Fahrenheit 451

This is the eighth book on my reading list! I’m certainly clearing the list at a snail’s pace. Anyway, Fahrenheit 451 is about a futuristic world where books are banned and firemen, instead of putting out fires, start them in order to burn books. In the story, Ray Bradbury touched on a few reasons as to why books are being banned:

#1 Equality

Beatty, the Fireman Captain, pointed out that books could make people feel inferior to other smarty-pants. For example, in a class, there would usually be one student who would be more academically inclined than the rest. This causes the other students to constantly compare themselves to one another, judging themselves on their own stupidity and feeling unhappy all the time. Beatty believed that books were the culprits which made the presence of such nerds/geeks possible. “So! A book is a loaded gun in the house next door.” Since people are not born equal, he believed that they can be made equal by destroying books.

Just like what Clarisse had noticed, “People don’t talk about anything […] they all say the same things and nobody says anything different from anyone else.” There’s no more individuality. Doesn’t this sound like Communism? Mental equality seems much scarier to me than equality of materialistic needs.

#2 Happiness

Beatty also mentioned that the content of books were contradictory and of no use whatsoever. To him, reading only causes one to generate infinite questions which one could not answer. Therefore if one keeps at it, they would become very unhappy. What’s the point if you’d never know the answers? Isn’t it better not to question in the first place? Burn. Burn the books. Burn the problems away.

This reminds me of a quote by Aristotle – “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.”

Just because the more you know, the more you don’t know, does it mean that you don’t try to learn as much as possible anymore?

#3 Loss of Interest

Now, this is a sad reason indeed. In Ray Bradbury’s futuristic world, people are dominated by interactive TV ‘parlors’ and Seashell Radios. To Mildred (a typical person in that world), the TV characters are her family. People stopped reading because why read when there’s interactive, fast-paced, action-packed entertainment? Even I chose to play Neopets over coming up with this post last night, just because thinking uses too much effort. In fact, Faber and Granger also understood that there wasn’t much need for censorship to prevent the people from picking up books.

“There is more than one way to burn a book.”

Primarily, books are destroyed by burning. It wasn’t really necessary, more of for show. But I felt that it still played a rather large part in the censorship. After all, didn’t firemen struck fear in some of the remaining low-lying intellectuals? And as the above quote suggests, burning is not the sole form of censorship. Other than having the firemen physically burn books, the government also makes sure that people were not given ‘leisure’ time to think. They send young children to school, force-feed them with television and sports. Stuff their brains with dry facts, drain them of their energy and mental capabilities. As for adults, they have their TV walls at home, shouting at them, taking up all their attention.

Despite the government (and Beatty) claiming that what they are doing is only to bring happiness to the people, it doesn’t seem to be working out correctly. Suicide is such a norm that plumbers are called down to cleanse people’s stomachs and blood of drugs instead of medical doctors. Besides, violence is also prominent. They have car wrecking and window smashing places as their Fun Parks! People are also very impatient and they enjoy speed and racing. Billboards are 20 feet long so that people won’t drive pass it too fast and Clarisse’s uncle actually got jailed for driving 40 miles an hour! What’s up man?!?!?!

What I found interesting about this novel is when I start questioning if Ray Bradbury’s predictions of the future did come true. Are we reading lesser and lesser? Have we become slaves of our gadgets? Are we also getting more impatient and more violent? I felt that these are questions worth pondering about. If no, good for us! If yes, then what went wrong? How do we salvage the situation before the Dark Age comes?

Personally, I like Clarisse a lot. What did her family do for a living? Why did she not have to worry about her grades in school and had so much time doing what everyone else thought was a waste of time? Beatty’s dialogues gave me a headache. I could totally feel Montag’s frustrations and understand why Mildred was so TV-obsessed. Faber reminded me of Dumbledore!!! I guess it’s because he was wise and cautious. He kept referring to himself as a coward but I felt that his actions were more level-headed than cowardly. Finally, I especially liked the whole chunk where Granger explained about his Grandfather’s death and what one should do before they die:

“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said […] Something your hand touched some way so your soul has some where to go when you die […] 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.”

I certainly enjoyed reading Fahrenheit 451.

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