Review: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury


13259220Title: Fahrenheit 451
Author:  Ray Bradbury
Published:  October 1953
Genre:  Dystopian
Format:  Kindle
Source:  Purchased

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.

I originally read this book in high school, but my book club selected it for the group to read in December.

More than a decade later, it was definitely worth the reread! And in late 2017/early 2018, it was downright eerie.

Guy Montag is a firefighter.

Only firefighters don’t fight fires anymore.

They start them.

“’Those who don’t build must burn. It’s as old as history and juvenile delinquents.’”
You see, in Bradbury’s dystopian future (the date and exact setting of which are left up to our imaginations), books are illegal, and firefighters are responsible for burning them.

When someone suspects their neighbor of having books, they make a report to the fire station, and firefighters show up to burn all the books.

Montag has gone through life without questioning his role in the destruction of the printed word. He goes about his day, responding to calls and burning books, and returns home each night, where his wife obsessively watches her “family” on television.

But one day on his way home from work, Montag meets Clarisse, a teenager who just doesn’t quite fit in, and suddenly his eyes are opened to just how strange things are.

When did life become so unfulfilling?

“We are living in a time when flowers are trying to live on flowers, instead of growing on good rain and black loam. Even fireworks, for all their prettiness, come from the chemistry of the earth. Yet somehow we think we can grow, feeding on flowers and fireworks, without completing the cycle back to reality.”
It starts with one book. Then another. Followed by another. And so it goes.
“He floated on his back when the valise filled and sank; the river was mild and leisurely, going away from the people who ate shadows for breakfast and steam for lunch and vapors for supper. The river was very real; it held him comfortably and gave him the time at last, the leisure, to consider this month, this year, and a lifetime of years. He listened to his heart slow. His thoughts stopped rushing with his blood.”
Fahrenheit 451 takes us on Montag’s journey of self-discovery. He may not understand why, but he desperately needs to know why. Why are we burning the books? What’s in them?

But what happens if he gets caught?

Fahrenheit 451 is a thought-provoking read. I can honestly say that I got more out of it as an adult than I did in high school, but part of that may be my particular interest in dystopian literature and the current political climate. Bradbury builds a believable (and terrifying) world. My only qualm was that the pacing sometimes slowed just enough that it made it difficult to focus on the story at hand. Overall, I highly recommend Fahrenheit 451 to anyone. 4/5 stars.


4 Stars


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