Fiction. Science Fiction & Fantasy. HTML: The system was simple. Everyone understood it. Books were for burning, along with the houses in which they were hidden. Guy Montag was a fireman whose job it was to start fires. And he enjoyed his job. He had been a fireman for ten years, and he had never questioned the pleasure of the midnight runs or the joy of watching pages consumed by flames, never questioned anything until he met a seventeen-year-old girl who told him of a past when people were not afraid. Then Guy met a professor who told him of a future in which people could think. And Guy Montag suddenly realized what he had to do..
Original publication date
It is a shame that I haven't read Bradbury's novel until now. This is a book that calls out to the bibliophile. It reminds us what a simple and precious thing a book is; what a liberty it is to own them and have the privacy to read them and the right to think about them; what a privilege it is to not have our books censored. Reading is a simple freedom that so many take for granted because they see just the physical act: sitting in a chair and turning a page. What they don't realize is that, in that simple act, an entire person is formed: beliefs, opinions, thoughts are constantly challenged, reassessed, and reshaped. Reading is the act of constantly taking our measure against the world and deciding if we're the type of person we want to be. Reading keeps us in check and it reminds us there are others out there in very different circumstances for whom we should feel empathy. In short, reading is the very act of maintaining our humanity.
In Fahrenheit 451, however, reading is a freedom that has been willingly renounced by the citizens. As more immediate forms of technological entertainment became available, people simply lost interest in reading. In Bradbury's world, the living room itself is a wall-to-wall tv, constantly droning on and offering pure entertainment with which the viewer can take an interactive role, but there is no substance. When you're not in the living room, you wear a Seashell in your ear that constantly broadcasts news and auditory entertainment. Silence and introspection are shunned. Perhaps most frightening is that this is eerily the world of today: flat screen televisions on every wall of the house; interactive technology such as video games and computers; iPods constantly delivering a steady stream of noise. In terms of technology, we're now living in Fahrenheit 451. As Captain Beatty tells Guy Montag, "School is shortened, discipline relaxed, philosophies, histories, languages dropped, English and spelling gradually gradually neglected, finally almost completely ignored. Life is immediate, the job counts, pleasure lies all about after work. Why learn anything save pressing buttons, pulling switches, fitting nuts and bolts?" If that doesn't sum up the general direction in which education is heading, then I don't know what does, unless it's when he tells guy that the educational development can be summarized thusly, "Out of the nursery, into the college and back to the nursery; there's your intellectual pattern."
The novel focuses on Guy Montag, a fireman whose job is to start fires instead of putting them out. Specifically, the firemen exist to burn houses where books are being kept by those few who still cling to the written word. Through a series of events, Guy becomes self-aware and begins to question the world around him--specifically, what threat is there in books and could books hold the key to curing the detachment, the ennui, and the hatred that permeate the world in which he lives. As guy learns to think for himself, we're taken on a journey through the dystopian world in which he resides.
Now, after all this, you may wonder why I only gave the book a 3. In terms of Bradbury's stance on books and his presentation of what value books should have to humanity, I'd definitely give it a 4. However, in terms of the execution of his dystopian conceit, it wasn't quite as powerful as I wanted it to be. This may be because I just finished reading Nineteen Eighty-Four and, compared to the elaborate lengths to which Orwell went to describe every facet of Oceania's society, the dystopia here felt rather thin. I wanted more background and more history than Captain Beatty presents to Guy Montag, but perhaps that's the way it should be--a world in which thinking isn't valued and knowledge is condensed, it shouldn't be surprising that the characters know very little about their own history.
That is undoubtedly one of the best opening lines in history. It’s simple, beautiful and so complex once you realize what they are burning. For me, Fahrenheit 451 was one of those rare books that shook me to my core. I had read Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave
Our hero, Guy Montag, is a firefighter, but in this future reality firefighters are the ones who start the blaze, not put it out. They are employed to find and burn books and Montag never questions his profession. Then one night he meets a girl who changes everything for him. She’s not empty and cold like his wife. She sparks some bit of life in Montag and he begins to question the world around him.
The most disturbing aspect of the plot is that the people chose to stop reading books, no one forced them. They became obsessed with television and books take too much time and effort. It’s a bit too close to our current reality for comfort.
My favorite part of Fahrenheit 451 is the brilliance of how Bradbury decided to preserve books that must be burned. The characters themselves become the books. Individuals all over the world memorized and entire novel or book in the Bible and through them the book was kept alive.
