Stop Thinking Right Now.
Because that book you have in your hands will cause you to Think.
Prepare for the book to burn.
Thank You for your cooperation.
This is the future world existing just around the corner, only a scant few minutes from our present times. Everyday, books which are filled with ideas to provoke thoughts and feelings in us, are routinely challenged and banned by unthinking and unfeeling scoundrels. These immoral vapid inhabitants of our planet are constantly trying to control what you read in order to control how you think. The scary insane world they propagate is shown in all of it’s terrifying fullness in one book. A literary classic by one of our modern masters.
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. And yes, “they” have attempted to ban this book as well.
A Spoiler Filled Summary Follows.
First published in 1953, this slim volume tells the complete tale of Earth, sometime down our future road, where books of all types are banned. Reading is prohibited by law. Virtually everyone drugs themselves out on television all night and day. Into this time and place we are introduced to Montag, who, while out walking one night, meets a teenage girl named Clarisse. She does the unthinkable and goads him into thinking, creating thoughts of his own, and wonder about all aspects of his life. Montag’s wife is whiling her life away in front of the television, and he cannot seek solace for these uncomfortable ideas at work either. For Montag has the profession of enforcer of this societies rules. He is a fireman.
For in this twisted tormented existence, all houses are fireproof. Firemen are called upon to save citizens from the illicit few who still harbour those dangerous, vile and destructive books. Crashing through your front door, the fireman ransack and pillage all over your home in order to find your treasured hidden books. These offensive items are then piled up in your living room. And then set afire.
Just close your eyes right now and imagine all your books burning up in a massive pile. Terrifying isn’t it?
And this is where the title of the book comes from. The temperature of Fahrenheit 451 is when paper burns. A fact that we never wanted to know, never needed to know, but Bradbury makes it a part of our reality.
And now back to the story of Montag, the man who preaches fire against books, is experiencing doubts about his purpose. His inner turmoil is kept secret from Captain Beatty, the suspicious fire chief, but to no avail. After stealing a book from a “crime scene”, he slowly realizes they are coming for him. Now a fugitive whose only sin was wishing to read, Montag is chased out of the city and into the wilderness away from “civilization.” Meeting up with a group of fellow refuges, Montag settles into his new journey, now finally free to read.
And now he is happy.
Bradbury’s story of burning books became an instant classic and helped launch his greatness. What initially started life as a short story, he nurtured into a fully developed gem about the horrors of censorship. Bradbury saw an evil that existed, that crept along stalking humanity since the dawn of time, and felt emboldened to expose it. He famously wrote the entire manuscript at a local University on a pay typewriter that charged a dime per half hour. That is how strongly Ray Bradbury had to tell Fahrenheit 451. Unfortunately a rather mediocre movie was produced in 1966, which except for a haunting ending is mostly a waste. It was also mentioned in singer’s Rachel Bloom musical ode to Bradbury, a song that can be easily found on Youtube and is NSFW.
Their are two reasons for my diatribe today. One reason is to pay tribute to a fine excellent book that teaches you to cherish reading and knowledge and ideas. The lifeblood of our soul. The second reason is because coming up is Freedom To Read Week. Beginning Sunday February 26th and ending Saturday March 3rd and is organized by the Freedom of Expression Committee of the Book and Periodical Council. This annual event wants Canadians to think about and value their freedom to read what they want, when they want. This proved to me the perfect confluence of events, the story that epitomizes the fight for the right to think, married to the week that celebrates your right to think.
If you have never read Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, this week would be the perfect time to. The intellectual charlatans who loudly proclaim moral objections to various books are really cowards afraid of the ideas expressed. They deserve no attention and should be granted no quarter. The existence of Montag must never come to be.
The present world we live in is wonderful, a beautiful here and now. Everyday, books which are filled with ideas to provoke thoughts and feelings in us, are routinely consumed and enjoyed by thinking and feeling people. These amazing lively humans on our planet are continually trying to spread happiness by sharing their readings to help cause you to think. The encouraging healthy vision they propel is what society starts to transform into at the conclusion of one book. A literary classic by one of our modern masters that will never come to be.
Start Thinking Right Now.
Because that book you have in your hands will cause you to Think.
Prepare for the book to be read.
Thank You for your excitement.
