Author: Ray Bradbury
Genre: Speculative fiction
Pages: Paperback, 165
Opening lines: "It was a pleasure to burn.
"It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see thing blackened and changed."
Thoughts: I'm not sure how I managed to gain a degree in English and never read this book. While watching Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, I was overcome with a desire to read the book when the Nazis were burning books. For years, whenever my college Christian group discussed book burning, I would accuse them of being Nazi Germany or mention this book under my breath. And, of course, I had never read it. However, after reading it, I was more right than I ever could have known . . .Monday burn Millay, Wednesday Whitman, Friday Faulkner, burn 'em to ashes, then burn the ashes.
"Guy Montag was a fireman whose job it was to start fires. And he enjoyed his job. He had been a fireman for ten years, and he had never questioned the pleasure of the midnight runs nor the joy of watching pages consumed by flames . . . never questioned anything until he met a seventeen-year-old girl who told him of a past when people were not afraid. Then Guy met a professor who told him of a future in which people could thing. And Guy Montag suddenly realized what he had to do . . ."~ Jacket copy
When I started this book, I fully expected some elaborate government coup to permanently do away with books as a way of citizen control. But I did not expect it to have originated with the people! In a society where people are focused on instant gratification and personal equality (similar to Harrison Bergeron), books are thrown by the wayside. Condensed down to small encyclopedia references, people can no longer need a college education to be up on the latest work of literature, like Shakespeare. However, seeing the pointlessness in that, books, which are about people who aren't even real, were replaced by "real" people in wall TVs.
However, after the people decided to do away with books, the government saw a toehold and used it for their advantage. Reading this quote -- and the whole book for that matter -- really made me think more about what we put importance on. Look at all of the game shows on TV, the bigger and better entertainment systems we want, etc. We stopped asking why."You can't build a house without nails and wood. If you don't want a house built, hide the nails and wood. If you don't want a man unhappy politically, don't give him two sides to a question to worry him; give him one. Better yet, give him none. Let him forget there is such a thing as war. If the government is inefficient, topheavy, and tax-mad, better to be all those than that people worry over it. Peace, Montag. Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs or the names of state capitals or how much corn Iowa grew last year. Cram them so full of 'facts' they feel stuffed, but absolutely 'brilliant' with information. Then they'll feel they're thinking, they'll be happy, because facts of that sort don't change. Don't give them any slippery stuff life philosophy or sociology to tie things up with. That way lies melancholy. Any man who can take a TV wall apart and put it back together again, and most men can, nowadays, is happier than any man who tries to slide-rule, measure, and equate the universe, which just won't be measured or equated without making man feel bestial and lonely. I know, I've tried it; to hell with it. So bring on your clubs and parties, your acrobats and magicians, your daredevils, jet cars, motorcycle helicopters, your sex and heroin, more of everything to do with automatic reflex . . ." (60, 61)
Even though she did not have much time in the book, I loved Clarisse! She was a simple, beautiful, and delightful character! Just her presence and her refusal to accept life the way she was told made a huge difference in Montag's life. Her love to just talk and ask questions was pivotal in his development as a character.
This book is really hard to explain. Bradbury dares his audience to think about things, talk, and not take everything at face value. This was an amazing book, and I challenge people to read it and not come away changed.
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
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