Fahrenheit 451 takes us into the heart of a world where knowledge has been outlawed. People are consistently brainwashed by giant tv screens fitted to the walls in their homes. Everyone is desensitised, conversations are sound bites and books are banned. The story follows Montag, a fireman who’s role is to root out books and destroying them. Unlike tradition firemen, the ones in this novel set fires rather that put them out.
For a bibliophile the concept alone is upsetting and it really made me considering our current reality. I recently watched a documentary about rampant illiteracy in the modern world and it grieves me to think that people can’t experience the joy of reading. It worries me on a real level that some children are never read to at home and I fear this could be symptomatic of our societal ideas about the importance of books as a whole. #tinhat? As well as this we continue to see technology evolving and many of us now accept that it steals our time. In this regard the novel sits uncomfortably close to reality, particularly with character being voluntarily enslaved to their televisions.
I found it a fascinating read that kept me involved throughout. Bradbury explores the idea that all independent thought can be abolished through collective ignorance. The people within the society don’t appear to to remain ignorant due to fear of punishment. They seem instead frightened and overwhelmed by ideas. Anything that may challenge their accepted norms makes them frantic and uncomfortable. The suggestion that people evolved to reject knowledge as appose to it being forced on them by a regime is terrifying and an interesting shift of responsibility.
One of the best characters in the novel is Clarisse. A odd seventeen year old who bumps into Montag in the street and from there begins walking him to work daily. She’s fascinated by nature, the world and why things are the way they are. She questions her environment in a way that Montag has never experienced. Through these interactions Montag begins to express himself as a human and his curiosity appears to be awoken. This sounds the beginning of his fall from grace and ultimate salvation.
Having found the first part of the novel really intriguing and pacey, I found the ending to be unexpectedly philosophical. It moves us onto ideas about they cyclical nature of life, which I found to be a bit on the airy side. Overall a great read with plenty of large themes in a small package of 165 pages.
Have you read Fahrenheit 451?
What did you think?