Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451

The terrifyingly prophetic novel of a post-literate future.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,...

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Title:Fahrenheit 451
Author:Ray Bradbury
Rating:
ISBN:0007491565
Edition Language:English
Format Type:Hardcover
Number of Pages:227 pages

Fahrenheit 451 Reviews

  • She-Who-Reads
    Jul 11, 2007

    Somehow, I have gotten through life as an English major, book geek,

    a science-fiction nerd without ever having read this book. I vaguely remember picking it up in high-school and not getting very far with it. It was an interesting premise, but far too depressing for my tastes at the time.

    Fast-forward 15 years later. I just bought a copy the other day to register at BookCrossing for their Banned Books Month release challenge. The ALA celebrates Banned Books Week in September, so one BXer chal

    Somehow, I have gotten through life as an English major, book geek,

    a science-fiction nerd without ever having read this book. I vaguely remember picking it up in high-school and not getting very far with it. It was an interesting premise, but far too depressing for my tastes at the time.

    Fast-forward 15 years later. I just bought a copy the other day to register at BookCrossing for their Banned Books Month release challenge. The ALA celebrates Banned Books Week in September, so one BXer challenged us to wild release books that had at one point or another been banned in this country during the entire month.

    fits the bill -- an irony that is not lost on anyone, I trust. (Everyone knows

    is about the evils of censorship and banning books, right? The title refers to the temperature at which paper burns.)

    I didn't intend to start reading it. I really didn't. Somehow it seduced me into it. I glanced at the first page and before I knew it, it was 1:00 in the morning and I was halfway through with the thing. It's really good! No wonder it's a modern classic. Montag's inner emotional and moral journey from a character who burns books gleefully and with a smile on his face to someone who is willing to risk his career, his marriage, his house, and eventually his life for the sake of books is extremely compelling. That this man, product of a culture that devalues reading and values easy, thoughtless entertainments designed to deaden the mind and prevent serious thought, could come to find literature so essential that he would kill for it...! Something about that really spoke to me.

    It raises the question: why? What is it about books, about poetry, about literature that is so essential to us? There is no doubt in my mind that it

    essential, if not for all individuals (although I find it hard to imagine life without books, I know there are some people who don't read for pleasure, bizarre as that seems to me), then for society. Why should that be? Books don't contain any hard-and-fast answers to all of life's questions. They might contain great philosophical Truths, but only subjectively so -- there will always be someone who will argue and disagree with whatever someone else says. In fact, as Captain Beatty, the evil fire chief, points out, no two books agree with each other. What one says, another contradicts. So what, then, is their allure? What is it that made Mildred's silly friend start to weep when Montag read the poem "Dover Beach" aloud to her? Where does the power of literature come from?

    I think the reason that books are so important to our lives and to the health of our society -- of any society -- is not because they give us answers, but because they make us ask the questions. Books -- good books, the books that stay with you for years after you read them, the books that change your view of the world or your way of thinking -- aren't easy. They aren't facile. They aren't about surface; they're about depth. They are, quite literally, thought-provoking. They require complexity of thought. They require effort on the part of the reader. You get out of a book what you put into the reading of it, and therefore books satisfy in a way that other types of entertainment do not.

    And they aren't mass-produced. They are individual, unique, gloriously singular. They are each an island, much-needed refuges from an increasingly homogeneous culture.

    I'm glad I read

    , even if the ending was rather bleak. It challenged me and made me think, stimulated me intellectually. We could all do with a bit of intellectual stimulation now and then; it makes life much more fulfilling.

  • J.G. Keely
    Oct 25, 2007

    Farenheit 451 has been analyzed and reinterpreted by every successive generation to change its meaning. This is chiefly because the book is full of assumptions and vague symbolism which can be taken many ways, and rarely does anyone come away from the book with the conclusion the author intended, which would suggest that it is a failed attempt.

    There are grounds to contend that even the title is inaccurate, since contemporary sources suggest paper

    , which in Farenhe

    Farenheit 451 has been analyzed and reinterpreted by every successive generation to change its meaning. This is chiefly because the book is full of assumptions and vague symbolism which can be taken many ways, and rarely does anyone come away from the book with the conclusion the author intended, which would suggest that it is a failed attempt.

