Saturday, 9 January 2016

Fahrenheit 451

Guy Montag is a fireman. He doesn’t put out fires, he sets them. In a future America where books are illegal, possession of one means destruction of your home. Burnt to a cinder with the books inside. But one day, Guy takes one of the books home with him. Has he ever stopped to wonder why he burns them?

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.

I’m beginning to suspect Mr Bradbury had a time machine after all. How portentous Fahrenheit 451 is of many of the aspects of our modern society. Indeed, the new HTTP code for legally restricted pages (eg. censorship or government-mandated blocked access) is 451 in honour of the book. Watching mindless TV. The dumbing down of the news. Even the mechanical hound is something not too far off current technology.

The root of the censorship is the desire to not offend anyone, meaning people stop speaking their minds. You can’t please everyone but that’s what the Americans of this world tried to do. So much was censored because it upset this group or that group. We do learn from reading differing opinions, from reading work that may be problematic. If we are never exposed to these things, how do we work out for ourselves what we really believe?

I do think there’s a lot of tiptoeing around these days, maybe not so much in book topics, but definitely on the internet in certain circles. There should be room for freedom of speech as long as no one is forcing it down your throat. Freedom to choose what to read should be more important than freedom to never be offended. Actually, I think many of us secretly like a good rant, what if we stopped having anything to rant about? I’m not convinced humans could cope in a utopia, we’d only mess it up.

We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?

There’s an anti-war message as well as anti-censorship and a nod to the traditions of storytelling in the intellectuals that hold onto the great works in their heads. Stories will never die, unless we wipe ourselves out, that is.

It’s clear that Fahrenheit 451 originally started out as separate stories as the narrative flow isn’t cohesive enough. I enjoyed each part by itself and there is so much that is spot on, but I’m not convinced it needed to be turned into a novel. I'm looking forward to reading some of Bradbury's short stories, as I imagine that is his more natural storytelling form.

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Book Source: Purchased

7 comments:

  1. i Remember reading this years ago. Your review makes me want to read it again.

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    1. I think it's becoming ever more relevant.

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  2. I loved Fahrenheit 451 when I read it a couple of years ago. I've read a few of Bradbury's books since then and my favourite is easily The Martian Chronicles. It's a series of connected short stories about humans trying to colonise Mars and it's so astute and clever while actually being entertaining. I'd definitely recommend it.

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    1. Josh read The Martian Chronicles recently and really enjoyed it, so it's on my radar.

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  3. I really want to read Fahrenheit 451 sometime. Interesting that you think it doesn't come together very well. Did he originally write it as separate stories, then?

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    1. Some of the parts were originally separate stories, yes, but I'm not sure how much was re-written when he decided they could make a novel. I think The Fireman was first published in Playboy!

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  4. I've read this twice, I think. Once in my mid-teens, when I suspect a lot of it went over my head, but when I reread it a few years ago I was completely blown away.

    It was COMPLETELY ahead of its time. I definitely agree that he must have had a time machine!

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