Title: Fahrenheit 451
Author: Ray Bradbury
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Dystopian, Science Fiction, Classic
First Publication: 1953
Major Characters: Guy Montag, Norman Corwin, Clarisse McClellan, Mildred Montag, Captain Beatty, Professor Faber
Theme: Mass Media, Censorship, Conformity vs. Individuality, Distraction vs. Happiness,
Setting: An unnamed city in America in the future
Narrator: Third Person
Book Summary: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Guy Montag is a fireman. In his world, where television rules and literature is on the brink of extinction, firemen start fires rather than put them out. His job is to destroy the most illegal of commodities, the printed book, along with the houses in which they are hidden.
Montag never questions the destruction and ruin his actions produce, returning each day to his bland life and wife, Mildred, who spends all day with her television ‘family’. But then he meets an eccentric young neighbor, Clarisse, who introduces him to a past where people did not live in fear and to a present where one sees the world through the ideas in books instead of the mindless chatter of television.
When Mildred attempts suicide and Clarisse suddenly disappears, Montag begins to question everything he has ever known.
Book Review: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Fahrenheit 451 is a dystopian novel by the American writer Ray Bradbury. It was published in 1953 and was considered as one of Bradbury’s best works. It is divided into three major parts: Part1: The Hearth and the Salamander, Part 2: The Sieve and the Sand and Part3: Burning Bright.
The novel Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury depicts a futuristic society that suppresses free thought by means of outlawing books and burning them. Firemen are hired in order to set fire to any written material that crosses their path. Guy Montag, the protagonist, is an unhappily married fireman, who is seemingly content with his job. However, his life is turned upside down when he encounters Clarisse McClellan, a seventeen-year-old girl, who rekindles the thinking process in him. A series of events take place and act as a wake-up call for Montag.
“Stuff your eyes with wonder, he said, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.”
His recollection of the self-immolation of an old woman, who refuses to be an eyewitness to the destruction of her books, never ceases to haunt him. Starting from that moment, Montag shifts from being a proselytized biblioclast to a well-intentioned biblioklept, who will have to confront the closest people to him, in order to save books and put an end to this political indoctrination and governmental machination in toto.
Fahrenheit 451 presents a pretty simple and smooth plot that involves a majority of static characters. The protagonist is actually the sole dynamic character, as his cognitive evolution runs in parallel to the plot. Most of the themes tackled by Bradbury in this novel are thought-provoking and relatable. The author relies on various historical events and mythological allusions, in order to denounce several defects prevailing in the American society.
“There must be something in books, something we can’t imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there. You don’t stay for nothing.”
In his novel, Bradbury condemns censorship and the restriction of free-will. He also alludes to the noxious role played by the mass media in brainwashing the individual and generating intellectual clones. The most striking feature of Fahrenheit 451 is probably its prophetic content. The novel is not only a reference to past events that transpired during the McCarthy era, but it is also a prediction of the future.
This predictive quality is what renders Fahrenheit 451 an even more intriguing and spellbinding literary work. Being able to make an analogy between the content of this book and the present time is really astounding.
“If you hide your ignorance, no one will hit you and you’ll never learn.”
Bradbury in his after-word mentions that no one would print a book that featured book censorship at the time he intended to publish it. And book censorship is certainly one clear theme although not necessarily intended to be the main theme. It just so happened that Fahrenheit 451 was published at a time when such a topic was controversial. I doubt however that we can necessarily read a historical or political motivation as such into the novel more that it so happened to be released at that time.
The Afterword was perhaps the best part this time around. Bradbury explains that fire isn’t the only way that books get burned, every minority is a fireman when they remove words or content that offends them & he’ll have none of it. This edition of “Fahrenheit 451” is supposed to be the original, complete & uncut. He said that he had been shocked to find that previous editions had been edited down until 75 sections had been missing. And he received letters in the same week complaining that he was prejudiced for/against the same group in this book.
“We cannot tell the precise moment when friendship is formed. As in filling a vessel drop by drop, there is at last a drop which makes it run over; so in a series of kindnesses there is at last one which makes the heart run over.”
He points to an anthology that contains 400 short stories by famous authors. How did they all fit into one volume? Because they were edited until every author’s writing resembled the others. They were stripped of anything that made them unique.
Curiously also in the after-word Bradbury mentioned that his inspiration came through five other stories he had written. Each of them also focusing on books and encounters with the law. He also mentioned that he was inspired by the burnt library books at Alexandria and the Salem witch trials. Curiously the Salem witch trials were the focus of another personal favourite – the play The Crucible – which was written at a similar time and used the witch trials to challenge McCarthyism.