    There are grounds to contend that even the title is inaccurate, since contemporary sources suggest paper

    , which in Farenheit would be more than 800 degrees. The truth is, paper combustion is gradual and dependent on many factors; even if some paper might combust at 451F, his title is at best an oversimplification, but Bradbury was more interested in a punchy message than in constructing a thoughtful and well-supported argument.

    It's not a book about book censorship, but a book about how TV will rot your brain. Bradbury himself has stated this again and again, as evidenced in

    which quotes Bradbury and in

    from Bradbury's own website--indeed, in an interview, he stated he was inspired to write it because he was horrified

    while walking her dog. Not only does he patronizingly assume that she's listening to a soap opera, instead of news, or appreciating classical music, but it's a strangely anti-technology pose for a sci fi writer to take--does it really matter whether we get our art and knowledge from compressed tree pulp, or from radio transmissions?

    This book falls somewhat short of its satirical mark based on this cranky lawn-loving neighbor's message. Then again, it was written in the course of a few days in one long, uninterrupted slurry (mercifully edited by his publishers, but now available utterly restored). It contains archetypes, misconceptions, and an author surrogate, but can still be seen as a slighting view of authority and power, and of the way people are always willing to deceive themselves.

    Unfortunately, Bradbury did not seem to recognize that reading has always been the province of a minority and that television would do little to kill it. More books are written, published, and read today than at any other point in history. Most of them are just redundant filler, but so is 90% of any mass creative output, books, art, movies, or TV, as Sturgeon

    . And there's nothing new about that, either: cheap, trashy novels have been a joke since the Victorian.

    Television is a different medium than books, and has its own strengths and weaknesses. Bradbury's critique of TV--that it will get larger, more pervasive, and become an escape for small minds--is just as true of books. As for television damaging social interaction, who is less culturally aware: the slack-jawed boy watching television or the slack-jawed boy reading one uninspired relic of genre fiction after another? I read a lot of books as a kid and watched a lot of TV, and each medium provided something different. Neither one displaced the other, since reading and watching aren't the same experience.

    There is an egalitarian obsession that people are all capable of being informed and intelligent. We now send everyone to college, despite the fact that for many people, college is not a viable or useful route. The same elitism that values degrees values being 'well-read', and since this is the elitism of the current power structure, it is idealized by the less fortunate subcultures. Bradbury became informed not because he read, but by what he read. He could have read a schlocky pop novel every day for life and still been as dull as the vidscreen zombies he condemns.

    He has mistaken the medium for the message, and his is a doubly mixed message, coming from a man who had

    .

  • Tyler
    Dec 28, 2007

    Few appreciate irony as much as I do, so understand that I understand this review. The message of this book is decent: knowledge should not be censored. However, the rest of the book is utter shit. I found myself actually screaming at several points as Bradbury spent minutes and dozens of metaphors and allusions referring to one insignificant detail of the plot. It is too damn flowery to be understandable by anyone! In other words, an English teacher's dream. In addition, the story was about the

    Few appreciate irony as much as I do, so understand that I understand this review. The message of this book is decent: knowledge should not be censored. However, the rest of the book is utter shit. I found myself actually screaming at several points as Bradbury spent minutes and dozens of metaphors and allusions referring to one insignificant detail of the plot. It is too damn flowery to be understandable by anyone! In other words, an English teacher's dream. In addition, the story was about the message not the story in and of itself. Those of you who know me understand that this is that I detest most about classics, tied with how everyone reveres them without reading them.

    The Coda and Afterword just add to the confuse making me confused on whether Bradbury is a very hateful man or just a hypocrite. The main plot of the novel itself is that the majority rule canceled out intellectualism while in the Coda (maybe Afterword, I don't remember which was which) Bradbury blasts minorities (all, including racial, religious, etc.) for creating an overly sensitive society. Oddly enough, his heroes are the minority. Ha. Furthermore, the Coda is a hefty "Fuck you" to anyone that wants to critique his work in any way not positive. Therefore, I feel obliged to respond in turn: "Fuck you, Ray Bradbury. Your writing style is shit and I won't force it on my worst enemy." Harsh, I know, but true. If you do need to read this book, I suggest a Cliff Notes version as long as you can appreciate that irony.

  • Cecily
    Apr 15, 2016

    Library as cathedral, as all libraries should be - John Rylands Library, Manchester.

