Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is one of those books that many people read in high school. I never had it assigned to read, so I’d never really picked it up. I was coming out a reading slump, I decided to check it out, since many consider it a classic. It wasn’t quite what I was expecting.
Fahrenheit 451 follows Guy Montag, a firefighter in a dystopian future where his profession is to burn books rather than put out fires. The world is your typical bleak dystopian world where large screens are in, wars are raging, and free thought is in short supply. Here, literature is considered illegal. Guy’s life is thrown off balance by a new neighbor that makes him question his existence and thereby turns his world upside down.
First of all, I found Bradbury’s writing style in this book to be a bit much. Some of the sentences were long and somewhat convoluted. From a stylistic point of view, I think he was emphasizing Guy’s confusion with his role in the world, as well as the confusion and buzz the world around him had to offer. For me, however, this style simply muddled what was happening in the story and made it difficult to follow what exactly was taking place.
The tones in the story changed sharply from paragraph to paragraph, giving way to a very disorienting read. Books are considered contraband in this world, yet when Guy whips out a book and begins reading to his wife and her friends, the friends only seem mildly disturbed. Perhaps it’s a sign of how disillusioned or tuned out the people of the society are, but I still feel that if you whipped out a brick of cocaine in a room full of teens that you made put down their cell phones today, they’d freak out a bit.
Things seem a little convenient for Guy as well. He just happens to have spoken to a man a long time ago that will help him not only get an extra print of a book he’s found to turn in to his boss, but that also has been tinkering around with technology that lets him build a tiny earpiece for Guy to use in their plans.
Overall, it was a decent read. I felt it was a pretty run of the mill dystopian novel, though. The message that the world has been rent asunder by a lack of interest and subsequent outlawing of books is not as strong by the end of the novel, when the theme moves more towards the fact that humanity keeps screwing itself over, books or not.
To me, this novel wasn’t about books being necessary, but more so awareness being necessary. I’m not sure I’d equate works of literature to awareness, because there are plenty of books out there that are just as mindless as TV, movies, and the media in general. You have to be aware of the world to really understand what’s happening in it, and even then, it’s hard to comprehend more than your tiny slice.
I would call this a READ WITH CAUTION. This is definitely one of those instances where the moniker of “classic” doesn’t do it for me. It’s mostly just opinion and preference, though. I support many of the notions that come out of the book, but the actual story and reading experience fell short.