Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
Final Thoughts: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Did I mention Ray Bradbury is my favorite?
I picked up my copy of Fahrenheit451 on a trip to Door County, Wisconsin when I was 14 years old, and since devouring it during the trip, it’s always ranked high on my lists.
Upon rereading it in this, the year of our Lorde, 2018, I’ve realized that I interpreted it entirely differently the second time around.
Guy Montag is a fireman – no, not that kind of fireman. He works for the fire department as a search-and-seizure burner of books. Calls come in to report a neighbor with a hidden novel or a secret library, and the fireman pack up to set the stash aflame. Montag has worked, unquestioning the world he lived in, and supporting his wife, who spends her time in front of a room walled almost completely in television screens. The motto of Montag’s world is unyielding happiness. Even though wars rage on outside of the country, the citizens are kept far and contented on easy entertainment and minimal thought. As Montag develops his own backbone and brain, he sees the flaws in an unthinking world, and strives to dissemble the watered-down society.
Fahrenheit 451 is ultimately a lot more flowery and pondering than my previous Bradbury reads. The author has stated that his books are instinctive works of the heart, and it’s immediately clear that this one was passion project.
This book has been praised as a high example of dystopia and censorship, but upon rereading it, I’ve found that it’s really only slightly either one of those things.
The main point of the book, and the most primary theme that I’d wiped from my own mind the first time I read it, is that the government is not responsible for the censorship that takes place. People, day by day, deemed things offensive, and thus, books were whittled down until nothing was left, and they were burned altogether. When the government finally did take over, they were only furthering a process that had begun in the homes of self-damning citizens anyway. Technology took the place of art, and the citizens were lulled to complacency.
Bradbury, in the book and in the following interview included in my addition, explains that “minorities” are at fault for the dumbing-down of the literature in the book. A marginalized group deems a book offensive, and it disappears. This conversation clearly affected Bradbury in his professional life, so it is a core concept of the fictional novel. His argument is that you can’t please every group of different people, especially as an artist. The erasure of offensive material erases the discussion that would follow, and eventually, a world without debate becomes a world without thought. If we rid ourselves of every complicated material, we would be a mass of sedated non-thinkers, never criticizing, creating, or challenging.
I’m a fierce liberal, so when Bradbury looked to blame minorities for anything, disappointment and anger reared up in my chest. However, upon further discussion, I agree with him. For instance, if Bradbury’s line of thinking offended enough people, we wouldn’t even be having a discussion about this right now. We would literally be moving through life with no interpretations.
Different opinions can be hard to stomach. In modern day, Fahrenheit 451 rings truer than ever. We find ourselves disagreeing with others at almost every turn of sociopolitical debate. But just because we disagree with a statement, does that mean it shouldn’t be said? In literature, even if a book is problematic (like Post Office, for example), I’d rather it exist than disappear, because at least we can talk about why it was problematic in the first place!
We can’t allow ourselves to be in echo chambers. If we have nothing to challenge, we have nothing to learn. If a world of disagreement leads to a world without intellectual thought, I’d rather be uncomfortable than complacent any day. This world exists in Fahrenheit451, and it isn’t too hard to envision.