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The 9-Day Masterpiece
Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury
Member Name: bilbobaginz
Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury
Date: 14/01/13, updated on 17/01/13 (93 review reads)
Advantages: The message. The character relationships. The dialogue. The progression of Montag's views.
I know a lot of the figure Ray Bradbury, and all I know of him I have learnt from this book. Through his own literary craft I feel I have gained more of the wisdom, the views, the philosophies of the man than I have of any comparable figure through quick media - television, newspaper, and the like. That is the beauty of the written word, it can be used (when produced by the right hand) to teach, to educate of things beyond the now. 'The good writers touch life often. The mediocre ones run a quick hand over her. The bad ones rape her and leave her for the flies.' - sure, it takes a good writer to reach close to perfection and have named their works' 'art', but any written information with context is better than any snap-shot factoid without. It is this very matter that Ray Bradbury lectures to his reader in Fahrenheit 451. The novel attempts to realign the masses perception of 'knowledge', and the importance of works of art (with reference to Shakespeare and others) in achieving greater intellect and awareness of the world, to think away from the immediate, quick and constant, the stuff without substance. This is so relevant to today (with new phenomena such as Facebook absorbing peoples time and [largely] teaching them nothing new), and yet the novel was written in 1953. To make matters even more impassioned, Bradbury wrote the book in 9 days, yes, 9 days. Astonishing.
Fahrenheit 451 follows a Fireman named Guy Montag. The premise is simple: Fireman (contrary to their beginnings) start fires. They do this by spraying Kerosene and flicking a match, and all in order to destroy books. If anyone is suspected of having a single book, they're property (and occasionally their life) is scorched almost instantaneously in a great fireworks display viewed and applauded by the neighbourhood. You see, society over the years has swayed gradually and 'naturallly' (not enforced by Government or any other body) away from its previous impulsion to learn and develop, at least on an individual level. An obsession with being 'happy' - happiness, which is experienced in the present - has taken over and replaced anything and everything else. Books can make people very unhappy. They cover complex issues which encourage debate (i.e. between two or more sides), arguments, anger, unhappiness (for one or more sides) inflames. Sure, you can read of the great history of man-kind, uncover the inner workings of Earth, the wonders of the Solar System, the significance of ancient Religions, but why would you? Why concern yourself? Will it make you any happier? This is the idea Montag is beginning to question, and all because of a chance encounter with a young girl named Clarisse McClellan - an odd-ball from an odd-ball family in the city (a girl with a likeness to Luna Lovegood I found myself thinking).
Clarisse talks differently, Montag notices. Contrary to his wife Mildred and her friends and the rest of cities inhabitants who talk only of new clothes, new 10-minute dramas, new celebrity mishaps, quick, new, quick, new things - all displayed through their 'wall TVs' in their 'Parlours' where they connect with 'The Family' (I presume this the virtual link everyone has between friends, a network, or an internet of sorts.. Remember this was written 40 years before the internet made its first appearance..) - Clarisse picks out things, she is intrigued with the world, she wants to share information and gain information, and she's not afraid of Montag or his 451 symbols. She asks him: are you happy? A question which resonates through the man until finally an answer spits out: No. Clarisse changes Montag. And when Clarisse disappears, presumed dead, something wakes up inside him, setting in motion a series of actions which Montag at first regrets, and then soon realises are necessary and positive. They lead him to a new way of thinking, a new life.
Faber is an old man who gives encouragement and reassurance to Montag along his quest to realisation. He explains the importance of books and why they have grown to be 'hated and feared'. He explains how he was too scared in the beginning to stand out against the way things were turning. He saw but did nothing, and now was his chance to put right his wrongs. With the aid of two small 'beetle' shaped radio ear-pieces, Faber and Montag connect, giving Montag a voice to trust, and Faber an ear into the world outside his home. This relationship is the most important, the most interesting Bradbury creates. It brings about some great dialogue, allowing the writer to put forward his own views and philosophies:
'Who has ever torn himself from the claw that encloses you when you drop a seed in a TV parlour? It grows you any shape it wishes! It is an environment as real as the world. It becomes and is the truth. Books can be beaten down with reason.' - Faber
The war has started. Only a few times is the fresh raging of a war between America (our characters nation of residence) and another mentioned. It's kept away from the reader, as it is kept so for the cities inhabitants - they know its happening but they think little of it, they disconnect themselves from it. An ethos shared between all, 'Bad things happen, but nothing will ever happen to me, it's me!'. Not only do people think this about the war, but also about tragedy's that happen closer to home - friend's husband's suicides for instance. By being only concerned with the television (the parlour) they allow their brains to be blasted with unimportant jargon in order to relieve their conscience, to switch off their reasoning mind.
I found Fahrenheit 451 a near-flawless read. It is in its self a work of art that can teach more than most books the importance of the written word. If there's one book I've read that I wish every other in our society would turn briefly their attention to it would be this one. That's because it teaches and inspires you to read more, and to keep reading until your as full of knowledge as time permits. The internet has expanded the availability of information to near infinite, we should use this and never relax into a 'Parlour Family' life-style where all we concern ourselves with is the short-term - neither teaching nor developing our minds in any way.
'Don't ask for guarentees. And don't look to be saved in any one thing, person, machine, or library. Do your own bit of saving, and if you drown, at least die knowing you were headed for shore.' - Faber
Summary: A book that could change a lot of minds...