Fahrenheit 451: A Novel

by Ray Bradbury

Paperback, 2013

Call number

FIC BRA

Collection

Publication

Simon & Schuster (2012), Edition: Reissue, 249 pages

Description

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..

User reviews

LibraryThing member snat
Fahrenheit 451 is one of those books that I should have read by now. Occasionally, a student comes to me, eyes ablaze with indignation that anyone should ever burn books and they want to talk about it. "Why would anyone do such a thing? This is impossible! Why would such a world exist?" And, more
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tremulously, "Could this world ever exist?" As shame and humiliation wash over me, I have to say, "Um, I haven't read it. But it's on my to-read list!" They look stricken, abashed, as though I have failed them. And maybe I have. If anyone should have read the book about burning books, it's the English teacher, right? Hell, I'm just excited that they get so pumped over it. In a world where student literacy scores are on the decline, where a teenager would rather pick up an iPod than a book, and most students only read 2-3 books a year (except for my room, where I must brag for a moment, we kick some reading ass), the fact that some of them still read Fahrenheit 451 and become incensed gives me hope for the future.

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.
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LibraryThing member bookworm12
“It was a pleasure to burn.”

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
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New World, but this dystopia was so much more terrifying to me. It shows a world in which books were illegal paraphernalia and owning them was cause for death.

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.

***SPOILERS***

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.

**SPOILER OVER***

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.
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LibraryThing member kaionvin
Haiku 4:

Four five one degrees
'It was a pleasure to burn'
How'd my school miss this?

Dystopia
Guy finds ideas have power
Bibliophobes

Bradbury's passion
Propels the action
It's still quite fifties.

I like television.
They once bemoaned the letter
Would slay oration.
LibraryThing member 1morechapter
I cannot believe I haven't read this book before. It deserves its "classic" status and should be read by all. This book is scary. Really. Scary. It is similar to 1984--a picture of what society could become if we let it.

Montag is a fireman who doesn't put out fires, he starts them. He burns books
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and the houses that contain them. His wife Mildred watches and listens to "the wall" all day, basically a huge screen TV. Almost all of the city dwellers are TV zombies, and then when they're not watching "the wall", to make themselves feel better they go out and ride their cars at dangerously high speeds. Most are on any number of pills.

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.
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LibraryThing member Terpsichoreus
Not a book about book censorship, but a book about how TV will rot your brain. This book falls somewhat short of its satirical mark based on this cranky lawn-loving neighbor's message. Then again, it was written in the course of a few days in one long, uninterrupted slurry (mercifully edited by his
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publishers, but now available utterly restored). Contains archetypes, misconceptions, and an author surrogate; but still works as an inspiring view of authority and power, and of the way people are always willing to deceive themselves.

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.
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LibraryThing member bdgamer
Fahrenheit 451 reads like a prediction for the present. Published in 1953, this story predicts our media-obsessed culture, holding up a mirror and hoping we'll look up from our screens long enough to notice.

Idiocracy in society is the first thing I noticed. Bradbury writes how most people don't
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want to "think" since it's so difficult. In the book, that's represented through two things: books being banned and "families" being born.

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.
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LibraryThing member nbmars
Fahrenheit 451, written by Ray Bradbury in 1953, cannot be fully understood outside of its historical context.

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
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encouraged to report on each other, and mere suspicion was often enough to instigate an investigation. Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin held hearings in Congress to interrogate would-be spies. Actors, producers and directors in Hollywood were called to testify against one another, and the accused subsequently became “black-listed.” Many people experienced loss of employment, destruction of their careers, and some committed suicide.

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.
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LibraryThing member jrosenfeld
Ray Bradbury creates a scary futuristic society in which a large oppressive government takes all power and leaves the citizens with no free thought. Bradbury includes comedy and irony to enhance his story. For example, in the book firemen burn books and houses rather than preserve them. Clarisse
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tells Bradbury that in the past firemen used to put out fires and Bradbury refuses to believe that and thinks the thought is ridiculous. I couldn't help but laugh at the irony.

