, and more important reason for the book’s classification, is how Fahrenheit 451 correctly predicts many modern devices and social situations. Bradbury describes earbuds as: “the little Seashells, the thimble radios tamped tight, and an electronic ocean of sound, of music and talk music and talk coming in, coming in on the shore of (the) unsleeping mind.”(6.g), and Bluetooth headsets as: “a small green metal object no larger than a .22 bullet.”(6.h). He also predicts large, flat screen, color televisions, the lack of factual and/or important news reports, an increase in suicide rates, a decrease of knowledge being taught in schools, and the desire to make every minority happy. He predicts how families will spend less and less time with each other, choosing instead to interact with their electronic devices.
““Will you turn the parlor off?” he asked.
“That’s my family.””(6.i)
““Now,” said Mildred, “my ‘family’ is people. They tell me things; I laugh, they laugh! And the colors!””(6.h)
Bradbury also foretells of an increase in abortions and divorces:
““Go home.” Montag fixed his eyes upon her, quietly. “Go home and think of your first husband divorced and your second husband killed in a jet and your third husband blowing his brains out, go home and think of the dozen abortions you’ve had, go home and think of … your children who hate your guts!””(6.k)
However, it was not Bradbury’s intention to predict the future, in a 1982 essay he wrote: “People ask me to predict the Future, when all I want to do is prevent it.”(8)
Fahrenheit 451 was a warning – and we ignored it.
I really enjoyed Fahrenheit 451, but there is a lot of swearing and hard topics, so I recommend it to older teens and adults.
For More Information about the Book and Author Click: HERE
Age Range: mature teen and adult.
Violence: Animals are released to be chased and killed by the Mechanical Hound. Mildred likes to run over animals with her car. A woman is burned in her house. A woman overdoses on sleeping pills. Suicide is common is Montag’s society. Teenagers try to run a man over with their car. Kids shooting each other and dying in car crashes is discussed. A man is killed burned to death with a flamethrower. Two men are beaten unconscious. A man is killed by the Mechanical Hound. Bombs are dropped and war is mentioned frequently.
Sensuality: References to rape and society’s want of pornographic images. A woman has had multiple abortions. Marriage is discussed flippantly and having multiple divorces is viewed as “the norm”.
Profanity: God’s name is taken in vain on almost every page. D–n, a–, h—, and b—–d are said.
Other(drugs/alcohol): Montag and Faber drink wine. Literally everyone smokes.
Personal Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Cleanness Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Got My Facts Here:
(6.) Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451. New York, N.Y.: Simon and Schuster, 1953. Print.
a. page 22
b. page 12
c. page 1
d. page 1
e. page 9
f. page 133-134
g. page 10
h. page 86
i. page 46
j. page 69
k. page 98
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