Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Fahrenheit 451

Title: Fahrenheit 451

Author: Ray Bradbury

Number of pages: 184

Started: 6 October 2008

Finished: 7 October 2008

Opening words:

It was a pleasure to burn.

It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed. With the brass nozzle in his fists, with this great python spitting its venomous kerosene upon the world, the blood pounded in his head, and his hands were the hands of some amazing conductor playing all the symphonies of blazing and burning to bring down the tatters and charcoal ruins of history. With his symbolic helmet numbered 451 on his stolid head, and his eyes all orange flame with the thought of what came next, he flicked the igniter and the house jumped up in a gorging fire that burned the evening sky red and yellow and black. He strode in a swarm of fireflies. He wanted above all, like the old joke, to shove a marshmallow on a stick in the furnace, while the flapping pigeon-winged books died on the porch and lawn of the house. While the books went up in sparkling whirls and blew away on a wind turned dark with burning.

Montag grinned the fierce grin of all men singed and driven back by flame.

He knew that when he returned to the firehouse, he might wink at himself, a minstrel man, burnt-corked, in the mirror. Later, going to sleep, he would feel the fiery smile still gripped by his face muscles, in the dark. It never went away, that smile, it never ever went away, as long as he remembered.

Plot summary:

The hauntingly prophetic classic novel set in a not-too-distant future where books are burned by a special task force of firemen. Guy Montag is a fireman. His job is to burn books, which are forbidden, being the source of all discord and unhappiness. Even so, Montag is unhappy; there is discord in his marriage. Are books hidden in his house? The Mechanical Hound of the Fire Department, armed with a lethal hypodermic, escorted by helicopters, is ready to track down those dissidents who defy society to preserve and read books. The classic novel of a post-literate future, 'Fahrenheit 451' stands alongside Orwell's '1984' and Huxley's 'Brave New World' as a prophetic account of Western civilization's enslavement by the media, drugs and conformity. Bradbury's powerful and poetic prose combines with uncanny insight into the potential of technology to create a novel which over fifty years from first publication, still has the power to dazzle and shock.

Summary taken from Amazon.

What I thought:

When I started this book, I wasn’t too sure about it, but as I read on there were passages in it that I thought were so brilliantly written that you could hear the anger and passion as the characters expressed the words. Ray Bradbury was never certain quite what had driven him to write a book about a society that destroyed the written word, although he recalled the Nazi book-burnings etc, but somehow he feared a society might one day come about that banned books and literacy and instead we received everything through carefully manipulated television that simply kept us happy and unquestioning. His insight was perhaps even greater than he could ever have imagined.

In the Afterword of this book, Ray Bradbury explains some of the origins of the ideas in this book and he refers back to a prediction made by one of the characters that you don’t need to burn books if everyone is so caught up in seeking ‘happiness’ and instant satisfaction. If we are not careful, books simply fall by the wayside and all the potential challenges to our thinking that go along with them. If this book does nothing else for you then let it remind you of the world of books out there and how much there is to learn. If you haven’t read this book then perhaps you should to see a world without them.

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