    Image source:

    This is a book about the power of books that is itself steeped with references, both explicit and indirect, to the great works that permeate our culture so thoroughly that we do not always notice them - until they’re gone. Bradbury shows us the horror of a hedonistic but unhappy world where books and ideas are banned in t

    Library as cathedral, as all libraries should be - John Rylands Library, Manchester.

    Image source:

    This is a book about the power of books that is itself steeped with references, both explicit and indirect, to the great works that permeate our culture so thoroughly that we do not always notice them - until they’re gone. Bradbury shows us the horror of a hedonistic but unhappy world where books and ideas are banned in the futile pursuit of the illusion of happiness. As with A Clockwork Orange (

    ), there is a constant tension between the deliciously poetic language and the horrors of the setting.

    The intended message of this 62-year-old novel is different: a prescient warning about the addictive power of continuous, passive imbibing from the virtual worlds and interactive screens that are our constant companions. I guess Bradbury was so infused in bookish culture himself that he didn’t realise how loudly the literary message shouts from every page, almost drowning out everything else: read me, love me, touch me, treasure me.

    See this excellent article (thanks, Apatt!) for Bradbury's views on the persistent misinterpretation of his book:

    .

    Nevertheless, the balance of themes is shifting: smartphones and the Internet of Things mean we’re catching up with Bradbury’s vision. Certainly, I was more aware of his technological warning than on previous readings - but it’s still the insatiable thirst for what is

    and from books (ideas, discussion, and knowledge) that stokes my passion for this novel:

    “The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us.”

    The weak characterisation, cruelly caricatured Mildred, and the rationale and details of the totalitarian state’s oppression, censorship (sadly apt after the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris in January 2015), and warmongering are secondary - just the canvas on which Bradbury delicately paints his nightmare, by moonlight, to the pitter-patter of raindrops and the whisper of falling leaves.

    The plot is well-known: It is set in the near future, where all books are banned because they are elitist and hence cause unhappiness and division. Instead, the population is fed continuous inane soap operas to lull their minds into soporific approximation of non-unhappiness. TV really does rot their brains, or at least sap their ability to think for themselves. Firemen no longer put out fires, but instead burn houses where books are found.

    Montag is a fireman, so part of the regime. But he is tempted by the unknown promise of what he destroys, takes greater and greater risks, and ends up a fugitive, living rough with other rebels, each of whom has memorised a book so that when things change, they can be rewritten. (Ironically, these people also destroy books - just the physical ones, after they have memorised them.)

    There are three parts:

    1. “It Was a Pleasure to Burn” shows the restrictions of Montag’s world, and his growing, but unfocused, dissatisfaction with it, contrasted with beautiful imagery of the natural world, especially moonlight and trees - and fire.

    2. “The Sieve and the Sand” is about confrontation: with self and others - with truth.

    3. Finally, in “Burning Bright”, revelation leads to liberation, danger, and the possibility of freedom. But at what cost?

    I had forgotten (or maybe never noticed!) how wonderful the language is. This review is even more focused on quotes than usual, so I never forget.

    • "The trees overhead made a great sound of letting down their

    .”

    • “They walked in the

    blowing night on the silvered pavement.”

    • “He felt his body divide itself into a

    , a softness and a hardness, a trembling and a not trembling, the two halves grinding one upon the other.”

    • “He was moving from an unreality that was frightening into a

    because it was new.”

    • “The Mechanical Hound

    , lived but did not live.”

    This thing, this high-tech version of the most atavistic, omnipotent monsters that plague our dreams from infancy, is where Bradbury’s hybrid of beauty and horror reaches its peak:

    • “The moonlight… touched here and there on the brass and the copper and the steel of the faintly trembling beast. Light flickered on bits of ruby glass and on sensitive capillary hairs in the nylon-brushed nostrils of the creature that quivered gently, gently, gently, its eight legs spidered under it on rubber-padded paws.”

    • “Out of the helicopter glided something that was not machine, not animal, not dead, not alive, glowing with a pale green luminosity.”

    • “He could feel the Hound, like autumn, come cold and dry and swift, like a wind that didn't stir grass… The Hound did not touch the world. It carried its silence with it.”

    • “Laughter blew across the moon-colored lawn.”

    • “The moonlight distilled in each eye to form a silver cataract.”

