Author: Ray Bradbury
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: June 2013
SIXTY YEARS AFTER ITS ORIGINAL PUBLICATION, RAY BRADBURY'S internationally acclaimed novel Fahrenheit 451 stands as a classic of world literature set in a bleak, dystopian future. Today its message has grown more relevant than ever before.
Guy Montag is a fireman. 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 when he meets an eccentric young neighbor, Clarisse, who introduces him to a past where people didn't live in fear and to a present where one sees the world through the ideas in books instead of the mindless chatter of television, Montag begins to question everything he has ever known.
This sixtieth-anniversary edition commemorates Ray Bradbury's masterpiece with a new introduction by Neil Gaiman; personal essays on the genesis of the novel by the author; a wealth of critical essays and reviews by Nelson Algren, Harold Bloom, Margaret Atwood, and others; rare manuscript pages and sketches from Ray Bradbury's personal archive; and much more. Here, at last, is the definitive edition of a classic of world literature.
MY THOUGHTS (w/spoilers):
In Fahrenheit 451, Guy Montag is a fireman who becomes disillusioned with his life and marriage. He begins to wonder why people would rather have their houses burned and lives ruined in order to hide, read, learn from the books he is supposed to destroy. Throughout Fahrenheit 451 you see Montag's internal struggle with what he's known and what he wants to know.
Fahrenheit 451 is made up of three parts - "The Hearth and the Salamander," "The Sieve and the Sand" and "Burning Bright". Each part shows Guy Montag's gradual journey to enlightenment. In "The Hearth and the Salamander", we meet Montag who is satisfied with his life, doesn't ask any questions and does the same things day in and day out. Until one night, on his way home from work, he meets a teenage girl named Clarisse McClellan, who engages him in conversation which plants a seed of doubt in the way Montag thinks and what he believes. When he reaches home he finds his wife, Mildred, is passed out and immediately calls for medical attention. He is taken aback and disturbed by the callousness of the EMT's while they were working on his wife. "You don't need an M.D., case like this; all you need is two handymen, clean up the problem in half an hour" said an operator to Montag. The next day Montag is rattled by a work situation which makes him start to question what he does for a living. After a few days, he realizes he hasn't seen Clarisse and is startled to find out her family has moved away after Clarisse died. Montag decides not to go to work because he doesn't think he can handle burning anything while Mildred is only concerned about losing her "family" and home. Unexpectedly Montag's boss, Captain Beatty, pays him a visit to find out how he's doing. Captain Beatty starts to recount to Montag when books became illegal and firemen no longer put out fires but created them. "With school turning out more runners, jumpers, racers, tinkerers, grabbers, snatchers, fliers, and swimmers instead of examiners, critics, knowers, and imaginative creators, the word 'intellectual,' of course, became the swear word it deserved to be. You always dread the unfamiliar. Surely you remember the boy in your own school class who was exceptionally 'bright,' did most of the reciting and answering while the others sat like so many leaden idols, hating him. And wasn't it this bright boy you selected for beating and tortures after hours? Of course it was. We must all be alike. Not everyone born free and equal, as the Constitution says, but everyone made equal, for there are no mountains to make them cower, to judge themselves against. So! A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it. Take the shot from the weapon. Breach man's mind. ...And so when houses were finally fireproofed completely, all over the world (you were correct in your assumption the other night) there was no longer need of firemen for the old purposes. They were given the new job as custodians of our peace of mind, the focus of our understandable and rightful dread of being inferior; official censors, judges, and executors. That's you, Montag, and that's me." Before leaving Montag's home Captain Beatty gives him a warning that if he has a book it would have to be burned within 24 hours. After Captain Beatty leaves Montag divulges his secret to Mildred, he has been collecting books for over a year and he wants to read to find out why people are willing to lose their lives to read them.
