If you’re a dystopian-novel lover, you absolutely have to read Fahrenheit 451. Written by Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 is set in a futuristic world in which firemen start fires instead of putting them out. Books are illegal and all everyone does is watch TV. The concept of the fireman setting houses and books on fire is a twisted approach to the fireman as how we would perceive him/her in our world.
The title itself puts you into the setting of the novel. The temperature, 451 degrees Fahrenheit, is the exact temperature in which paper burns. Fire, burning and ashes are a recurring image in the entire novel.
The foreward included in my edition of the novel, written by Neil Gaiman, is a perfect introduction for the novel since it puts you into the right mindframe as how to approach reading the novel.
Bradbury is criticizing the television which was being introduced into households at the time the novel was being written. Bradbury’s fear was imagining a future where books are neglected. Reading the novel today, thank God what he pictured did not actually happen. What is highly important about the novel is that such a regression of mankind happened due to mankind itself. The complete ban of books was brought about by the people themselves. This brings to light the problems that come along with tyranny of the majority. The novel shows the rotting of humanity itself; a human race that has lost its values, intellect and emotion. It has become so rotten to the point that we loose our appreciation of our surroundings, people and the purpose of life.
Since the novel is a dystopian novel, this futuristic America is an authoritarianism. It most certainly cannot be a dictatorship because it is the people who are compliant to the government’s ban of books. Again, a critique against the tyranny of the majority notion. The novel is somewhat depressing to see how people could supposedly become.
The novel is still relevant to today’s world because we live in a technology-based world where sparks of Bradbury’s dystopian novel can be seen today.
In this futuristic world that Bradbury envisions, we do not appreciate anything. We live in this futuristic world where we want everything immediately at the touch of our fingertips, we’re obsessed with the world of television which drains us mentally to the point that we don’t even think anymore. We simply become hypnotized robots that have no feeling whatsoever.
The novel becomes so extreme that we loose all morality and feeling. The people in the novel are so drained of feeling that to be able to feel alive, they drive like maniacs not caring that they may crash, kill someone else, or run over an animal.
It is as if Bradbury is trying to show how books regulate our morality and keep our values and history alive. Even though books are fiction, books bring out our humanity because they are an observation or a reflection of our humanity.
Furthermore, the character of Guy Montag is important to analyze. I felt like he was underdeveloped in the novel. Bradbury allows us to dig deep into his inner thoughts however I felt like I could not pinpoint who Guy Montag was. The fact that his name is Guy makes him a universal character, thus relatable to all readers. Guy is anyone.
When he comes to his life epiphany, Guy realizes that his entire life was boring, being a fireman is horrible because it is against what books stand for, and that he has been blind for so long. He realizes that he had nothing going on in his life simply because he was “hypnotized” or brainwashed. He used to see the world through this very blurry vision that the author is trying to critique; that television makes us immune to life and our surroundings, it makes us emotionless and numb to feeling.
Before his epiphany, we get a deep psychological intake of his “regular” mindset as a fireman; how he loved the smell of kerosene and how he felt alive burning books. He starts to mentally breakdown as he realizes what he had been doing and how wrong it was. He was a hypnotized robot like Mildred. When he comes to this revelation, he’s all over the place trying to figure out who he is. Psychologically, he is very deep.
It is this blurry vision of the world that brings us to the point that we don’t see anymore. That is how Guy was seeing the world and so when he woke up, he did not know how to deal with this revelation. He is not the usual character an author would present. He is not straight forward, stable or predictable yet that is what makes him so human.
What I do have to critique about the novel is simply that the political aspect of the novel is not quite there. It is only the fireman that presents control in this futuristic world. It is as if they are the policemen who uphold authority. We do not have a figure on top who is in control like Big Brother in 1984 by George Orwell or a political party like in The Handmaid’s Tale. Therefore, as I was reading the novel, I felt there was this major pothole. Especially with the background aspect of war occurring in the novel, you’d think, who’s in control?
I think that Fahrenheit 451 is a different type of dystopia because Bradbury’s approach is a social one instead of a political one. The social code is really messed up in his novel. This novel takes on the humanistic side to dystopias. We are seeing the regression of humanity, solely humanity, not due to politics and ideologies, or someone seeking higher authority or imposing their ideology on the entire country.
Moreover, what makes Bradbury so incredible is his use of language. At certain points, his writing is prose. You can tell how careful Bradbury was when it comes to word choice. He deliberately chose certain words to bring out a certain effect.
I also love the pace that he creates. Throughout the entire novel, it is as if you are holding your breath. He does this with the use of long sentences, short sentences and commas. You can feel the tension rise in your body. It is like you’re running throughout the entire novel. There’s no break.
Fahrenheit 451 is a must-read so hurry up and order your copy ASAP! Check out this version from on Book Depository. I highly suggest this copy simply because of Neil Gaiman’s foreward. It is spot on.