    • “They read the long afternoon through while the cold November rain fell from the sky in the quiet house. They sat in the hall because the parlour was so empty and gray-looking without its walls lite with orange and yellow confetti.”

    • “You could feel the war getting ready in the sky that night. The way the clouds moved aside and came back, and the way the stars looked, a million of them swimming between the clouds… and the feeling that the sky might fall upon the city and turn it to chalk dust, and the moon go up in red fire.”

    • “The river was mild and leisurely, going away from the people who ate shadows for breakfast and steam for lunch and vapours for supper.”

    • “The more he breathed the land in, the more he was filled up with all the details of the land. He was not empty.”

    • “The flapping pigeon-winged books died on the porch.”

    • “They fell like slaughtered birds and the woman stood below, like a small girl, among the bodies.”

    • “The books lay like great mounds of fishes left to dry.”

    • “Their covers torn off and spilled out like swan-feathers.”

    • “The books leapt and danced like roasted birds, their wings ablaze with red and yellow feathers.”

    • “Light the first page, light the second page. Each becomes a black butterfly.”

    • “The floor littered with swarms of black moths that had died in a single storm.”

    If BuzzFeed is to believed (a medium-sized "if", imo), its original title was not "Fahrenheit 451", but "The Fireman". He and his publishers thought it a boring title, so they called a local fire station and asked what temperature paper burned at. The firemen put Bradbury on hold while they burned a book, then reported back the temperature, and the rest is history.

    • The opening sentence: “It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and

    . with this brass nozzle in his fists, with this great python spitting its venomous kerosene upon the world, the blood pounded in his head, and his hands were the hands of some amazing conductor playing all the symphonies of blazing and burning to bring down the tatters and charcoal ruins of history.”

    • “The books went up in sparkling whirls and blew away on a wind turned dark with burning.”

    • “Those who do not build must burn.” (Do they ignite the fire, or are they consumed by it?)

    • “It’s perpetual motion; the thing man wanted to invent but never did.”

    • “A bloom of fire, a single wondrous blossom that curled in petals of yellow and blue and orange.”

    • A bonfire, “was not burning; it was

    ... He hadn’t known fire could look this way. He had never thought… it could give as well as take.”

    Many of the reasons given could just as easily apply to TV shows; Faber says as much to Montag, “It’s not books you need, it’s some of the things that once were in books” and that those same things could be in the TV shows, but aren’t. Instead, the TV shows are specially designed to numb minds to all except vague pleasure.

    • “Books aren’t people… my family [soap stars] is people”.

    • “None of these books agree with each other… The people in those books never lived.”

    • “It didn’t come from the government down… Technology, mass exploitation, and minority pressure carried the trick… Today… you can stay happy all the time” because only comics, confessions and trade journals are permitted.

    • “The firemen are rarely necessary. The public stopped reading of its own accord.”

    • “We must all be alike. Not everyone was born free and equal, as the Constitution says, but everyone

    equal… Then all are happy”, protected from the “rightful dread of being inferior”.

    • “Our civilization is so vast that we can’t have our minorities upset and stirred”, so everything that might upset anyone is destroyed.

    • Filled with facts, people “feel they’re thinking… they’ll be happy because facts of that sort don’t change.”

    • “All the silly things the words mean, all the false promises, and all the second hand notions and time-worn philosophies.”

    There is bitter irony in a “living room” where the only “living” is that of fictitious people, passively observed on the huge screens on the walls.

    • Entering the bedroom “was like coming into the cold marbled room of a mausoleum after the moon had set.”

    • “Her eyes fixed to the ceiling by invisible threads of steel, immovable. And in her ears the little Seashells, the thimble radios tamped tight, and an electronic ocean of sound… coming in on the shore of her unsleeping mind. The room was indeed empty.”

    • “People don’t talk about anything… They name a lot of cars or clothes or swimming-pools and say how swell.”

    • Brainwashing: “It’s always someone else’s husband dies.” and “Nothing will ever happen to me.”

    • Clarice’s face had “a kind of gentle hunger that touched over everything with tireless curiosity”.

    • “He felt his smile slide away, melt, fold over, and down on itself like a tallow skin, like the stuff of a fantastic candle burning too long and now collapsing and now blown out. Darkness.”

    • A stomach pump: “looking for all the old water and old time gathered there… Did it drink of the darkness?... The impersonal operation… could gaze into the soul of the person whom he was pumping out.”