The second part, "The Sieve and the Sand", begins with Montag and Mildred reading books. Montag tries to have a conversation with Mildred about what they're reading but she's not interested and doesn't care to discuss anything about it. While figuring out who he can speak to about books he remembers an old English professor, Faber, and decides to go to his house. Faber thought it was a way to trap him and initially refused to help Montag, however, after Montag began ripping pages from a book he reconsidered helping him. After they came up with a plan Montag returned home to find Mildred had visitors, Mrs. Bowles and Mrs. Phelps. Montag tried to engage them in conversation but he found they were all petty, selfish and ignorant. Due to their indifference at discussing topics such as war, their children or losing loved ones, Montag decides to read a poem, Dover Beach, to them. It upset all of them and the women left. Montag decided to hide the rest of the books in his backyard. He went back to work that night with a book since he knew Beatty knew he had one. Beatty continued to engage Montag in a back and forth about books but Faber was instructing Montag, through an earpiece, to stay calm and he will help him reply when Beatty was done. Fortunately, or unfortunately, a call came in and they had to go out on a call. When the Salamander arrived at their destination, Montag realized the destination was his house.
The final part, "Burning Bright", starts with Beatty informing Montag that he sent the Hound to his house to check on him while simultaneously Mildred is seen leaving Montag and the house. Upon Beatty's orders he had to burn his house after being reported by Mildred and her friends. Beatty discovered Montag's earpiece and was planning to come after Faber when Montag turns on him and his coworkers. Before destroying the firehouse's Hound, the Hound was able to inject his leg with a tranquilizer. Montag makes his way to Faber and instructs him of how to get rid of any evidence he has been in his house. Faber directs Montag to the countryside where he can meet other exiled book lovers and he will try to meet up with him later. They watched on TV the manhunt for Montag. "He watched the scene, fascinated, not wanting to move. It seemed so remote and no part of him; it was a play apart and separate, wondrous to watch, not without its strange pleasure. That's all for me, you thought, that's all taking place just for me, by God." Montag was able to make his way to the countryside and meet up with a group of six exiled drifters led by a man named Granger. None of the men had any books but they all remembered one through memory and were hoping to find somewhere safe and start over again. They planned to recount the bits and pieces of books they remembered and pass it on to the younger generation. While they're all discussing a new world that involves literature, jets fly over to destroy the city. Montag thought of Mildred and most likely not being aware a bomb was dropped. They all became overwhelmed seeing another city destroyed and the lives gone. Eventually, they all walked on to the north trying to find refuge and find others.
I LOVE this book. I first read this book in high school and it made an impact on me. I decided to read it again as one of the options for a reading challenge I'm doing. I had forgotten how important this book is and how relatable it is in society right now. I've always loved reading and the thought of not being able to do it because it is illegal or someone made the decision for me is inconceivable to me. The main theme of Fahrenheit is censorship but there is so much more to this book. While this book can also be considered a dystopian book there are certain aspects of it that take place right now. There have been many books that have been banned for some reason or another because there's a word, thought, idea, character that a group of people don't think others should read. Why do we need other people to tell us what to think or what to read? Isn't the point of reading to fulfill a curiosity and for us to be able to make up our own minds or at least ask more questions? Shouldn't it be up to the person who picks up the book to decide for themselves? Or quite possibly show us a different way of thinking and/or can lead to further learning?
There is absolutely no way that I can do this book justice and quite honestly there's been other's who've done it superbly. All I can tell you is what it is about reading that I love? In a nutshell my answer is, every one has a different idea, experience or point of view and an author can take just one moment or thought and write a whole book about it. You can put a handful of people in a room and ask them to describe the same scenario and they will all say/see something different. A book can make someone happy, sad, angry, joyful, subdued, enlightened, contemplative, vengeful, etc. all in a span of a few pages. You never think you can feel all the emotions at one time but you can. Now, not all author's can do this but it's all a gamble as a reader. You never really know what you might think or feel when you read the first page and if you will feel the same when you get to the last page but it's such a great journey. Honestly, I'm very grateful for those who have this talent.
With all of that, I found Fahrenheit 451 to have so many great quotes but I will leave you with this one because it really resonated with me.
"Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you're there. It doesn't matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that's like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime." - Granger to Montag
Have you read Fahrenheit 451? Were there any parts of the book that made an impact on you? Do you have a favorite part? What do you think of Montag? Clarisse? Mildred? Faber? Captain Beatty? How would you feel living in a society where reading or having books is illegal? Would you take a chance having a book? Why or why not? Why do you love to read?
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