Wednesday, November 19, 2008

FAHRENHEIT 451 by: Ray Bradbury. Reviewed by: "JJ"

Fahrenheit  451, was indeed a pleasure to read.  I'll admit I hadn't read any fictional books this winter.  I am glad that I choose this book to read as part of an English assignment.  Otherwise, I may never have come across this mind-provoking piece of literature.  

The story takes place in a suburb area very similar to that of Waukegan, Illinois.  It reminded me of when I lived and worked in Waukegan. We would ride the "Metro" or train transit into the city of Chicago, as Mr. Bradbury describes his characters in Fahrenheit 451, riding the train to work. 

 The Protagonist in this book is a fireman named Guy Montage.   Montage and a young girl named Clarisse McClellan, quickly get to know each other as they ride the train to work every morning.  Clarisse, as a young curious girl would likely do, approaches Montage in his uniform and engages him in conversation about his job.  It so happens they are neighbors and start to walk towards home together.  Clarisse; “You know, I’m not afraid of you at all.”  He was surprised.  Montage; ”Why should you be?”  Clarisse; “So many people are.  Afraid of firemen, I mean.  But you’re just a man, after all…” (Bradbury, 7)

Montage soon starts to reflect as the young girl’s free spirit and curious questions get him thinking about why do the firemen burn the books.  Clarisse had asked Montage if he had ever read any of the books that he burned.  His mind starts to wonder and has a sort of hunger for knowledge to know what it would be like to read a book that is considered to be against their societies law.  (Bradbury)

  I am able to see how the author pulled some of his real life experiences, views and feelings into this story. In reading I got a sense for his style as the author himself was a lover of books and this was made apparent in his story Fahrenheit 451.  During the time that this book was originally published 1953 Mr. Bradbury was around the age of 33 years. Mr. Bradbury was born, August 22, 1920.

 Back in history: “ May 1933, Nazi sympathizers in Berlin burned 20,000 “degenerate” books, many of them written by Jews and anti-fascists such as Albert Einstein, Bertolt Brecht and Franz Kafka.  Here at home, slaveholders were so frightened by the power of the word that throughout the antebellum South legislatures made it a crime to teach slaves to read and write”. (21st Century Book-Burning, Ross)

In Fahreninheit 451, the fireman’s job was that of authority.  They had the authority to burn all books.  That was their job description.  Only the opposite of our present view on firemen as our “hero” who is there for us in time of need when we need a fire rescue and “not a book burning.”  If it had to be done it makes perfect sense to have a fireman be the burner.

Montage the “burner” fireman burns books daily.  He is a dedicated fireman having started at the age of 20, that was 10 years ago. (Bradbury, 8) Guy Montage, having never read any of the books for 10 years being in the “burning” business, after meeting with the young free spirit Clarisse.  He finds himself slowly changing.  He starts stealing a book at a time to read and stashes them away in his home.  The suppression of knowledge is apparent as books are filled with knowledge.  Without knowledge we are ignorant.  With the burning of the books the society in Fahrenheit 451, the firemen are not completely successful in preventing the spread of knowledge and free speech as an there is an underground society of outlaws.  Mildred, the homemaker of Montage is a good example in the story of loosing a sense of free speech as she finds herself submersed in a scripted dialog daily in the parlor with the “televisors” (Bradbury)

            The “outlaws” memorize the books to protect them so that one-day possibly they would be able to put them down on paper once again.  With their own “War” starting, outside of their efforts to preserve the book stories, there lies hope for a positive change through the purging of the current governing body.

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