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Fahrenheit 451...Bradbury's disturbing tale of a draconian society
on January 13, 2009
Ray Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451* over 50 years ago; it's theme of the 'Big Brother' autocratic society, has often had it compared to Orwell's 1984.
Before I read this book I knew absolutely nothing of the story or its draconian motif. So finding out the altered definition of 'fireman' that this book refers to was a revelation, to say the least.
The story: *SPOILER*
This is the tale of Guy Montag, a 'fireman' within this repressed society; a society in which 'happiness' is permitted and even encouraged, but free thinking is frowned upon in the strongest terms. And what is the most obvious example of free thinking...why books of course. Thus we discover that Montag is a 'fireman' and his job is to burn books; burn books, so that no one in the future will every get a sense of history or get any ideas about changing the present regieme into a free thinking society. Montag's problem is that he begins to wonder if what he's doing is right; thus his personal revolt begins, and not surprisingly he finds friends and enemies in unexpected places.
I liked the style in which Bradbury developed Montag; Everyone in this society is suppose to be happy, but Montag is increasingly unhappy. He is constantly talking to himself, always doubting himself and his new, 'radical' thoughts. It's not difficult to feel empathy towards Montag as he becomes increasingly uncomfortable with his position and he begins to question his thinking and his own sanity. His wife (and her friends), his job and his desire to read books all contribute in ways to reduce his ability to handle his increasingly difficult situation.
Subjectively, I liked the first 2/3s of the book better than the latter; not knowing anything about this tale added to the intrigue and mystery at the beginning, making it hard to put the book down. I didn't find the latter 1/3 quite as 'believable' and that compelling sense of urgency that defined the first part seemed to disappear, and for this I took off 1/2 Star.
A great book, much different than I'd expected. Well written, with a wonderfully developed hero; giving us many glimpses of a distressed and complex personality who is in an ongoing battle with his own inner demons, and a waffling conscience that's unsure of it's moral obligations as it fights to maintain his sanity.
Interesting to see that some of Bradbury's thoughts of the future are not all that far off in certain parts of the world today; some maybe closer to home that we'd like to believe.
* 451 deg. Fahrenheit, is the temperature at which paper begins to scorch and crumple.