Book Review on Fahrenheit 451: A Book That Burns (Almost Literally)
By: Chloe Schwartz
“‘We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?’”
I’d been meaning to pick up Fahrenheit 451 for a while. I actually have a huge book of Ray Bradbury’s short stories that I was trying to get to, but I didn’t want to read those first, so I was doing the thing where you avoid the thing that you really want to do for absolutely no reason whatsoever (see: pointless procrastination).
I’d heard a lot about the book before I read it. A publishing company came out with a new cover that had striking paper along the binding and came with a matchbox and matches (anyone who’s read the book before, please feel free to groan at the irony). I thought this was a bit odd- why would anyone want to set a book on fire?- so I looked it up.
Ray Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 in the basement of the University of California in L.A. He worked on timed typewriters, and finished the first draft in a little over a week. It was originally called The Fire Man and it is widely known as a fantastic commentary on censorship and knowledge, as well as a beautiful piece of writing.
That still didn’t tell me why they were selling copies that you could light on fire.
So, I (finally) started reading.
Guy Montag is a fireman. He lives with his wife Mildred in a house in a city in a country that is always at war and always online and never questions anything. He does not look up at the sky or to the side at the trees and enjoys watching his fires burn. He is normal. He is happy.
Then he stops to talk to a girl who does not work the way everyone else does. Her name is Clarisse and she sometimes does nothing but think all day and has a front porch to sit on and an uncle that knows everything. Guy goes home that night and realizes that he isn’t happy at all. And because he isn’t happy, he begins to think.
The next day, he burns down a house while a woman is still inside and everything begins.
Suddenly the matchbox started to make sense.
Fahrenheit 451 is, in many ways, disturbingly parallel to the world we live in, in some ways even more so than when it was first written. Ray Bradbury goes into the ideas of censorship, knowledge, mental illness, conflict, and morality that flow together supremely well. He uses beautiful imagery and figurative language to attach thoughts and feeling to what appears to be a dull world. It is a third person narrative that flows with the thoughts and emotions of the main character. It isn’t very uplifting, but it’s absolutely worth reading because of that, and because it will make you think. The hardest thing about it is finding a good place to stop.
I can’t say anymore about the storyline or I’ll get so excited that I’ll ruin it, but I really enjoyed both the concept and the writing style in this novel. And depending on the copy you buy, there may be a few afterwords with short pieces that did not make it into the story, as well as a Q and A with the author.
And with that, I’ll close out before I spoil anything more. Happy reading! (and if you’re going to set things on fire, don’t do it indoors. The firemen might get a bit upset and computers don’t take well to sprinkler water).
(P.S. Here’s the link if you feel like buying the aforementioned version of the book. http://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/check-out-this-striking-cover-design-for-fahrenheit-451/)