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.
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LibraryThing member LisaMaria_C
Of all the dystopia books I've read, Brave New World, 1984, Anthem, I think Fahrenheit 451 is my favorite because while it's as chilling as any, and more plausible than some, it also give a dollop of hope. And its readability allows it to rise beyond pure didactism.

The protagonist, Guy Montag is a
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fireman--not a firefighter. He starts fires--hosing down with kerosene and burning books on the unapproved list and any homes that housed them--on his hat are the numerals 451--the temperature in Fahrenheit at which paper burns, he slides down a brass pole--and there's the firehouse hound--a mechanical creature that's no tail wagging Dalmation. Their official motto is "Monday burn Millay, Wednesday Whitman, Friday Faulkner, bur 'em to ashes, then burn the ashes."

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.
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LibraryThing member threadnsong
When I hear people at work talking more about the newest house fix-up or the latest couple on a bachelor program, I begin to wonder where we are in this world of books burning. When there is one bookstore chain deciding what will be displayed, and one large book distributor deciding what even gets
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published, it's almost like we've bypassed this future world that Bradbury so vividly describes and we've gone straight into books not even being printed, so how can they be memorized?

And people wonder why I buy books, even if I haven't read them.
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LibraryThing member lastweeksapocalypse
Having reread this book, I think it is more about the dangers of things like television than it is about censorship. As such, I feel it has an even stronger message than I originally thought. Censorship will be a fairly obvious phenomenon, and since it is easier to spot, it is easier to fight.
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However, the sort of voluntary censorship taking place in Fahrenheit 451 is a much more subtle, and much more dangerous, thing. Freedoms must be fought for, but sometimes this war is not with a government, but with oneself. I think this book illustrates the importance of, well, actually reading, instead of immersing oneself in the vicarious world of reality dating shows and daytime melodrama. Reading is a different, perhaps more human, kind of vicarious activity, one which ideally elevates instead of dragging one into the muck. I think that's important to keep in mind (though, for full disclosure, I do not always make the most elevating choices in television programs or books; I hope this helps steer my review away from the preachy).
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).
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LibraryThing member MacDad
As a kid Ray Bradbury was to me an author represented by the twin pillars of The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451. The first of these I read numerous times and enjoyed it greatly, with even the dull 1980 miniseries holding a certain nostalgic charm for me. The latter, though, was a book I
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never felt compelled to read despite its reputation and my enjoyment of Bradbury’s other works. My first exposure to it wasn’t even through reading it but from watching Truffaut’s 1966 film, which has shaped my mental images of the book ever since.

Eventually, thanks to the recommendation of a friend, I did read the novel itself, and when I did I was struck by how powerful a statement it was about the importance of reading. With me Bradbury was preaching to the choir, but it wasn’t until I reread the book that I gained a fuller measure of its genius. Revisiting it helped me to appreciate more fully the prescience of his critique of American society, particularly its rejection of the stimulating benefits of culture in favor of vapid entertainment. The effects of this are shot through the story in ways both large and small, and while I recognized the visible ones the first time around (such as Montag’s confrontation of his wife and her friends with a poetry reading) it was the smaller ones that stood out for me when I reread it. Especially powerful was the presence of suicide in the story: while we first encounter it at the beginning of the novel when Montag discovers his wife overdosing on sleeping pills, casual mentions of an epidemic of suicides are shot throughout the text. Together they make it clear that this is a society of people who are profoundly unhappy.

All this, of course, occurs despite the constant attempts to drown out everyone’s sorrows with an overwhelming barrage of media noise. People are inundated with omnipresent media, to the point where Montag’s discovery of silence near the end of the book is almost profound. Yet the most this can do is stiffly temporarily the collective unhappiness. Even Beatty, the most tangible of representation of authority in the story, chooses death over continuing on. Blaming the books as he does is to criticize the mirror for what he sees in it – and it’s clear that deep down inside himself he knows that.

