It’s Friday (again, I don’t know where the time goes) which means that my weekly review is being published. This week’s read was Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, which, being only two hundred and twenty pages, I read in an afternoon. It’s a great read for those of you who don’t read very often or feel they don’t have enough time to read long classics such as War and Peace (of which I’m eighty pages in), which stands at around one thousand three hundred pages! Fahrenheit 451 is a classic dystopian novel which should be read by everyone. In fact, I think it may be on some English Literature GCSE courses across the country. It was not something that I ever got the chance to study and so I felt I should read it.
I really enjoyed this novel, especially the larger meanings that were hiding behind Bradbury’s book-burning metaphor. The plot focuses on Guy Montag, a fireman who is paid to start fires and burn books rather than put fires out. Bradbury clearly uses books as a metaphor for education and knowledge and the fear that society has of the educated. The classic saying “knowledge = power” truly demonstrates the fear that Bradbury presents that too much knowledge produces a power that society is afraid of. In the future world that Bradbury has created, knowledge is controlled by a higher government. This government can choose what people are listening to through their “Seashell Radio” sets that they place in their ears and watching on their wall-sized, projected televisions.
Montag encounters a young girl, Clarisse, who makes him question the way he lives his life and, most importantly, why he is burning books. Bradbury doesn’t provide a clear reason for the books being burned. Beatty, Montag’s boss and head of the firemen department, visits Montag at home when he takes a sick day, unable to cope with burning books for any longer. According to Beatty, groups and minorities began to object to books that offended them and books all began to look the same as authors tried to avoid any offensive subjects (such subjects are unspecified). Society began to burn books rather than allow any conflicting opinions that could separate society.
I loved the futuristic setting of the novel, despite it being written in 1954, before computers, the internet and in the early days of television. Bradbury was clearly very forward thinking with his technology because of his use of the in-ear radios, something we are not unfamiliar with today thanks to wireless headphones, and huge televisions that interact with you and can take up all four walls of your living room to create a feeling of being literally in the television.
I would recommend this book to anyone, regardless of whether you like futuristic novels or not. While the novel is slightly fantastic, it is easy to forget the fantasy element as you become involved with the characters and the act of burning books and, therefore, knowledge.
Overall rating: 4/5
Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you are there. It doesn’t matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away.