    • “The world had melted down and sprung up in a new and colorless formation.”

    • “He slapped her face with amazing objectivity.” (It is not being condoned.)

    • “She made the empty rooms roar with accusation and shake down a fine dust of guilt that was sucked into their nostrils and they plunged about.” That’s why owners shouldn’t be present.

    • “Time has fallen asleep in the afternoon sunshine.” A line from a poem by Alexander Smith that Montag glimpses, “but it blazed in his mind for the next minutes as if stamped there with fiery steel.”

    • “His hand had been infected [by picking up a book], and soon it would be his arms. He could feel the poison working up… His hands were ravenous. And his eyes were beginning to feel hunger, as if they must look at something, anything, everything.”

    • “I don’t talk

    … I talk the

    of things.”

    • “If you read fast and read all, maybe some of the sand will stay in the sieve.”

    • “The good writers touch life often. The mediocre ones run a quick hand over her. The bad ones rape her and leave her for the flies.”

    • “They were like a monstrous crystal chandelier tinkling in a thousand chimes, he saw their Cheshire Cat smiles burning through the walls.”

    • "There was a crash like falling parts of a dream fashioned out of warped glass, mirrors, and crystal prisms."

    • “We cannot tell the precise moment when friendship is formed. As in filling a vessel drop by drop, there is at last a drop which makes it run over; so in a series of kindnesses there is at last one which makes the heart run over.” From Boswell’s The Life of Samuel Johnson.

    • A buzzing helicopter “like butterflies puzzled by autumn”.

    • A ten-lane highway: “A boatless river frozen there in the raw light of the high white arc-lamps; you could drown trying to cross it.”

    • “His nose was suddenly good enough to sense the path he had made in the air of the room.”

    I choose to inhale and absorb the atmosphere of the book, without stopping every few sentences to investigate each possible reference and quote, but those who enjoy literary detective work will find plenty of material here.

    The other mystery is Captain Beatty: he is remarkably well-versed in the classics of literature, philosophy and history. “I was using the very books you clung to, to rebut you… What traitors books can be.” But is that explanation enough?

    The obvious question is, if you were going to become a book and memorise it for posterity, what would you choose? Would it be cheating to pick "Fahrenheit 451"? Should it be for personal comfort or something that will be useful in rebuilding society?

    The hardest questions is, would you give up everything for literature?

    “All we can do is keep the knowledge… We’re no more than dust jackets for books, of no significance otherwise… You’re not important. You’re not anything. Some day the load we’re carrying with us may help someone.” When people ask what we do, “We’re remembering”.

    I love the fact that this book is a paean to the power of the written word: that people will live and die for it, and will wither without the transformative power of fictional worlds and the insights of others. The lure and love of literature is irrepressible.

    ."

    Related to this - and to 1984 - Derek (Guilty of thoughtcrime) wrote in a group discussion: "there's a distinct echo in both books of the Garden of Eden story, with Eve tempting Adam to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. And in each case, it's a denial of the dogma that this is the original sin."

  • Brian
    Jan 23, 2009

    I am in 6th grade. My Language Arts teacher assigns us a book report; tells us we can choose the book but that our grade will be based on the maturity of the novel the report is based upon.

    My mother and I are in K-mart. I've mentioned to her about this book report to be done, and so before we leave with a basket filled with clothes I know I will be embarrassed to wear, we stop by the rack of books. She selects a few pulp paperback titles, throws them into the cart.

    A few days later she hands me

    I am in 6th grade. My Language Arts teacher assigns us a book report; tells us we can choose the book but that our grade will be based on the maturity of the novel the report is based upon.

    My mother and I are in K-mart. I've mentioned to her about this book report to be done, and so before we leave with a basket filled with clothes I know I will be embarrassed to wear, we stop by the rack of books. She selects a few pulp paperback titles, throws them into the cart.

    A few days later she hands me

    . "I've read those books I purchased," she says. "I think this is the best of the bunch. You should like it."

    I am skeptical. When does a 12 year-old boy like anything that his mother does? I admit to myself that the cover looks really awesome - a black suited, menacing man shooting flames over something that looks like books. I give it a go.