That Bradbury’s novel is no less relevant today than it was when it was first published nearly seventy years ago is a testament to the perceptiveness of his critique of modern society. The issues he addresses – the importance of literature, the value of contemplation, and the damage that results from a society that falls victim to distraction – are, if anything, even more of a concern in a nation that prioritizes STEM education to the exclusion of the humanities and in which social media overwhelms us with trivialities. All of this makes it as important as ever to pick up a book and read what’s in it – and to ponder what it bestirs within ourselves when we do so.
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LibraryThing member ladycato
Guy Montag is a fireman, but he doesn't put our fires - he starts them. He burns books for a living. Such knowledge is considered antiquated in an age where interactive talking walls and ear-thimbles tell a person how to think and act. But when Guy meets a seventeen-year-old girl who asks him, "Are
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you happy?" Guy begins to question the status quo. Is he happy? Are books the enemy to that happiness, or the contrary?

I feel stupid for not reading this book before. There are some books that are considered classics because they are old, and others that are classics because they deserve to be read and enjoyed forever. Fahrenheit 451 is one of the latter. I was amazed by how Bradbury nailed current electronic gizmos - flat screen TVs, iPods, and perhaps even YouTube - even though he wrote the book in the 1950s. I loved this book, and I'm convinced I need to read more of Bradbury's work. He is indeed a master.
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LibraryThing member rbiedry
In Ray Bradbury's brilliant futuristic novel, Fahrenheit 451, firemen search for and burn books. Guy Montag's (the main character) society considers book-owning and book-reading to be high crime. In the futuristic culture Guy lives in, superfluous information is almost considered a good thing,
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whereas true knowledge is considered one of the utmost evils. All culture in this society comes not from newspapers and books, but from "the parlor" - a full wall of nothing but a television built into the living room. The society Guy lives in is inherently evil, and once Guy realizes this, he sets out to change it.

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.
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LibraryThing member mla3048
Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury, reveals the changes of values and morals through a futuristic society. Owning and reading books in this society is illegal and censored by the government. Instead of coming to your house when there is an actual fire, firemen in Fahrenheit 451 are called to the job
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when books are found in someones home. The firemen are not meant to put out fires but rather start them. When books are found, they will burn the books along with the house. Instead of burying oneself in a good novel, people from this futuristic society are more worried about buying another movie screen to add to their theater of ignorance. This book shows how their government fears individuals becoming more superior than others. They believe that by burning knowledge, everybody will remain equal and no single person will excel higher than the other. I enjoyed reading this book because it shows us how society can be greatly influenced by government in an interesting way. My two favorite characters are Clarisse and Faber. They both have a lasting impression of Guy Montag and help him realize the importance of life and literature. This was one of my favorite books that I read in English class because I liked seeing how people reacted to Guy Montags' rebellious actions and I enjoyed following him throughout his journey and escape from this horrible society.
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LibraryThing member HavingFaith
In the year 2016, Stephen Johnson, a 23 year old fireman in Perth, Western Australia, was charged with starting three separate fires deliberately. There was another case in 2009. Firemen are supposed to put fires out, not start them, aren’t they? Imagine an alternative world where that isn’t
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true, where the fireman’s mission is to wield the flame-thrower of state oppression. What then is the state most scared of?

The success of Fahrenheit 451 is, I think, down to a very simple connection the author makes with the audience: Knowledge is better than ignorance, so we don’t burn books, do we? Imagine a society where they did and how shallow would that be. ‘We don’t burn books’ means any books, even gormless examples. I think the story has more gravity because it is set in the USA, a country which protects free speech to the extent that its citizens are allowed to say anything they like, no matter how abusive or unreliable. The principle’s the important thing, that it should protect everything we hand across generations, so what is known can never become smaller and what has enriched the heart can uplift and inspire new hearts. We instinctively feel that protecting the side of reason and higher emotion (thought, learning, art) is the right movement to be in, the side with real worth. Let’s feel warmth from that glow and keep it coming please. Championing this helps us to believe humans are noble creatures, can rise from the floor and create a fertility of value around them. If an alien ship landed, we’d expect them to be impressed by something as simple and yet as complex as one of our libraries. Culture is magnificence. Intelligence is cool. Burning books is regressing to ditch-shit. We feel it.

