(Click the book cover to see on Goodreads)
Genre: Adult, Literary Fiction – Dystopian
Title: Fahrenheit 451
Author: Ray Bradbury
Length: 173 pages
Publication: March 31st 2015 by HarperCollins
Guy Montag is a fireman. His job is to burn books, which are forbidden, being the source of all discord and unhappiness. Even so, Montag is unhappy; there is discord in his marriage. Are books hidden in his house? The Mechanical Hound of the Fire Department, armed with a lethal hypodermic, escorted by helicopters, is ready to track down those dissidents who defy society to preserve and read books.
The classic dystopian novel of a post-literate future, Fahrenheit 451 stands alongside Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World as a prophetic account of Western civilization’s enslavement by the media, drugs and conformity.
Bradbury’s powerful and poetic prose combines with uncanny insight into the potential of technology to create a novel which, decades on from first publication, still has the power to dazzle and shock.
‘Fahrenheit 451’ is written in third person limited past tense with the single character being Guy Montag. He is a young, married man who grew up in the world he currently lives in. As such, he has a distinct view of the world and is resistant to anything that might be different, but it’s this struggle that provides such a strong voice for the book.
Pacing: The pacing of Fahrenheit 451 is actually quite fast, occurring over a matter of a few days, but the style in which the book is written brings down the reading speed. This gives the book the illusion of being a slow read, while the story progresses rapidly.
World: The world in which Fahrenheit 451 takes places is a futuristic dystopian of an unnamed city. Technology has advanced. People can have the news and other such things playing into a tiny earpiece or have walls in their house replaced with TV screens. Cars drive at hundreds of miles per hour. Yet, reading is forbidden. Firemen don’t put them out, but start them because of the societal struggles, prejudices, and opinions that were created by books. As such, the people in this world are generally numb, oblivious, superficial, and self-centered.
Writing: The writing style of Fahrenheit 451 is very unique. A common theme is word vomit. Words are incoherently spewed to a point where they’re tangent-inducing, often times carrying the reader off into a state of incomprehension. Even so, it’s this style that adds to the theme of the book. This whirlwind of words is how the people in the book think, how they act. It’s for that reason that this style of writing works. Often times, it can be quite thought-provoking for the reader. (It was for me.)
Non-Spoilered Plot: The premise for Fahrenheit 451 is that books are burned, not read in order to keep people happy and not offended by the words of another. As such, society has become superficial, unintelligent even. People no longer ponder or wonder. Even so, there are a few who know of the knowledge of books. Just a handful of them come in contact with Guy Montag, a fireman, a burner of books, and in so doing they change his view of the world, and his life, forever.
Character: Guy Montag, a man of indiscriminate age, is the character followed in Fahrenheit 451. Having grown up in the futuristic society, he is accustomed to the social norms, which is shown through his job as a fireman, a burner of books. Even so, he’s not oblivious to the world like many of his fellow citizens. This awareness increases allowing him to question the world as he knows it and the world that used to be. His struggle in deciding which to believe is realistic in that sense that the reader can empathize with him and be swayed towards either side as he is during the course of the story.
Plot: The main plot of the book can be described as a struggle to break free of oppressive, societal norms. In this case, the societal norm is the burning of any and all books. Those who read books and do not burn them are considered criminals. It’s the responsibility of the firemen to burn books, setting fire to houses of those harboring books so that all traces of the wretched items are removed. (Note: Houses are now coated in fireproof material. So, they are unharmed in the burning.)
Guy Montag is one said firemen. He has always done his job correctly: responding to calls and burning books he’s seen. However, due to some strange encounters with Faber, a man in the park who hands himself in as a reader of books, and an oddly behaved girl named Clarisse McClellan, he begins to question whether it’s right to burn books, especially since he has no idea what’s actually in those books. It’s this question that tugs him further and further from the mind-numbing state of the other citizens. It’s this question that gives him awareness.
This awareness however is slowly developed, and only with Faber’s assistance. However, in this awareness, Montag finds himself unable to deal with ‘normal’ society. He can’t handle their nonsense, their vapidness, their selfishness, and ends up spewing about forbidden poetry in front of his wife and her friends. Unfortunately for him, they report him. It’s only when his work directs him to burning his own home that he realizes the consequences of his big mouth and impatience. Patience, which Faber specifically instructed him to have.
Even so, this awareness gives Montag clarity. He sees the world and its corruption and in an attempt to be free of society, he burns his Captain with a flamethrower, destroys a mechanical beast that tracks anyone scent it’s given, aka the Hound, and seeks Faber’s advice. This advice sends him into the countryside.
The countryside harbors other outlaws, misfits, those who once read and taught books, now banished from their previously lives. Yet, they’ve managed to unlock the mind so that anything ever read, even once, can be recalled to memory, making them walking books that will pave the way into the future. Guy becomes one of them as they wait for the war to crush the city. Such an opportunity allows them to return, to start anew, in a world where knowledge is free and reading provokes thoughts.
At least, that was what I got from the ending. It was a bit confusing in my mind. Even so, I found this book to be quite thought-provoking, which is unusual for the books I read and I quite enjoyed the story. More importantly, I enjoyed the connection it had to reality nowadays. (A scary connection at that…) For these reason, I leave ‘Fahrenheit 451’ with four stars.