This post is part of the 2016 April A to Z Challenge.
Book burning has long been a form of censorship in this world. But Ray Bradbury’s 1953 dystopian classic Fahrenheit 451 takes that premise further into a shocking and grim all-too-near future.
Media controls the world. There are televisions in every household,the parlor walls one consistent wall of TV screens, all with different, censored channels. Books are banned. The fire brigade these days only has one job: set fire to each and every book they find.
Meeting a young and liberal neighbour turns the world on its head for fireman Guy Montag. He begins to question his own life and happiness. When he is forced to burn the house and library of an old woman he acts on a whim and rescues one of her books. Seeing the lady setting herself alight rather than give up her books deeply touches Guy. But his wife dismisses his attempts to talk about anything that didn’t come from “the walls,” and Guy soon realises that his wife and her friends are utterly vacant of independent thoughts and ideas.
The story is a cautionary tale about state censorship and the dangers of an illiterate society. As Guy and his one confidant become outcasts of society, hunted by a book-detecting mechanical hound, and forced to destroy everything they hold dear, one thing becomes clear: you cannot kill a story, no matter how hard you try.
Ray Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 in the mid-twentieth century. It is deeply unnerving and thought-provoking to realise that his dystopian version of the future, ruled by state-dictated mass media and in which books are seen as obsolete at best and dangerous at worst, because they contain ideas and knowledge the state does not want anyone to see, may already be our reality. More than 60 years later, the story remains as relevant as ever, as our society inches closer and closer to his dystopian future. Mankind has burned books. Continues to burn and ban books because they hold controversial ideas. People would rather talk about reality TV shows and trivial topics rather than addressing big issues and emerging ideas.
Fahrenheit 451 should serve as a reminder, that books are necessary in a well-informed and free-thinking society, in which history books can still warn of the mistakes made in the past. It’s been 60 years since the book was published. It seems we still have not learned that lesson. And it makes readers really wonder: are we already living in Bradbury’s dystopia?
My Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥
Title: Fahrenheit 451
Author: Ray Bradbury
Publisher: Del Rey
Release Date: April 1, 2004 (originally published in 1953)
P.S.: The title, Fahrenheit 451, references the average temperature at which paper auto-ignites. Fitting, therefore, for a novel in which books are burned. Nowadays, the auto-ignition range for paper is set from around 440° Fahrenheit to around 480° Fahrenheit as it depends on the type of paper used.