Book Review: Fahrenheit 451

In the 1950's, the invention of television caused certain people to worry. Producers thought movies would die. Publishers thought print and books would die. And some supsected that technology was making people dumber. Sounds kind of like what's happening with the internet and mobile phones now, right?

Though Ray Bradbury wrote his post-apocolyptic Fahreinhet 451 in the 1950's, his story is particularly relevant to the issues of today (do video games keep kids from experiencing nature? Can censorship go too far?). The protagonist Montag finds his cause - he starts to realize that literacy and books are a good thing.

What it's about

In the future, Americans don't enjoy nature, have privacy or intimate connections, and most importantly, they don't read books. In fact, reading or owning a book is strictly against the law. People just drive really, really fast, watch a lot of TV, and pretty much rely on technology to give themselves any kind of sensation or feeling.

Guy Montag is a Fireman, a profession in which men burn down houses instead of saving them. The book opens with him meeting an inspiring teen named Clarisse McClellan. She's weird to him because she loves nature, her family, all things not really technology related. She thinks independently. This awakens Montag; he starts to see what's wrong with the world around him.

While Montag starts to realize the value of books, his wife Mildred expresses the opposite. She relies on high-tech television to entertain and appeal to her, and she needs pills and radio to help her sleep. Mildred doesn't question any aspect of life, and gets uncomfortable at Montag's increasing signs of independence or free thinking.

While Montag gets more into breaking the law by stealing books, his boss, fire chief Beatty, starts to catch on. The fire chief allows Montag to take books, but also tells him to return the books once he's satisfied his curiosity (kind of like how the Amish let their kids go into mainstream society for a bit before they return to the farm).You'll impress your teacher if you mention that Beatty could represent the corruption of dictatorships and tyrranical governments that Americans feared so much in the 1950s (Soviet Union, Cuba, etc.). Communism in theory believes in full equality, but communist politicians often lived better off than the rest of the population and often broke their own rules.

We don't want to spoil the rest, but basically as Montag increasingly realizes that reading and literacy are important, his world becomes more chaotic until the book reaches a shocking climax.

The Causey Angles

The Right to Education

According to the United Nations' Declaration of Human Rights, every person has the right to "receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers." In the world of Farenheit 451, the law banning books denies humans their basic human right to exchange information and learn.

Mental Health

Mildred relies on the sensations from technology to entertain her, but she's truly depressed by her empty lifestyle. She attempts to kill herself by overdosing on sleeping pills, yet both she and the paramedics that save her refuse to address why she tried to kill herself and what can be changed in her life.

War and Violence

Citizens of this world don't understand the seriousness of violence and death.

  • The current government glorifies the oncoming war, and people talk about it as if it is a game. Mildred's friends talk about the war as if it's gossip, completely desensitized to the severity of it.
  • When Montag crosses the highway, drivers think hitting him with their car would be fun and entertaining.

Diversity

Conformity is key in this society.

  • Books are banned because they cause people to disagree, while television remains because everyone can watch the same channel.
  • Clarisse is viewed as odd because she doesn't perform the same activities as everyone else.

The Environment

Technology distracts people from nature in the novel.

  • Citizens drive too fast to see the landscape
  • People spend all of their time in front of the television and hardly ever outdoors
  • Montag is awakened when he connects to nature for a moment by tasting the falling rain