September 5, 2014

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

"There must be something in books, things we can't imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there. You don't stay for nothing.
-from Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

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Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 is a classic dystopian novel that this English major cannot believe she had never read. Guy Montag is a fireman in a future version of America where books are illegal and nearly extinct. Instead of putting out fires, Guy starts them, burning any books that surface along with the houses that hide them. When he meets Clarisse, a girl in his neighborhood who thinks differently than the status quo, it gives Montag a new perspective of how people operate in his world and he begins questioning why books are forbidden. He also recognizes his wife's addiction to television and how it's destroying her. When Montag gets his hands on a book of his own, the world as he knows it begins to unravel and he must make a decision whether to remain ignorant or discover a whole new world through written words.

This book would be wonderful to discuss in a classroom setting or in a book club and I'm really disappointed that none of my high school or college courses had me read this book. There is so much unsaid in this book that Bradbudy conveys through imagery and metaphor; most obviously the irony that a book is trying to communicate the necessity of books to society. I especially enjoyed the world Bradbury created without books and how it illustrated that the absence of books leads to violence, self-absorption, ignorance, conformity, a loss of humanity and an editing of history- amongst many other things. For the time it was written especially, it is fascinating to read about a world without any written accounts and to imagine classic literature completely wiped away from history.

My only criticism also has to do with the time it was written, which is that the style of writing felt very dated to me. This criticism is highly subjective to the reader, but the dialogue especially made me feel like I was reading movie dialogue from It's a Wonderful Life. Similarly there is a lot of meandering detail, sometimes I got a little bit lost in what I was reading, but overall it was a fascinating and easy book to read in a day.

It's almost eerie to look at our world today and see our dependence on television similar to the world in Fahernheit 451; I know many people who relate to the Kardashians as their family in the same way Montag's wife related to her television "family". People would rather spend time watching programs together than sitting on the porch talking the way Clarisse's family chose to spend their time. Bradbury was truly ahead of his time when he predicted the universal addiction of television. Fortunately it doesn't look like books are going anywhere any time soon, even if they have expanded to Kindles and Nooks!

Bottom Line: A must read for any book lover, an easy classic to read in a day if you haven't gotten the chance to read this yet. This would make a great book club read for discussions! 4/5 Stars.

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