    Tearing through the pages, the chapters, the three sections, I finish it over a weekend and am in awe. A fireman that starts fires? Books are outlawed? I look at the small library that I've had since childhood; a shelf of about 30 books. They now look to my 12 year old eyes as books of a child.

    is the book that launched me from childhood, my first book dealing with the adult world.

    I ask my mother to box up my old books and put them in the attic. I am proud to start a new library with this novel as my first edition. I carefully, lovingly, sign my name on the inside cover. Let the firemen come, I think, I am proud to be a book-reader.

    I continue to read this book again and again through the years. I enroll in a college course at Penn State my freshman year, simply because this book is on the course materials. I memorized the entire poem

    because it is the selection Bradbury chose to have Montag read aloud to his wife and her friends. As the years roll by, and I age through my 20s and 30s, I noticed that fewer and fewer of the people I know read any books. Even my avid reading friends from childhood moved on to their careers, their marriages, their children. In the late 1990s a friend invited me to his house to show off a proud new purchase - a television screen the size of one of his walls. I mention how frightening this was, that he was basically mainlining Bradbury's foreshadowing. He handed me a beer and fired up

    ; told me to relax. I watched the movie and felt like a traitor.

    The last time I read F451 was about 10 years ago - I think I was afraid that if I were to pick it up again that it would diminish in its importance to me - much like

    and

    . But on this first day in May I have a day-trip to Socal for business and I bring this book with me. And I love it, all over again, as if reading it for the first time. Until

    came along, this was my favorite book. I remember why.

    I joined Goodreads in 2009 with low expectations. I am not a social media person. I've given up twice on Facebook; the last time for good. But there was something I found here that reminded me of Montag's joining the campfire of fellow readers. We may all be from different walks of life from places all around the world, but we come here often and with excitement - because we love books. They are some of the most important things to us and our lives would be ruined without them.

    So to you, my fellow Goodreaders, tonight I raise a glass to each of you, and I want to say thank you thank you thank you for making my life better, for exposing me to authors I would have never known, and for reminding me that although I'll never get to all of the books I want to read in this life, I can stand on the shoulders of you giants and witness more of the wonders of the written word.

  • Lyn
    Jul 30, 2011

    Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 is a novel that transcends it's dystopian theme and delivers its cautionary message in a timeless fashion, what made this story compelling in 1953 remains provocative.

    It is a strident call to arms, a warning siren of darkness always on the perimeter.

    Critics have tried to make more of this, and certainly it is an archetypal work, but I think its simplicity is its great strength - it is fundamentally about book burning, literally and metaphorically. A powerful allegory t

    Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 is a novel that transcends it's dystopian theme and delivers its cautionary message in a timeless fashion, what made this story compelling in 1953 remains provocative.

    It is a strident call to arms, a warning siren of darkness always on the perimeter.

    Critics have tried to make more of this, and certainly it is an archetypal work, but I think its simplicity is its great strength - it is fundamentally about book burning, literally and metaphorically. A powerful allegory that also works well as a prima facie argument against censorship and a good science fiction novel all by itself.

    Bradbury has stated that the novel is not about censorship, but a story about how television destroys interest in reading literature, which leads to a perception of knowledge as being composed of factoids, partial information devoid of context - and I can see that (and in an age of Vine and Twitter this message is all too relevant), but for me the image of the ironic fireman burning books is the endearing story.

    This is a book that everyone should read at least once.

  • Emily May
    Aug 21, 2012

    As I write this review, the year is 2012. We do not live in a perfect world; in fact, in many ways we don't even live in a good world. But one thing I believe with all my heart is that we live in a world which, on the whole, is better than it was fifty years ago. Now, I know I'm writing with limited perspective and that progression and development hasn't been the same all over the globe and even the definition of those words can change depending on what part of the world you live in. But here's

    As I write this review, the year is 2012. We do not live in a perfect world; in fact, in many ways we don't even live in a good world. But one thing I believe with all my heart is that we live in a world which, on the whole, is better than it was fifty years ago. Now, I know I'm writing with limited perspective and that progression and development hasn't been the same all over the globe and even the definition of those words can change depending on what part of the world you live in. But here's what I do know: the average world life expectancy is higher, the infant mortality rate is lower, access to education is greater and the amount of countries that hold regular, fair elections has increased.

