(Review) Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Genre: Dystopian, speculative fiction.
This is the FIRST time I've read Fahrenheit 451! If my English class in high school read this book, I was asleep, I don't remember. My friend Becky at Becky's Book Reviews has reviewed this book multiple times, and has personally recommended it to me. Thanks Becky!
Fahrenheit 451 is the temperature paper burns.
451 is the number on the helmet the fireman, Guy Montag wears.
I read a few of the reviews of the book on Goodreads. It has mixed reviews. Some of the negative criticism about the book is the weirdness, and the language of the story. Some of the reviews went as far as believing this is a scary story.
I believe strongly that current life situations, maturity, and life experiences have a large part, (or most of the part) in how I feel about a book. When I say maturity, I am defining it as age, but also a maturity in personality. I've read The Secret Garden three times. The first time was as a young adolescent. The second time was in my early 30s. The last time was in my 40s. Each time, I took away, and understood, something new-something different. I've read Wuthering Heights twice. Both times in my 40s. The first time I was swept away by the story. I loved it. The second time it was okay. It helps to NOT have a preconceived idea or judgment about a book before reading it. As a human, this is most difficult.
Neil Gaiman wrote the introduction. One of the important takeaways from his intro is don't believe that this story has just one insight. I loved his intro and feel it helped to read this first before diving into Fahrenheit 451. And diving is what I did, because the first line on the first page of the story is
It was a pleasure to burn.This is the best opening line I've ever read! It did not just draw me into the story, it grabbed me like a mechanical vice and pulled me in.
Three sections to the book: The Hearth and the Salamander, The Sieve and the Sand, and Burning Bright.
Guy Montag is a married man and a fireman. His wife is Mildred. Her days are spent at home watching the television. The characters in the shows she watches are family to her. Montag is a dytopian fireman. In our society, a fireman puts out fires. He saves people and animals. He is a rescue unit. In Fahrenheit 451, Montag makes fires. A home or place that has books is burned. People are burned if they refuse to leave the premises of a building that holds reading material. This is a state controlled society that burns books. Books are illegal and the sentence is fire. Montag returns home from work and meets a neighbor, Clarisse McClellan. She is 17.
Her face was slender and milk-white, and in it was a kind of gentle hunger that touched over everything with tireless curiosity. It was a look, almost, of pale surprise; the dark eyes were so fixed to the world that no move escaped them.Before he sees her an interesting thing happens.
Before he reached the corner, however, he slowed as if a wind had sprung up from nowhere, as if someone had called his name.Clarisse is introduced before Montag sees her. The narrator (author) gave a big clue that Montag was about to be introduced to a big change in his life. Like a wind bringing in a new season. Montag was about to begin a new chapter in his life.
Montag was on a set course. He enjoyed what he did. He did not think about doing anything differently, until, he met Clarisse.
I could go on and on about the different things I pulled from this story. It's deep. It is so deep I might have drowned. But I did not.
A few things I loved about this story:
- The character Clarisse is Montag's enlightenment. She ushers in a new way of thinking, primarily through questions that shake up his brain. Questions and ideas he'd not thought of before. She may also be compared to an angel. An angel of beauty and innocence. An angel of conscience. A messenger sent to teach a new way of thought and practice.
- Mildred is the impoverished wife of Montag. She is poor in many ways. She reminds me of a mannequin. But she is an added counterweight to the strong characters of Montag and Clarisse. At first, I wondered why is she even in this story. Surely she serves a purpose? Then is dawned on me. She represents all those people who just survive. They don't think. They don't ask questions.
- A home is not just a place to store our stuff. It is where we are free to live. It's where memories are made. It is where we call home. Home is supposed to be a safe place. In Fahrenheit 451, homes are burned on purpose. Homes are policed. People cannot be free to live as they wish in their home. This reminds me of during World War II, when the Gestapo raided Jewish people's homes. Their material possessions were ransacked, destroyed, and stolen. The people were taken from their homes and most never returned.
- Fahrenheit 451 is a book that warns. It was written after World War II, during the era of the atomic age, and the McCarthy era. A vastly different age than before the war, when people were primarily focused on jobs, food, and loosing their homes and farms.
- Fahrenheit 451 is a book that can be, and should be discussed by people of varying generations of readers, societies, and cultures.