What about people who don’t feel it? We feel sorry for them and realise it’s probably a cry for help, that we should address their resentment, jealously, illiteracy and the social reasons why they have become the ‘have nots’. Turning away from books is a failure of society. If educational dysfunction ever produced the majority of a population, that would go very badly for the ‘haves’, so there is a threat implied. What would happen then if a society became so daytime-television pathetic that the brainwashed public stopped learning? Not replacing their thinking with different thinking but instead turning down the dial on thinking altogether and blocking the sources that intellect reaches to? This could happen, incidentally, if AI did all the work and the main incentive for learning ended. Would the population then begin to resent self-improvers? Probably not, but it is not impossible.

The author then adds the vibe that (like Orwell’s 1984, V for Vendetta and Reading Lolita in Tehran) an authoritarian state has institutionalised ignorance because knowledgeable and informed citizens who reach conclusions alone are potentially very dangerous to one’s mighty aegis. Therefore, ban the books. Also echoing Orwell, the state in this story keeps its subjects occupied by continually being at war with someone, anyone, every year. If you think of the first country that springs to mind, that has been fighting someone almost every year since it was founded, does that sound familiar?

Closing schools, turning academics out into the fields, confiscating property and propagating conflict as an excuse to arm your enforcers, using martial law and to conflate non-conformism with helping the adversary – burning books – has happened for at least a few years in all of these places: Cambodia, Vietnam, Germany, Myanmar and Russia. Some of them have retained aspects of fine culture (approved composers, the national ballet) but only did this to demonstrate to the world a lingering sense of superiority, ignoring the twist that everything elevated they celebrated had been created under a quite different system.

This is also the journey of a man from ignorance. He starts metaphorically huddled around a fire in the darkness and, through self-realisation, takes fumbling steps toward the light, comprehending its value and rejecting his indoctrinated past, seeing what the worthless ideology has done to him and seeking salvation in a higher cause. The redemption angle has been done many times before but this is strong stuff, so rewarding and ultimately an elemental force of pro-literacy. At the end, he doesn’t need to be a professor to be valued by itinerant professors as being the right-thinking sort makes us equals in our struggle against density. The fireman just needs to be on the right side; and so do we. Giving this book a high star rating in a review is like voting, publically announcing that you cherish reason. Anyone who gives it a one star rating should probably be checked on occasionally as it’s only a matter of time before the TV breaks, monotony wins, their eyes cross and they fuck the cat.
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LibraryThing member dougcornelius
Still relevant and meaningful in our increasingly post-factual world.
LibraryThing member NeitherNora
Well, this was... a disappointment. I don't know, maybe my expectations were too high going into it? But there are some pretty serious flaws with this cornerstone of dystopian lit:

[SPOILERS BELOW]

1) The only female character* is a Clarisse, who's pretty thoroughly a Manic Pixie Dream Girl --
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compounded by the fact that she dies in the first act!
[*I don't count Montag's wife, Mildred, as a character, because she's just a cardboard stand-in mouthpiece for the dystopian society; if she'd had any traits of her own, I might consider differently, but right now she is NOTHING.]

2) The whole explanation for why this society burns books is just... flawed. Not in a people-are-stupid-sheep-and-would-do-this way, but in a wait-that's-a-plot-hole way. I mean, Beatty says repeatedly that the problem with books is that they present too many conflicting viewpoints and that reading them generates confusion and argument -- yes, okay, I see that -- and that society is more peaceful and harmonious without them. This second part is HUGELY FALSE. I mean, ignoring the fact that this country is at war (and thus NOT peaceful), people are all the time killing each other and themselves! Reckless driving is considered an acceptable pastime! I mean, if part of your worldbuilding is "people here murder for fun," the explanation of your premise CANNOT BE "society burns books because they cause strife." Reducing strife is OBVIOUSLY not a priority for this society! Argh!

