My rating: 4 stars
What would happen if people became content with living with no real knowledge? Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury is a mix of science fiction and dystopian novel which introduces the reader to the awakening journey of a man and the outcome of his new understating of the type of society he belongs to.
Guy Montag is a fireman, but his job isn’t to stop the flames from destroying buildings or the natural world. He is part of a team whose purpose is to burn books, which are forbidden, counting for that with the assistance of a mechanical hound. Although, at first, he doesn’t question why they do it and takes pleasure in seeing the books burn, a new acquaintance unleashes uncertainty.
Once when going back home, Guy encounters a new neighbour, seventeen-year-old Clarisse McClellan, who is thoughtful, quite peculiar and asks questions he answers in a rush. After a conversation with her, he starts questioning if there is real happiness in his life and if society has always been the way he knows it. Their subsequent encounters enlighten the reader regarding the type of society they live in: violence among people is normal, people don’t raise questions in schools, and everyone has the same superficial conversations at cafés. But one day Clarisse disappears.
Guy’s wife, Mildred, is a perfect example of a person obsessed with shallow entertainment. One day, when arriving home from work, Guy finds her lying in bed after taking too many sleeping-pills. He calls the emergency hospital and two men are sent to clean her blood. The day after she doesn’t remember anything and seems to have forgotten the reason for her sadness. She lives in a constant state of apathy, immersed in a futuristic type of reality TV.
On the other hand, Guy is awaking for a life of new possibilities:
“We need not to be alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long was it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?”
Why did books start being burnt? In a first moment, it was people who started losing interest in books. Films, radio, magazines, books, schools’ curriculums, almost everything became simpler and shorter. Life became dominated by trash TV programmes, which people saw on parlour walls. As Beaty, Guy’s captain, explains:
“They were given the new job as custodians of our peace of mind, the focus of our understandable and rightful dread of being inferior; official censors, judges, and executors. That’s you, Montag, and that’s me.”
No one wanted to be seen as less intelligent. Books were a sign of knowledge, so they started being burnt to make everyone feel equal in that regard. The dissenters were persecuted. What Guy discovers about past events shapes his future actions.
In Fahrenheit 451 we are introduced to a thought-provoking story, but it took me some time to get used to the narration process. The transitions from one event to another at the beginning of the book happen quite suddenly, and the practical purpose of some of the mentioned objects wasn’t quite clear for me at first. However, gradually everything started making sense.
One thing I really liked about the writing style was how the length and construction of the sentences were most of the times connected with the movements and mental disposition of the characters, mainly Guy’s, in a given moment.
Throughout Fahrenheit 451 really interesting points are made about the role of the media on the ignorance of the population and how that benefits totalitarian leaders. If the book was a bit longer, actions wouldn’t have seemed so sudden and I would have felt a stronger connection with the characters. Nevertheless, this is a book really worth reading and then reflect on.