- File Size: 10703 KB
- Print Length: 194 pages
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reissue edition (November 29, 2011)
- Publication Date: November 29, 2011
- Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
- Language: English
- ASIN: B0064CPN7I
- Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Not Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,160 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Fahrenheit 451: A Novel Kindle Edition
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|Length: 194 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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The most surprising thing about Fahrenheit 451 is that it's premise could, in the hands of a lesser writer, easily turn a condescending little lesson about the importance of reading books. But like any work of art that would be missed if it was burned, Fahrenheit 451 doesn't want to give you answers. The book wants you to ask questions.
The main point for me is not that books are burned. That is only the most dramatic side of something bigger: that society allows them to be burned, and that no one is interested in reading in the first place. The only sources of distraction for the denizens of Fahrenheit 451 are sports or soap operas in televisions the size of entire walls. The speed of television does not allow you to stop and think, just swallow that entertainment loaf. From this insipid entertainment are born people who literally talk to the walls and a society unable to question.
Montag's wife, Mildred is one example. She can't talk about anything other than the soaps or what threatens her financial security. She is a cattle-person, described as having an invisible cataract behind her pupils, afraid of anything different, incapable of thinking or feeling without directions from the TV or authorities. Montag discovers how they can't connect to one another because in the end they don't know their own history. And without that knowledge you can't even know who you are, or what you want.
Today is 2015, and the society described in Fahrenheit 451 seems even more palpable than when the book was written in 1953. The internet shortens our attention span towards shorter and simpler texts and videos. More than ever we more intelligent - we have access to an ocean of information literally at our finger tips - but we are not wise. We don't know what to do with our information.
And we have no memory. The social media timelines dictate the discussion of the day, what funny video is trending, what news we should be disgusted with, what meme will be the big joke for a day or two before it is once again forgotten. Fahrenheit 451 even reminds us of the "mass society judgments" that lead to self-censorship.
I believe reading is fundamentally important for wisdom, more than any other art form. Reading is solitary work. It demands silence, and to let your ideas absorb the author's, contest them, accept or adapt. Fahrenheit 451 says that you can't make others think, but I believe it comes with a good recipe for wisdom: "Number one, like I said, is quality of information. Number two: time to digest. And number three: the right to conduct your actions based on what we learn from the two previous items."
Fahrenheit 451 was written in story form. This type of story (in addition to documentaries) helps us to understand more about the past and possibly predict the future. The Bible includes many parables.
This book is clearly one of the classics written during this period (1953-1954). The book is designed to warn readers about the dangers of censorship. Joseph McCarthy was conducting his “witch-hunts” in 1954. There were legitimate concerns about the spread of Communism but McCarthy clearly went too far by spreading paranoia. In 2016 we still need to work at finding the right balance between the need for privacy and the need for security.
“Animal Farm” by George Orwell was written in 1943.
“Lord of the Flies” by William Golding was written in 1954.
“Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley was written in 1931.
In the 1950’s, the time of the Red Scare, America was focused on atomic bombs and the spread of communism. Scurrilous politicians like Joe McCarthy and Richard Nixon were making careers off of stoking the peoples’ sense of fear and pointing fingers at anyone who held political views that weren’t totally mainstream. Dissent was more than just frowned upon, it was dangerous, and Congress spent an inordinate amount of time on hearings, or witch hunts, which were focused on exposing communists in the government and in the arts. When the national hysteria finally began to wane, Ray Bradbury stepped forward with Fahrenheit 451 and showed everyone what an unchecked totalitarian society could look like. It was an extremely timely piece of literature.
Bradbury’s world of the future is a place where cars, called “beetles,” routinely go over a hundred miles an hour and often suffer horrific crashes. Television, which was a new medium in the 1950’s, has been enhanced in Bradbury’s future world to large walls (like our really big – big-screen televisions of today). Families of the future buy their television walls, one by one, as they can afford them – and gradually form a room within the house made of those large screens. The characters on television, called the “family,” interact with the viewers, and those people without lives outside the home gradually become consumed with their television families – much like the lost souls today who routinely confuse Facebook with real life.
Fahrenheit 451 is focused on firemen of the future. In the world created by Ray Bradbury, houses and buildings have been fireproofed, eliminating the need for traditional firemen – and the job has evolved into something quite different from its traditional role. Firemen of the future set fires instead of putting them out, and they have a special mission to help eradicate books – because books cause people to think and worry. When a cache of books is discovered, firemen race to the scene and burn them.
Guy Montag, a fireman, is the central character in Fahrenheit 451. When he isn’t at the firehouse awaiting calls to burn books, he is at home with his wife Mildred. Mildred doesn’t work, and she spends her days sitting within the three walls (they haven’t been able to afford to buy the fourth yet) of her television area interacting with the family. Sometimes Mildred has friends over for cocktails and together they enjoy the programs that the family put on.
Guy is unhappy with his life, but he doesn’t realize it until he meets a strange young girl one night as he is walking home from work. The girl, Clarisse, asks Guy if he is happy – and suddenly his sedentary world begins to heave. Before long Guy Montag is a man on the run, a man racing away from the clutches of a completely domineering social order.
Ironically Fahrenheit 451, a book about the elimination of books, has made its way onto many banned book lists over the years. It is the story of the struggle for the survival of ideas and of the individual. Not every member of the herd is comfortable with the notion of strays – or of the concept of free will – and one way to maintain the status quo is to eliminate things that foster change – things like books – books like Fahrenheit 451.
And it is change that keeps us vital and infuses our lives with meaning.
Treasure your books!
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