This compact little story still packs a punch, although parts of it seem less prescient than others. In this futuristic tale, Bradbury imagines a world where books are illegal and firemen are hired to burn book stashes wherever they are found. Bradbury's protagonist, the fireman Montag, is jolted by a series of encounters and events into rebelling against his vocation and secretly hiding books himself. This leads to a clash with the authorities and the need for Montag to go on the run.
The contempt for the written word certainly seems to fit our times as well as the times of Bradbury, however the distinct roles played by the different sexes comes across as quaint in our world. As well, our time seems more indifferent to the words of the past than hostile, more Brave New World than Fahrenheit 451. Nevertheless this tale engagingly provokes thought about the value of the written word, and how easily it can be lost
on January 13, 2000
I hadn't read this Bradbury's classic for 15 years. I had 14 years old then and though I liked it, I appreciate it now even more. Should I think I was not mature enough to understand all the ins and outs of the book?
When Ray Bradbury published his Fahrenheit 451 several decades ago, he depicted a decaying society, only preoccupied by its facade of happiness. Not that people are entirely free of the usual constraints but everything is done through games, shows, comics for them to forget the notion of thinking, source of all distress and misery. Those who resist are destroyed, dangerous books (those *who* make think) are burnt. And finally, does it work after so much trouble?
Well, at first sight, it depends on the basic purpose of the system. If its aim is to make people happy, it's undoubtedly a catastrophic failure. On the other hand, if it plans on making people believe they are happy or at least act as if they were, the answer may appear less immediate but little by little, you realize that for most of the characters, and therefore for probably most of the society, it comes to the same thing.
Montag, the fireman who burns the books, is suddenly confronted to the emptiness of his life. Is he happy? No. He will refuse the system and fight, like Granger and the old Faber. Mildred, Montag's wife, has accepted it all. It's so practical for her to live without thinking, with a virtual family on screens around the walls of the parlor. She has friends she can talk with. She has plenty of leisure, goes on parties, but is she happy? Can she be happy when she frequently needs a bunch of pills to get dopey to the point of risking her life? Obviously not. Same for her friends, you'll see it fast.
Two characters are really apart in this book.
Clarisse, for example, doesn't like or hate that fake prosperity, simply because she doesn't care. She just does what she likes and she's happy. It's probably the only person you'll meet who is. Unfortunately, it will kill her but her short encounter with Montag will have been fundamental.
Okay, I admit it, even if he's not from the "good" side, I've a compassion of some sort for the last important character of the story, Captain Beatty, the firemen's chief. He's really disconcerting, an opponent worthy of Montag. You quickly feel his cogency, his volubility. Despite his current lifework, it's easy to suspect he read a lot in the past and reflected over everything. He would once have been a precious ally for Montag but now, it's too late. He abides by the system and resigned himself, sincerely convinced of its ineluctability. So, of course, he must oppose Montag. The way he dies, the way he chooses to die, is terrible and you'll realize then what despair has haunted that man, how strong his disgust of life has been.
Oh, while I'm writing this, I've just remembered a scenery. In fact, each time I think about Fahrenheit, this one always comes to my mind. At a certain point of the 2nd part, Montag thrust himself in the parlor occupied by Mildred and her friends who were watching their favorite show on the 3 walls, the White Cartoon Clown. Montag pulls the switch, and after some words exchanged about the coming war, he simply says "Let's talk." The passage that immediately follows his request is powerful, from the bewildering words of Mrs Phelps about the children she never had to the furor of Montag appealing them to get out of his house, it's a total delight! I guess it's only there that the reader discovers in what terribly absurd world s/he was dived. This passage is a great moment of literature history, I swear you! :)
If you make up your mind and wish to buy that magnum opus, I suggest you buy the 40th anniversary edition for Fahrenheit deserves a choice place in your library. The dustcover is beautiful, with the back reproducing the original illustration. Now, let's remove delicately the dust cover. Wow, there's a nice hardcover under it, the main sides are light brown and my fingers can feel the author's name raised slightly in the same color :) and on the black edge, title, author and editor are in gold letters. Hum! Hum! What's more? Ah, yes, a very interesting and recent foreword by Ray Bradbury, very instructive, it explains everything: the genesis of the book, the historical context, the how and the why. The original introduction (written in 1966) is still there, as captivating as the foreword, both of them are worth reading. From all points of view, I'm very proud to own this edition. I hope you'll feel the same pride.