If you’ve never read this classic I would encourage every book lover to pick it up. It’s less than 200 pages, but it packs such a powerful punch that it remains one of my favorite books of all-time.
Four five one degrees
'It was a pleasure to burn'
How'd my school miss this?
Guy finds ideas have power
Propels the action
It's still quite fifties.
I like television.
They once bemoaned the letter
Would slay oration.
Montag is a fireman who doesn't put out fires, he starts them. He burns books
Montag doesn't notice anything is wrong with his life until he meets 17 year-old Clarisse, his next door neighbor. She is different. She notices things he doesn't notice. Her family actually talks to each other. She is happy and asks him if he is. He says he is, but later at home admits to himself he isn't. He starts to question himself why, and from there he changes his life completely.
A quote that stood out because of its resemblance to today:
"I'm afraid of children my own age. they kill each other. Did it always use to be that way? My uncle says no. Six of my firends have been shot in the last year alone. Ten of them died in car wrecks. I'm afraid of them and they don't like me because I'm afraid. My uncle says his grandfather remembered when children didn't kill each other. But that was a long time ago when they had things different. They believed in responsibility, my uncle says. Do you know, I'm responsible. I was spanked when I needed it, years ago. And I do all the shopping and housecleaning by hand."
A world where all people do is watch TV and become progressively more violent. A world where books and ideas are "dangerous". A world where "happiness" is supreme, but no one is happy. A very scary world indeed.
Unfortunately, Bradbury did not seem to recognize that reading has always been the province of a minority and that television would do little to kill it and much to provide entertainment for those who could never tackle books in the first place. For those of us who see and enjoy television as a completely separate medium and do not fall to the bread and circus of reality television and 'news' programs, there is little danger of us losing our love of books. I was raised on television and books, and am glad the eggs from which my knowledge hatched are not all from the same basket.
Idiocracy in society is the first thing I noticed. Bradbury writes how most people don't
While book-burning is the most discussed aspect, I believe the concept of "families" and a screen-obsessed culture hits closer in 2020. Bradbury envisions a world where people would rather be with their "families" than think for themselves. These are people on screens (and radio, too) who do funny, random things of no consequence—videos and music flash by, never stopping, never giving you time to think.
Sound familiar? I feel the modern social media and the screen-obsessed culture is scarily closer to Bradbury's world than ever before. People "follow" personalities on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and whatnot, subscribing to mindless videos that mostly offer no value. Algorithms are designed to bombard you with information you don't need or even care about. Mindless scrolling is the go-to thing after a hard day at work. Who has time to 'think' anymore?
Bradbury has imagined a world where people no longer appreciate the things around them. Education is just committing facts to memory. No opinions or philosophies are allowed. Everything is commercialized.
Of course, that brings us to books, and the author has a lot to say about them. See, books are considered dangerous because they force you to think. You don't have to agree with a book necessarily - you can use your "knowledge and skepticism" to argue and perhaps offer a different perspective. Sadly, that often leads down a path of 'uncertainty' and 'melancholy,' which is not acceptable in a world where everyone is "happy."
The problem is that most people don't want to think, and when they're forced to think, they feel stupid. Would you like to feel like an idiot? In Bradbury's world, you can simply memorize useless facts that will make you feel brilliant. The keyword here is "feel." Do you feel offended? Many do after reading books, and they think "bad" books should be banned and even burned. That's the conclusion society has reached in F451. It also seems to be where we're heading what with people feigning outrage at anything remotely different from their perspective.
Bradbury offers a compelling argument: books by themselves aren't important but are made so because of their quality of information. Excellent books offer "fresh detail" on life and what it means. "Mediocre writers run a quick hand over her," he writes. "[While] bad [writers] rape and leave her for flies."
He also notes that the most dangerous enemy of truth and freedom is the "terribly tyranny of the majority." With intolerance, bigotry, and nationalism on the rise again, it's hard to disagree. We've already seen what happens when the majority decides. Multiple times already, and god knows how many more in the future.
Having read F451, I now understand why it's considered one of the best works from the twentieth century. It's still relevant in 2020, even more so with the rise of screens. Read it before the book burning begins. Read it before "families" take over.