3) Beatty, in arguing for book-burning, is CONSTANTLY QUOTING BOOKS (and then, more often than not, accusing Montag of throwing quotes around willy-nilly, which is just... not the case). While I get trying to portray him as a hypocrite, the end effect is complete confusion! I mean, he must not only have read a shit-ton of books (illegally), but STUDIED THEM EXTENSIVELY TO MEMORIZE ALL THE RELEVANT LINES (um, extra-illegally?). And sure, there MIGHT be an explanation for this, but it's never explained -- at no point does Montag even try to turn the argument around and ask how Beatty can quote so much Shakespeare. It just. Makes no sense.

4) Considering (as mentioned above) the everyday attitude toward violence throughout the book (murdering is LITERALLY that thing "all the kids are doing"), Montag's shock at killing Beatty near the end seems massively unrealistic. Actually, it seems more likely he'd've started to plan Beatty's death the moment he was suspected of book-hoarding -- or, at the very least, he'd consider the option. WORLDBUILDING AFFECTS CHARACTER MOTIVATIONS, MISTER BRADBURY.

5) Montag himself is utterly flat as a protagonist. He seems to have no control over his own actions -- stealing books is something his hands do of their own volition, reading poetry to his wife's friends is against his (and EVERYONE'S) judgment, and basically he just behaves really stupidly throughout the book. I mean, this isn't so much a flaw in the writing as a personal pet peeve -- I have a distinct inability to like stupid characters -- but gosh, he was SO DAMN IDIOTIC.

So. Yes. This book has plot holes you could drive a spaceship through. Also, the characters weren't very developed. But the language was pretty good? And I like the pro-literacy message? So, two stars, I guess.
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LibraryThing member James_Knupp
Unlike most American youth, I was never given Fahrenheit 451 to read in school. While I knew the basic premise and the classic interpretation of the book as one of anti-censorship, beyond that I knew very little. So I was quite happy to see how well the book holds up over 60 years after it was
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first published.

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.
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LibraryThing member AlCracka
"The good writers touch life often. The mediocre ones run a quick hand over her. The bad ones rape her and leave her for the flies."That is a very unpleasant metaphor, and Fahrenheit 451 is an unpleasant book. If I were a teacher I'd give it a B- and not let my daughter date the weird little kid
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who wrote it.

Its protagonist, Montag, lacks any character; he changes as Bradbury's shitty story requires him to, from the dumbest kid on the world (his cousin once offered to pay him a dime to fill a sieve with sand and he sat there for ages crying and dumping sand into it - I understand that's a metaphor, but it's a metaphor for a moron) to a mastermind (telling Faber how to throw the Hound off his scent). You ever see film of someone skipping a pebble in reverse? Me neither, but I bet it's like this: plop plop skip skip wtf?

Each other character exists solely to advance the plot. There's the hot underage Manic Pixie Dream Girl - "her face fragile milk crystal" - who teaches him how to smell dandelions (and whose beauty is harped on endlessly) and then disappears off-stage; Faber, who's all of a sudden like best friends and then disappears off-stage; the bonfire circle of retired professors who happen to be right there when he stumbles out of a river looking for them.

There's his wife - "thin as a praying mantis from dieting, and her flesh like white bacon." He seems to loathe her, and all real women.
"Millie? Does the White Clown love you?"
No answer.
"Millie, does - " He licked his lips. "Does your 'family' [TV entertainment] love you, love you very much, love you with all their heart and soul, Millie?"
He felt her blinking slowly at the back of his neck. "Why'd you ask a silly question like that?"There's a real conservative streak to this book. It looks backwards, as conservatives do. Bradbury blames his world's disgust with books on "minorities," what we nowadays call "special interest groups":
"Colored people don't like Little Black Sambo. Burn it. White people don't feel good about Uncle Tom's Cabin. Burn it."These are the only specific examples given during Captain Beatty's central speech about why literature has been banned.

