Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Published in 1953, Fahrenheit 451 is described to be a dystopian novel written by Ray Bradbury. In fact, it has been regarded as one of his greatest works. The book is set in the 24th century where books are being banned and set on fire for the purpose of censorship and the destruction of knowledge. The burners are firemen and they burn any book they find anywhere. The story revolves around one man named Montag, a fireman, who becomes disillusioned and starts to question the acts of burning books. Because of that, he eventually quit his job and became a part of a revolutionary group that memorized and shared the world’s greatest literary and cultural works. The primary message that the novel wants its readers to ponder on is the importance of books and literature. The main themes, furthermore, revolves around knowledge versus ignorance, censorship, and most of all, the new world’s attitude towards mass media.
At the beginning of the story, knowledge and ignorance were already shown. Montag met Clarisse McClellan, a beautiful and energetic young woman who is so much positive about the purities of essential happiness and love. Clarisse approached Montag and introduced herself. She started to talk to him about things he never expected to be the subjects of conversations he would have with people. Clarisse then started talking about the books that he burned and how the contents of those books are of great value. Montag, of course, did not understand what she was trying to say at first. He was a fireman who burned books for a living. Who would expect that he knew what Clarisse was trying to convey? In this scenario, it was clear that Montag was ignorant of the power and knowledge that the books carry in themselves. There were other so many instances in the book when ignorance was displayed. If we are to look at the entirety of the novel, it would seem that what the author was trying to convey is that the disappearance of books turned the world into a catastrophe. The burning and destroying of these pieces of literature caused people to burn and destroy their own good will and awareness. This act of burning books became a gateway to idiocy and madness.
Nevertheless, while most people became ignorant and oblivious to the importance of books, some remained aware and cognizant – like Clarisse and the old woman. Clarisse was a teenage girl who valued books and the knowledge these books could bring, more than anything else. She was even described to have been an outcast due to her beliefs. While her peers talked about mindless entertainment, she surrounded her world with literacy and knowledge. She made herself learn about things that normal people would dare not to know. Likewise, the old woman shared the same belief with Clarisse. For her, books are the greatest treasures of her life. This is the same reason why when the firemen set her house on fire, she refused to escape. Montag tried his best to convince the woman that she should leave, but the latter refused because she did not want to leave her precious books. For her, it was better to die than to continue living in a world surrounded by ignorant people.
Relatively, as ignorance was being promoted and knowledge was being suppressed, it would suffice to say that the novel’s main theme was censorship. While the author did not provide any clear explanation in the book as to why the books were being banned, he suggested factors that could have affected such censorship. Seemingly, people have had a lack of interest in reading books and others grew a hostile feeling toward books. These factors suggest that the disinterest of people in books could have rooted from the emerging business of technology and new forms of entertainment such as the television and the radio. Instead of reading, people preferred watching and listening. Even when entertainment was put on paper, they chose magazines and readings that would give them pleasure rather than knowledge, not to mention that they were easier to read. As to the people who grew hostile feelings, the reason could probably be the feeling of envy. Some people felt inferior to those who have so much knowledge that they proposed eliminating books to uphold the principle of fairness and equity. These feelings of both envy and carelessness led people to the curse of ignorance and idiocy.
In an interview with Bradbury in 1956, he said that he wrote the book because of the issues during the McCarthy era when book burning was a threat to the United States. In another interview, he said that the book was actually a commentary on how mass media is playing a role in the reduction of interest of mankind in reading literature. Indeed, the book opened the minds of lots of people in the real world. It literally and figuratively unlocked the curiosity of humankind with books. It made people believe in the power and influence that books could bring, which probably is the reason why it was banned during its most intriguing days. While the media told the people that it was banned because it included the Bible, there could perhaps be a more condescending reason as to why it was prohibited. There is no claim, of course, but in an author’s and true reader’s perspective, there could have been a superior rationale why it was banned – a reason that the media did not want people to know, a reason that could have changed how the people reacted to mass media. In my personal view, it could have been because the book showed the possibility of thrashing out the technology. If this would happen, there would, of course, be a failure on their attempt of modernization. Hence, the banning of the revolutionary books.
Conclusively, even if the book was banned, it still was recognized by a lot of foundations and associations. It has garnered numerous awards and recognition. It even had its own film and radio adaptations. Furthermore, it is rumored to have a television series this year, which is to be released by HBO.
This book was published many years ago. However, it is indisputable that it still has its relevance especially today. Bradbury wrote it while thinking about the future; hence, it would be satisfactory to conclude that it is best applicable today in the digital world. Bradbury could have foreseen what is in store for written literature that is why he wrote the book. Relatively, it is important that the story of Fahrenheit 451 be known to the world to let people see what it would be like to lose knowledge and literacy.