First, 1953 was the middle of the "McCarthy Era" in the Cold War, during which thousands of Americans were investigated for harboring Communist sympathies. Neighbors and coworkers were
Helping to heat up the war against its own citizens at home, America was engaged in a feverish effort to build bombs targeted at the Soviet Union. Atomic bombs were being tested and perfected rapidly. In October, 1952, the U.S. exploded its first thermonuclear or hydrogen bomb at Eniwetok Atoll. The Soviet Union exploded its own hydrogen bomb in August, 1953.
This atmosphere of paranoia, suspicion, and the fearful sense of a world rushing toward a nuclear holocaust is reflected in Bradbury’s story. "Fahrenheit 451," he tells us at the start of this book, is the temperature at which book paper catches fire and burns. In this future dystopia, Guy Montag is a “fireman” who starts fires rather than stopping them. The firemen respond to calls of those who accuse someone of harboring books: they burn the books along with the house, and the owners are arrested (unless they choose to commit suicide). Books are forbidden because they can allow people to think, to be unhappy, to question the government, and to question war.
Montag, married to a drugged-up, tuned-out wife he can’t even remember how he met, believes he is happy, until he encounters his new neighbor Clarisse. A seventeen-year-old girl, she has been identified as “crazy” and “dangerous” because she is not enslaved to the media and its hypnotic messages; she takes walks, examines her surroundings and the people in it, talks with her family and others about matters of substance, and most importantly, is not afraid to ask questions.
The honesty and openness of Clarisse unhinges Montag, and he soon becomes one of those who hides from the fires, rather than one of those who sets them.
Overall the book stands up remarkably well to the passage of over fifty years. Its underlying message is as timely as ever: we are complicit in allowing our brains to atrophy. We become addicted to vapidity and short spurts of sensation, and forego deep thinking and quiet contemplation. We retreat into our own entertainment cocoons, and ignore what politicians are making of the world. The results could be disastrous for civilization.
Famously, the character Montag picks some books from his own hidden stash to destroy, in order to help deflect the attention of the authorities from himself. But the point of the work is not so much what book you would sacrifice to save yourself from suspicion, but how important it is not to let the seeds for such conditions take root. Our only hope for the future, Bradbury warns us, is to be mindful, to read and to question, to study the past, and to learn from it.
The scary part of the book is that many people, such as Mildred, are completely content with being ignorant and powerless against the government. Montag knows he's unhappy, but he doesn't know why. When Montag partnered up with Faber and joined the "resistance", it showed me how unstable Montag was as a person and that the desire for freedom eventually overcomes loyalty to authority, no matter how strong.
I think it's very clever how Bradbury plays off of people's flaws and fears. For example, Mildred's friends don't want to vote for somebody because he's not as good looking as Mr. Noble. Some people fear that democracy promotes a popularity contest of sorts and that people will vote for candidates for the wrong reasons out of ignorance. Bradbury implies that big government creates an ignorant populace and so will vote for certain presidents who will make government bigger and bigger and eventually society will become like what it is in Fahrenheit 451.
The most interesting and appealing part of the book to me was the bands of intellectuals along the railroad tracks. It intrigued me to find out that scholars remembered parts of books so they could re-write them after the nuclear wars. I was even more surprised to find out that society had destructed and reformed many times before. I realized that society could very possibly do this in real life and maybe even did it already.
Ray Bradbury fights against big government with a very smart and interesting novel. This book was excellent and I would definitely recommend it.
The protagonist, Guy Montag is a
There's a lot more to the book than that gimmick though. It's a though-provoking tale about the degrees and underpinnings of censorship. This isn't just a society that bans books, but that discourages thinking of any kind. Montag's captain tells him the firemen are "custodians of our peace of mind." This is a world where entire walls are essentially screens for interactive television programs and people were buds in their ear that give them a continuous stream of entertainment. Comic books, sports, anything that keeps you from sitting still with yourself or talking with others is encouraged. It's not so much this society is pushing one point of view--the captain says that if one view is better than two, then none at all is best--"better to give no sides."
There are other aspects that make this world both horrible and imaginative--like that mechanical hound. And Bradbury is a powerful prose writer, with lines filled with imagery and the rhythm of poetry at times.
Yes, there are aspects that date this book published in 1953. (One edition that year listed inside was made of asbestos). Guy's wife is a housewife with no ambition evident other than getting another wall of television. There are words like "colored" and "swell" that strike the contemporary ear as strange--but doesn't mean the ideas are dated.
