Fahrenheit 451, the best known work of author Ray Bradbury, depicts a dystopian society set in a future America. In this speculative future, books are banned, and firemen are in charge of burning any books they can find. This book focuses on the use of censorship, technology, and literature. Although it was published in 1953, the society depicted in this book seems to closely mirror our own, offering us a seemingly prophetic view of our lifestyle today.
The book begins when our protagonist, Guy Montag, meets the seventeen-year old Clarisse McClellan. As a result of Clarisse’s odd yet somehow sensible questioning, Montag is confronted by his inner dissatisfaction with his life and career as a fireman. This dissatisfaction grows to a boiling point over the next few days thanks to a chain of events that drastically affects Montag: His wife attempts suicide; an elderly woman who possessed a cache of books immolates herself, rather than to part with them; Clarisse’s death by a speeding car. As his life seemed more and more meaningless, Montag seeks to find the solution in the books he had taken from the old woman’s stash before it went up in flames.
After calling in absent in order to read the book, Montag’s superior, Beatty, pays him a visit, and warns him of the danger of books. Beatty informs Montag that if he does have any books, he should burn them within 24 hours. Montag ignores this warning, and instead goes to an old English professor named Faber to help him with his reading. Beatty discovers that Montag was hiding books through his wife, and commands him to burn his own house. Montag follows this order, but just as Beatty was about to place him under arrest, Montag turns the flamethrower onto him and burned him to death. Montag escapes and finds a society where people memorize books to share with the world when they deem that the rest of humanity ready--effectively becoming the books themselves--and joins their ranks.
Technology plays a big role in Fahrenheit 451. In that future, everyone was obsessed with television and radio, being drawn into it to the point that they would ignore their spouses and children just to catch the latest soap opera. They refuse, or perhaps have become incapable, to have any thoughtful or deep conversations, and are distracted from their real, tangible problems by the drama happening on the screen.
We have always been told that technology will bring people closer, yet this is obviously not the case. People are constantly distracted by technology, and the vast entertainment we have access to renders us incapable of developing any interest in anything else. Heck, even I can’t read 5 pages of a book before getting distracted by a new cat video on YouTube. Everyone knows everyone through Twitter, Facebook, or other types of social media; yet at the same time, we don’t know really anyone. You may know where they went for vacation, who their favorite celebrity is, but do you REALLY know who they are? Technology made the world smaller, yet at the same time we have become more distant from each now than ever.
A very interesting aspect of Fahrenheit 451 is the censorship of books. Beatty tells Montag that due to objections from offended minorities, books started looking more and more similar, Coming to the point that books got banned due to the conflicting opinions they caused, and the contradictory contexts found within them. I found this part the most hilarious; Ray Bradbury, writing in the 1950s, was able to depict perfectly Hollywood today.
Although the plot of Hollywood movies differ, they all follow a similar pattern: There must be a person of color, and there must be an independent female character. If that was not the case, people would complain, and call the movie racist or sexist. Everything seems to be so PC (politically correct) these days; you can’t state your opinion online unless you want to argue with ten other people. I believe it is time to stop, and ask ourselves if this has gone out of hand. Racism, sexism, and other issues do exist, but you are not helping the problem by being offended by movies, ads, or things that celebrity says. Instead, take the time and effort and actually do something to help the problem. Join an organization, host events raising awareness, it can even be something as simple as stopping one person from being racist to another.
Fahrenheit 451 has offered a new perspective on what we are right now, and what future that may become. It is a relatively short novel, so I really hope that you can take the time to read it, and look at our society now with a refreshed mind. This book talks about the many issues our world face today, and everyone can learn a thing or two from this novel.