    On average, people today are smarter than they were fifty years ago. And I know this is where older generations throw up their hands in indignation and start yelling about how exams were much harder in "their day" and they really had to work for it. I am not disputing this, I have no idea if it's true or not. But what is true is that more people today than ever before are going on to further education after high school, the barriers that once stopped the working class from being as smart as society's more privileged members are slowly starting to break down bit by bit. Literacy rates have been on the rise the whole world over:

    It's true. We have entered the age of computers and electronics, social networking and personal media players... and the world has not ended, the robots haven't taken over and people haven't become so stupid that they feel the need to rage a war against books. And this is the main reason why I think Bradbury's dystopian tale is out of date and ineffective. The author was writing at a time when technology was really starting to get funky, the digital age was still decades away but people were doing all kinds of crazy things like listening to music with little cones plugged into their ears. Bizarre.

    Readers often choose to view Bradbury's story as one about censorship instead of technology because that allows a more modern reader to connect with the world portrayed. But taken as it was intended, I just don't share the author's sentiments. Not all technology is good, but I'm of the opinion that the good outweighs the bad: medical advancements, entertainment, access to information via the internet... I'm the very opposite of a technophobe because, in my opinion, forward is the way to go. And I'm sure it's because of the age I was born into, but I cannot relate to the apprehension that Bradbury feels when he tells of this true story (note: this is not in the book):

    I know many still think today that we are becoming a completely unsociable species because of mobile/cell phones, social networking sites, etc. but I have made friends from all over the world thanks to technology. I have talked to people that fifty years ago I would never have known, I have learned about different cultures and ways of life because I have access to most areas of the world through the web. So, no, I'm not scared of this so-called technological threat that is somehow going to turn our brains to mush and create a society where we cannot concentrate long enough to read a book. And here is where I (finally) get on to details of this novel.

    What I am supposed to believe in here is that - because of technology - humanity has become so stupid that they couldn't concentrate on books. So books were simplified at first for easier understanding, then banned, then burnt. Why? I am okay with the realistic aspect of "people have short attention spans because of technology so they don't want to read books", but why burn books? I don't see why this would need to happen and why it would become a criminal offense to have books in your home. This is where I understand why so many people prefer to apply this novel's message to censorship, because it works so much better that way. The argument for the technological side of it is weak - even for the time in question.

    The best thing about this whole book is the discussion about the phoenix and the comparisons made between the legendary bird and humanity: in the same way that the bird dies in flames only to be reborn again from the ashes, humanity constantly repeats mistakes made throughout history and never seems to learn from them. Secondly, to give credit where it's due, the writing is suitably creepy for a dystopian society and I understand why people who do actually share Bradbury's concerns would be caught up in the novel's atmosphere. But, overall, this wasn't a great dystopian work for me, I didn't agree with the point it was trying to sell me and I don't think it made a very successful case for it. Furthermore, I had some problems with the pacing. The book is split into three parts and the first two are much slower and uneventful than the last one - which seems to explode with a fast sequence of events in a short amount of time and pages. Disappointing.

  • Huda Yahya
    Aug 25, 2012
  • Alex
    Dec 29, 2012

    That is a very unpleasant metaphor, and Fahrenheit 451 is an unpleasant book. It feels like it was written by a teenager, and if I were his teacher I'd give it a B- and not let my daughter date the weird little kid who wrote it.

    Its protagonist, Montag, lacks any character; he changes as Bradbury's shitty story requires him to, from the dumbest kid on the world (his

    That is a very unpleasant metaphor, and Fahrenheit 451 is an unpleasant book. It feels like it was written by a teenager, and if I were his teacher I'd give it a B- and not let my daughter date the weird little kid who wrote it.

    Its protagonist, Montag, lacks any character; he changes as Bradbury's shitty story requires him to, from the dumbest kid on the world (his cousin once offered to pay him a dime to fill a sieve with sand and he sat there for ages crying and dumping sand into it - I understand that's a metaphor, but it's a metaphor for a moron) to a mastermind (telling Faber how to throw the Hound off his scent). You ever see film of someone skipping a pebble in reverse? Me neither, but I bet it's like this: plop plop skip skip wtf?

    Each other character exists solely to advance the plot. There's the hot underage Manic Pixie Dream Girl - "her face fragile milk crystal" - who teaches him how to smell dandelions (and whose beauty is harped on endlessly) and then disappears off-stage; Faber, who's all of a sudden like best friends and then disappears off-stage; the bonfire circle of retired professors who happen to be right there when he stumbles out of a river looking for them.