In his coda, Bradbury writes that: There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches. Bradbury talks about those who have attempted to cut parts of his own stories. And it may not be who you think--there are censors of the right as well as the left. That's part of what struck me in Banned Books Week reading the list put out by the American Library Association of books people have tried to get taken out of libraries. Books like Laura Ingall's Little House and To Kill a Mockingbird, The Diary of Anne Frank, the Harry Potter--all of them have had campaigns lodged against them for one reason or another.
So, yes, still timely. But also a gripping story beautifully told.
And people wonder why I buy books, even if I haven't read them.
I would put this on my list of books that I think every person should read, even if they all get an entirely different message of it than I did (unless, I suppose, that message is "four-wall television would be awesome. I would give up books for that", which would be... not the point of this book at all).
Despite being very short, Bradbury writes very...densely, and I found the book hard to focus on - my mind would wander. I do think it's an incredibly important book, and I am glad I reread it (first time since high school, of course).
My teen book group,
We did have a nice discussion about censorship, though!
Farenheit 451 is set sometime in the future (Bradbury wisely chose
To be upfront, I will admit that I hate modern television, specifically the drivel of reality tv that consists of watching the antics of dysfunctional individuals in all their horrific glory. I will be the first to admit that I enjoy television shows like Lost and Battlestar Galactica which actually seem to have a story driven plot, and are delightfully complex. Still, I am blown away by a recent statistic that states that the average American spends 7 hours a day watching television. At this point, you are probably wondering, what does television have to do with Farenheit 451? This is not a novel about censorship, although that certainly is present in the novel. Bradbury has stated that the novel is primarily an exploration of how the obsession with television and mass media can or will destroy our desire to read. I find Bradbury's idea of the future frightening, especially when I consider that so many of my own acquaintances can't even remember the last time they read a book for enjoyment. In fact, that is the reason I was primarily attracted to book blogging. I wanted to find a place to share my love of books with others, and I couldn't seem to fill that need in my local community.
I found the coda that Bradbury added in a later edition to be especially interesting. As I was listening, it was spooky when I considered how many aspects of the novel have an equivalent in our modern society. One example that jumps out to me is the "seashell" device that Montag's wife Mildred is wearing almost continuously throughout the novel. Bradbury later wrote:
"In writing the short novel Fahrenheit 451 I thought I was describing a world that might evolve in four or five decades. But only a few weeks ago, in Beverly Hills one night, a husband and wife passed me, walking their dog. I stood staring after them, absolutely stunned. The woman held in one hand a small cigarette-package-sized radio, its antenna quivering. From this sprang tiny copper wires which ended in a dainty cone plugged into her right ear. There she was, oblivious to man and dog, listening to far winds and whispers and soap-opera cries, sleep-walking, helped up and down curbs by a husband who might just as well not have been there. This was not fiction."
This book is a classic, and it deserves to be. If you haven't ever read this book, or if it has been a while, give it a try. If nothing else, it will give you plenty to think about.
Bradbury's sense of foresight is quite clear in Fahrenheit 451. His prediction of the expansion of reality TV and mass media broadly were spot on. He managed to almost exactly predict bluetooth technology and earbuds. And he seems to have well predicted the United States being engaged in seemingly endless, ill-defined wars, though the scope of those wars he severely misjudged.
Being a brand new reader to the book, and possibly being older than the usual first time reader, I did have the benefit of having read some of Bradbury's own thoughts on interpretations of the book, and so instead of being hammered with the idea that the book is only about censorship and government censorship, I went into it more ready to see Bradbury's self stated purpose for the book: a warning against the continued expansion and dumbing down of media until the point where we would self censor because anything else would be terrifying. I believe that this is a more pertinent message for today's times. The invention of the internet has made true censorship nearly an impossible task. Anything will live on forever once it has made it online. But while the internet and a massive expansion of media has made it possible to get any information at any time and should result in an explosion of learning and understanding, instead we've seen ignorance blossom. People are carving out their own little pockets to stay comfortable in, afraid to have their core held views and beliefs truly challenged. People self censor their news, choosing only those outlets that they most agree with to present as facts.
While Bradbury was afraid of media losing all deeper meaning to avoid offending, the reality has become that media has lost all meaning because anyone can choose whatever media will fit their self decided meaning. In this, Fahrenheit 451 still holds relevant today.
It's a really quick read and, despite that, filled with fully formed characters and plot points. I enjoyed it, but wished more had been done with the neighbor girl instead of her just being there to set the plot into motion and then conveniently disappearing.
