Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Review: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451 
Written by Ray Bradbury

Published: 1950

Synopsis: Guy Montag was a fireman whose job it was to start fires. And he enjoyed his job. He had been a fireman for ten years, and he had never questioned the pleasure of the midnight runs or the joy of watching pages consumed by flames, never questioned anything until he met a seventeen-year-old girl who told him of a past when people were not afraid. Then Guy met a professor who told him of a future in which people could think. And Guy Montag suddenly realized what he had to do...

"Nobody listens any more. I can'talk to the walls because they're yelling at me. I can't talk to my wife; she listens to the walls."
Wow, there is a lot going on in this book!  Within 165 pages Guy Montag transforms from a man who loves his job as fireman, to a man who questions everything going on around him. He meets a young, whimsical girl, an old professor and college educated tramps. He's chased by a robotic hound, lectured at by his sanctimonious chief and witnesses his wife die and be brought back to life (no spoilers there, it happens in the first few pages). His entire world is shaken in this book, and the result is a complex, and rich short dystopian novel.

In the future books do not exist. Or they do, but owning and reading them is illegal and results in having them, and your house, burnt to the ground. The firemen are responsible for the burning, and are completely unaware of their vocation's previous purpose. There are plenty of rumours around, about firemen putting out flames instead of lighting them, or that books are in fact filled with interesting and delightful words, but this futuristic society is apathetic at best, and too busy killing one another, commiting suicide or staring blankly at their wall TVs. Sounds oddly prophetic right?!

Considering it was written over 60 years ago, Fahrenheit 451 hit pretty close to home on it's idea of a future society. America is at war and is detested by everyone else in the world, people fill their homes with TVs that fill an entire wall (or an entire room in lucky homes),  and stick headphones (known as ear shells) to hear a constant whir of noise all day long. Also, while books are now illegal, it was actually the people who led to that decision. Political correctness reached crazy heights and everyone began taking offence at every little sentence and began hacking away at books until they were bare and unilluminating. All that remained were the cheap stories that had nothing of substance and became the "families" that people watch day in and day out on their TV screens.

As Fahrenheit 451 tells the story of a country bounded by censorship and devoid of intellectual thought or conversation, Ray Bradbury uses the most beautiful, descriptive language to describe it. It adds such weight to the idea of a world without books and imagination to read a book that employs such a diverse range of literary techniques. Of course, words themselves wouldn't be enough by themselves, as Bradbury himself says in Fahrenheit 451;
"Books were only one type of recepticle where we stored a lot of things we were afraid to forget. There is nothing magical in them at all. The magic is only in what the books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us"

So joining the exquisite language is a rich story littered with characters who will capture your hearts or wrath within minutes. It really ticks all the boxes, and I'm not surprised this book has captured the attention of so many readers for so many years. If you haven't yet had the chance to read Fahrenheit 451 I highly recommend you take the time to discover it for yourself. I'm eager to read more of Bradbury now, and see if his other books are as prolific as this one.


  1. I first read this years ago, but reread it at the beginning of this year. It's definitely one of my all-time favourites.

    I agree with you about how up-to-date it seems. As I was reading it I thought how ahead of it's time it was. Not fond of the ending much, but I still love the book :)

  2. The end is probably my least favourite part too. It felt a little rushed, and I had to re-read parts to work out exactly what was happening because it races through so quickly. But that's a small disagreement in an incredible book.

    Have you read any other Bradbury books?

  3. It's been a while since I read this book... but I loved it! I love science fiction books every now and then.


  4. I really liked this when I read it! I loved the bit with the people who had remembered parts of books so nothing would ever be lost, because I was like 'BOOKS! YOU WILL NEVER DIE!' and got a bit excited about it really!



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