Fahrenheit 451

Wow, I guess it’s been 2 months since my last book review, but it’s not because I haven’t been reading. After A Feast for Crows, I started to read a pretty sizable biography about Thomas Jefferson. Unfortunately, it wasn’t really what I was in the mood for reading at the time, so I was slow in reading it. About 2/3 of the way through, Fahrenheit 451 became available for me at the library, so I put down the Thomas Jefferson biography and started to read it instead. I plan on getting back to the biography soon – probably not next, but soon. 😛

Fahrenheit 451Fahrenheit 451 is a dystopian novel written by Ray Bradbury. Although it’s a classic, this was my first time reading the book. Published in 1953, Fahrenheit 451 depicts a future society in which books are illegal, firemen start fires rather than stop them, and people are “happy” living shallow, empty lives in front of the TV. The story centers around Guy Montag, a book-burning fireman who eventually learns the value of books and takes a stand to protect them.

The idea of the role of a fireman morphing from someone who puts out fires to one who starts them was really interesting. I also liked the symbolism of the phoenix at the end of the book, saying that although mankind destroys itself, it then gets reborn from the ashes.

It seems like a lot of people think this book is about censorship, but I’m not really convinced of that. For one thing, Captain Beatty says that it was the people themselves (not the government) who protested books and wanted them banned.

I think the main point of Fahrenheit 451 was not to live shallow lives, passively absorbing meaningless entertainment on TV. The people in the book speed past everything without stopping to enjoy the beauty along the way. Everything they do is on a superficial level; they don’t even bother to get to know their own family. Instead, Bradbury encourages the reader to slow down and think, look around and appreciate life, and make a difference in the world.

I think Bradbury was wrong about one thing, though. He was very critical of technology and he refused for Fahrenheit 451 to be published as en eBook until shortly before his death last year. In Fahrenheit 451, though, he wrote about how it’s the contents of the book and not the book itself that’s important:

It’s not books you need, it’s some of the things that once were in books… The same infinite detail and awareness could be projected through the radios, and televisors, but are not. No, no it’s not books at all you’re looking for! Take it where you can find it, in old phonograph records, old motion pictures, and in old friends; look for it in nature and look for it in yourself. Books were only one type or receptacle where we stored a lot of things we were afraid we might forget. There is nothing magical in them at all. The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us.

While I love and appreciate physical copies of books, I also really enjoy the convenience and portability of eBooks. I’m glad Bradbury finally consented to letting his book be published electronically (which is how I read it), because it’s what’s in the book that matters.