    There's his wife - "thin as a praying mantis from dieting, and her flesh like white bacon." He seems to loathe her, and all real women.

    There's a real conservative streak to this book. It looks backwards, as conservatives do. Bradbury blames his world's disgust with books on "minorities," what we nowadays call "special interest groups":

    These are the only specific examples given during Captain Beatty's central speech about why literature has been banned.

    There are some nice moments here. A disturbed and immature but intelligent kid flailing around will hit a few marks. The central idea? No, no props for that; book-burning was invented centuries ago. But the moment when the TV instructs all citizens to open their doors and look for Montag, that's nice. And the suicidal Captain Beatty is the book's only living character, although his speech is littered with what I swear are just random quotes. I even like the idea of a circle of book-readers, each responsible for remembering a certain book - but it's dealt with so lamely here. "We've invented ways for you to remember everything you've ever read, so it's no problem." Well, in that case I got like half the Canon, y'all can go home. Losers. Wouldn't it be cooler if these people had to work for it?

    Point is, those little flashes of competence are so overwhelmed by terrible philosophy and so ill-sketched themselves that I have no idea how this book has escaped the bonfire of apathy, the worst and most blameless fire of all. It's just a lame, lame book.

    I wouldn't burn this or any book. But I'll do worse: I'll forget all about it.

  • Bookworm Sean
    Apr 25, 2015

    Well, me neither. The burning of books is such an effective tool, so the message of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is scarily real; if society’s wisdom could be taken away then so could their freedom; if knowledge was burnt then the people would be left in a complete state of utter innocent ignorance. That way they could be told anything and no know different. If all books

    Well, me neither. The burning of books is such an effective tool, so the message of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is scarily real; if society’s wisdom could be taken away then so could their freedom; if knowledge was burnt then the people would be left in a complete state of utter innocent ignorance. That way they could be told anything and no know different. If all books were burnt then they are just sheep to be lead. To make it worse the men who do it enjoy it.

    The books are destroyed by a special group of firefighters, yes firefighters, which hunt book readers mercilessly. When they find them they burn their beloved collection and leave them to die. One woman literally burns with her books by her own choosing. I can’t say I blame her, if I was in her position I would do the same. By destroying the knowledge of the nation they reinforce its ignorance, and at the same time their own because they are merely following orders from above. The firefighters don’t know exactly why they do it, they rarely question it, they just do it unflinchingly. Books have become illegal; thus, owning them is a form of disobedience against the state and a violation of the law.

    Guy Montag is one such firefighter. He lives a mundane life with an equally mundane wife. He carries out the book burnings, like the others, without a second thought until one day an innocent young girl changes his life forever. She is his next door neighbour and she is a closet book reader; she asks him a series of questions that makes him realise how stupid and worthless his existence is. He takes solace in a collection of books he has stolen whilst on the job. The knowledge he gains changes his perception of the world forever.

    The books are being destroyed to reinforce ignorance and achieve a docile population. They have fallen out of favour as other mediums have taken priority over them. People who have become hostile to books because they feel inferior when faced with an educated reader; thus, if they are removed for ever everyone will be the same and minorities will be removed. This leaves little room for individuality and freedom. Consequently, when Guy begins reading he does not know what to do anymore; he has been conditioned to act in a certain way, and when liberty presents itself he is reluctant and confused by his new knowledge.

    He has spent his life believing one thing, and is overwhelmed by his new perception, therefor; his actions to resolve the issue are irresponsible and reckless. He just doesn’t know how to behave beyond what he has been taught. He is a reluctant hero, but a hero nonetheless. He has stolen one of the last surviving copies of the Bible, but doesn’t know what it is. However, a professor of the bygone age does. He helps him to re-establish a world in which the knowledge of those that came before isn’t squandered and forgotten.

    Suffice to say, I liked this book a lot. It’s one that will stay with the reader forever, and make them fearful that a day like this could come. Though seriously, if someone came to burn my books I’d kill them. I bought a lovely folio edition of this in which the illustration of the girl came; I even went as far to write a poem/ haiku sequence about the book after reading it. Go easy on it in the comments section please, I never said it was good.

    by me

    I love this book.