There are some nice moments here. A disturbed and immature but intelligent kid flailing around will hit a few marks. The central idea? No, no props for that; book-burning was invented centuries ago. But the moment when the TV instructs all citizens to open their doors and look for Montag, that's nice. And the suicidal Captain Beatty is the book's only living character, although his speech is littered with what I swear are just random quotes. I even like the idea of a circle of book-readers, each responsible for remembering a certain book - but it's dealt with so lamely here. "We've invented ways for you to remember everything you've ever read, so it's no problem." Well, in that case I got like half the Canon, y'all can go home. Losers. Wouldn't it be cooler if these people had to work for it?

Point is, those little flashes of competence are so overwhelmed by terrible philosophy and so ill-sketched themselves that I have no idea how this book has escaped the bonfire of apathy, the worst and most blameless fire of all. It's just a lame, lame book.

I wouldn't burn this or any book. But I'll do worse: I'll forget all about it.
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LibraryThing member MarianneHusbands
I read this in 2014 on a cruise ship to the Caribbean. People sat in rooms dominated by giant TV screens filled with interactive ( reality ) tv - sound familiar? In a world where all books are banned and the people a kept dumb and compliant with trivial pursuits - this dystopian novel had me mental
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screaming ' that's how it is now.' I get the feeling I am living in Dystopia.
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LibraryThing member taramatchi
So strange and rather scary when I noticed some of the similarities some of the events in the book to life now. It is hard to believe it was written in the 50's.

I remember reading this in 8th grade, but I think I appreciated it more through this reading. I actually laughed as the women discussed
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the presidential race because it is not too far off to how some discussions are now when it comes to politics (of course not as extreme).
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LibraryThing member bell7
Guy Montag is a firefighter - one of those men who burn the libraries and homes of individuals who dare to keep forbidden books. A chance encounter with a thoughtful girl causes him to start noticing small things in life that he never paid attention to before, and Montag begins to ask questions
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about his life and his work. Bradbury writes convincingly of a future dystopia in which various groups banned anything that offended them, an action that eventually escalated into full-scale banning and burning of books. At that point, however, a mind-numbed, unthinking public reacted apathetically, resulting in the world Guy Montag knows. Bradbury suggests that what's really at stake is people's intellect: "Take it where you can find it, in old phonograph records, old motion pictures, and in old friends; look for it in nature and look for it in yourself. Books were only one type of receptacle where we stored a lot of things we were afraid we might forget. There is nothing magical in them at all. The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us" (82-83). In this world, people no longer sit and talk, exercise their intellect, disagree (politely or otherwise), or think for themselves.

I was impressed with how many of Bradbury's ideas about the future remain relevant in a science fiction novel written over fifty years ago. I was challenged by a lot of his ideas and sometimes slowed myself down while reading, but his writing style often compelled me to keep going. With long but flowing sentences and thought patterns interspersed with a lot of dialog, the book reads fast and is surprisingly short. I highly recommend this to anyone looking for a thought-provoking read.
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LibraryThing member kayceel
Yes, scary. Yes, classic. Yes, kinda boring.

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,
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though? Only 2 of 11 finished it - the others didn't finish it, mostly because they felt they "didn't get it."

We did have a nice discussion about censorship, though!
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LibraryThing member knitbusy
Farenheit 451 was first published in 1953, so as I started on my first reading of the book I wondered if it would feel dated. After finishing it, I've decided that this book is even more relevant today than when it was first written.

Farenheit 451 is set sometime in the future (Bradbury wisely chose
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not to set a specific date for his story), and is the story of Guy Montag, a professional book burner, or "fireman." In Montag's time, American society now focuses primarily on constant pleasure seeking without inhibitions of any kind. Intellectual pursuits such as reading or writing are strongly discouraged, and those found owning any banned piece of literature (which by this time includes almost any piece of literature) are punished by imprisonment, while their homes are burned with the offending books inside. It is a time of apathy and lawlessness, and most of the population spends almost their entire lives focused on vacuous entertainment which massages the minds of the masses into an intellectual sleep. Montag's contentment with this existence is disrupted one day when he meets a young girl, Clarrise, who engages him in a conversation that begins to awaken in him the desire for a more meaningful life. Ultimately, Montag rebels and finds himself a fugitive from the very society that has created him.

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.
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Pages

249

ISBN

0345342968 / 9780345342966
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