Fahrenheit 451 Paperback – January 10, 2012
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"The Book of the Unnamed Midwife" by Meg Elison
When she fell asleep, the world was doomed. When she awoke, it was dead. | Learn more
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From the Publisher
“A masterpiece . . . A glorious American classic everyone should read: It’s life-changing if you read it as a teen, and still stunning when you reread it as an adult.” —Alice Hoffman, The Boston Globe
“The sheer lift and power of a truly original imagination exhilarates . . . His is a very great and unusual talent.” —Christopher Isherwood, Tomorrow
“One of this country’s most beloved writers . . . A great storyteller, sometimes even a mythmaker, a true American classic.” —Michael Dirda, The Washington Post
About the Author
- Item Weight : 8.8 ounces
- Paperback : 249 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9781451673319
- ISBN-13 : 978-1451673319
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.44 inches
- Publisher : Simon & Schuster; Reissue edition (January 10, 2012)
- Reading level : 14 and up
- Lexile measure : 890L
- Language: : English
- ASIN : 1451673310
- Best Sellers Rank: #299 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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If all you get out of this book is the "removal" of books from society to become more connected to our electronic devices I feel so bad for you.
The point of burning the books is explained. I might give just a couple of spoilers, but everyone knows the premise of 1984 and this book is similar. It is so much more than about books.
It is about censorship and the people wanting it. The government has banned all printed material except for comic books, 3D pornographic magazines, "good old confessions" and trade journals. All other printed material is deemed too offensive to someone. So much in-fighting in society because everyone claiming something offends them. So to make everyone happy, the offensive materials are removed. Because of the year this was written (1953) Ray Bradbury could have not envisioned the internet. If he had, it would have been heavily censored also. In 1953 ideas and knowledge were shared through print as they had been for hundreds of years.
According to the book, the people wanted the offensive materials removed. Because everyone is offended by something then everything is offensive, it must all be destroyed.
For me the novel rings true about how easily people are offended by another person's ideas, thoughts, actions, beliefs. In the story those things are still allowed (they can't control what you think), but without being able to write them down ideas and thoughts die pretty fast.
Ultimately the story is about freedom and not being so judgmental of others lest ye be judged. If you look around today, 11/4/2017, this story has never been more relevant. We have protests and attacks in the streets daily based on ideals and beliefs that clash with others. These clashes occur, rather than people going their separate ways and understanding that the beliefs and ideals of others are just as legitimate as their own. Some groups would rather have a scorched earth policy and destroy everything they hold dear, as long as the other side loses everything as well.
It's such a famous opening line and despite the fact that I'd never read Fahrenheit 451, one I've seemed to know for the longest time. It would crop up every so often in my life, usually at trivia nights. I knew it was a classic book, the type reluctant schoolchildren are assigned to read as part of their curriculum. As a progressive I always felt I was doing it a disservice by not reading it, so I set out to buy it on Amazon and finished it in under a day.
Let's tackle the plot first.
It's set in a Mid-West American city in a dystopian future. Our hero, Guy Montag, is a fireman except firemen in the future don't put out fires, they cause them. Books are forbidden and if any are discovered they are burned, including the house hiding them. Montag has no qualms with this, until one day he's called out to the house of an elderly lady. She chooses to set fire to herself and her house before Montag can do it. Shaken to the core by this, he tries to share it with his wife Mildred, but she's too addicted to vapid and superficial television shows to engage in conversation. Her big concern is getting a fourth TV. The only person he develops a connection to is his teenage neighbour, Clarisse. She's free-spirited and questions him constantly. One day she goes missing. Mildred casually tells him that Clarisse is dead.
Montag starts to wonder if books are really so bad. He steals a book of poetry from a house he's called out to burn. His chief begins to grow suspicious of him and pontificates about the dangers of books and independent thinking. Montag begins to feel rebellious as he rails against the hedonistic nature of society. One night Mildred invites some girlfriends over. Montag rashly brings his book out and recites poetry to them, moving one woman to tears. The others are mortified and Montag finds himself in serious trouble. I'll stop here before spoilers creep in.
I was interested to learn Bradbury's inspiration for this book. Apparently he was once out walking at night with a fellow writer when a police car pulled up and an officer got out. He asked Bradbury what he was doing, to which he responded that he was walking, "Putting one foot in front of the other." The officer was unamused with what he considered a smark aleck response and told him never to do it again. Bradbury was so angry that he went home and wrote a short story about a man who lived in a time when walking was considered a crime. Bradbury was also outraged at the persecution of artists by Senator Joseph McCarthy, and the House of un-American Activities.
Many writers far better equipped than myself have wrestled writing a treatise for this book, so I'll leave further analysis to them. I just wanted to say that despite the obvious allegory in the story, I think it works just as a simple tale about the importance of books. Books have always been a big presence in my life. From as far back as I can remember, I have always had a full bookcase, jam-packed with titles in my bedroom. I was a voracious reader, blithely leaving books wherever I finished them (invariably not in said bookcase). I grew complacent and took it for granted that I was free to read whatever I chose. It was only as I grew older that I began learning about the destruction of the Library of Alexandria, about the Nazi book burnings, and about the scorching and burial of texts and hundreds of Confucian scholars in ancient China. It's sobering stuff and made me think. I know of no country that doesn't have an undercurrent of anti-intellectualism. Generally books are considered deep (though plenty aren't), and there will always be those whom openly distrust (to the point of hostility) those deemed 'highfalutin and clever.' It is entirely plausible that at some stage in the future, books will be banned in any given country. If nothing else Fahrenheit 451 should serve as a warning against authoritarianism, and for a call to keep the free flow of knowledge and art alive. When I cast a roving eye on the pile of books next to me, I am full of appreciation and awe. I will protect them from any fire.