In “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury
Teenagers don't need any special kind of reading program, since they are hugely curious about everything, at least i was interested in the extra-curricular forbidden literature (there was plenty at that time) and the hidden subjects, not out of a morbid fantasy -- but perhaps too, a literary imagination.
Bradbury was such a surprise. Some stories seemed full of compassion and solidarity --you'd call it now. We tend to look back on our teenage selves, and our teenage tastes in literature, with a certain amount of embarrassment. As though we should have been reading, then, the stuff we read now. But I think we're looking at it the wrong way. For the middle-aged to dismiss a book that has an enlightening effect on a teenage mind is as foolish as for a teenager to dismiss a book that has an enlightening effect on a middle-aged mind. We are not the same person all our lives. My brain is a different shape when you're a teenager. It needs a book that's that shape. Bradbury wrote that kind of book. A lot of science fiction writers do. Most adult literary novelists are incapable of writing that kind of book. That does not make either groups' books superior, just different, and hard to compare...
Isn't the judging of other forms of media as offensive exactly what Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451" was about? These days, of course, we can laugh at such monstrosities. Books can be seen to burn at 232 degrees centigrade. What imperialistic barbarians we used to be! The one thing I took from “Fahrenheit 451” was not so much that they were burning books, but that the society dismissed anything that didn't provide instant gratification or required thought. Burning books was the symptom of a sick society, arguably more prevalent now then when Ray wrote it. Given the trend for lithium ion batteries to spontaneously combust one wonders if an eBook version of Fahrenheit 451 will disappear in some Tinguely-esque self-parody?
I'm glad I never did though. I think it would have made The Olive Readers less entertaining since it seems like it borrowed some inspiration from it.
I enjoyed it, but unlike Brave New World or Animal Farm I didn't feel it
I’d only read a few of Bradbury’s short stories before, in high school, but I barely remembered them. I was surprised to find that his writing style was much more elaborate and literary than I expected:
The concussion knocked the air across and down the river, turned the men over like dominoes in a line, blew the water in lifting sprays, and blew the dust and made the trees above them mourn with a great wind passing away south… in that instant he saw the city, instead of the bombs, in the air. They had displaced each other. For another of those impossible instants the city stood, rebuilt and unrecognisable, taller than it had ever hoped or strived to be, taller than man had built it, erected at last in gouts of shattered concrete and sparkles of torn metal into a mural hung like a reversed avalanche, a million colours, a million oddities, a door where a window should be, a top for a bottom, a side for a back, and then the city rolled over and fell down dead.
As a mid-20th century science fiction writer I’d already pigeon-holed Bradbury in alongside authors like Heinlein or Asimov; he’s actually much more like Philip K. Dick, and that may go some way towards explaining why I didn’t enjoy Fahrenheit 451 all that much.
Which is not to say that I don’t admire it, and don’t think it was an important novel at an important time in history (it was written at the height of McCarthyism). I just found his characters a little wooden – certainly too fond of long, wordy monologues – and his world a bit stiff. It certainly feels much more like a story servicing a concept than a concept which gave birth to a rich and vibrant story. But it’s an important novel of the 20th century, and not particularly long, and is worth reading.
Montag begins the novel as a fireman who loves every aspect of his job. Watching books burn brings him nothing but sheer pleasure, until the day he meets Clarisse. Clarisse is a young girl whose uncle taught her much about books, ideas, and personal thoughts. Guys' conversations with Clarisse change him for the better, and he begins to steal books and hide them in his home (without the consent of his wife).
When Guys' wife Mildred finds out about what he is doing, she becomes terribly frightened. Eventually she decides to turn Guy in and leave him. Guy is forced by his superior, Captain Beatty, to burn his entire book collection along with his home. In a last second turn of events, Guy uses his flamethrower to incinerate Captain Beatty and flees for his life to avoid arrest. Many twists and turns ensue, and in the end, Guy escapes and joins an outlaw band of intellects who memorize parts of some of the most important books in history to preserve them during the horrible time period they are living in.
In my opinion, Fahrenheit 451 is a captivating and brilliant, if not disturbing, novel. It is very meaningful today in the times we live in. Some of the characters struck me deeply, and left me wanting more. The story of Guy Montag, fireman turned preserver of freedom (so to speak), is surely one that I will never forget.