I recently read Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, and I think it was somewhere around the 20th time. I thought I would write a review of the book in hopes of encouraging others to read it, or as in my case, reread it.
The book is about a future where Firemen no longer race around to put out fires; instead, they discover hidden caches of illegal book hoards and burn them up, sometimes the houses and owners of the books as well.
It's a future where all books, except for comics, are banned, and it is forbidden to own them.
Guy Montag is the protagonist, and you follow his daily routine in life as he works tirelessly doing his job as a fireman.
My favorite character in the book would have to be Clarisse McClellan, Montag's next-door neighbor. She is a free spirit and a nonconformist who sees beyond the schools' teachings and brainwashing and has deep and meaningful conversations about life and the world's beauty that everyone ignores.
Though initially released as "The Fireman" in Galaxy Science Fiction in 1950, this story rings so true today! Clarisse sings the song of most Boomers and Gen-Xers today to the Montag's unhearing ears of the day.
The story is interesting, and the points of view keep you thinking. To exemplify the juxtaposition of past and present, Montag has conversations with those who have surrendered to modern times, causing him to struggle between them and what he talks to Clarisse about.
I think one of my favorite parts of the book is when Montag begins to realize he is like a hamster in a wheel, and his life is not only meaningless, but so is his marriage, his job, everything he has believed, and he begins to rethink everything.
Having read this book many times, it always surprises me with the emotion it drums up, like when Montag struggles with his distant wife, who is more concerned with chatting on the Parlor walls than anything else. The Parlor walls are a virtual reality type internet chat where you socialize with others around the globe.
He reaches out to her multiple times, but she is vague in dialogue, distracted with the Parlor, and so self absorbed in her addiction to pills, she barely acknowledges Montag.
This book is in my Top 10 most favorite books of all time. As I said earlier, I have read it many times and will read it repeatedly.
Now, more than ever, I feel Fahrenheit 451 speaks of a generation losing touch with historical facts for the tickling of ears and a false narrative so easy to accept, as long as you destroy the past so it will remain undiscovered.
The struggle of fake-social interactions versus real intimate relationships we see between Montag and his wife tell a story as well of today and how we struggle with the very same issue.
Are we trading the quick and easy, no strings attached socializing internet for human touch and real intimacy? Was this the reason Montag's wife became addicted to the painkillers in the first place?
It is as if Ray Bradbury could see 70 years into the future and recorded what he saw.
I think this should be required reading in every school. Still, the irony is that they may remove it for revealing the very thing that is wrong with our educational system with disdain. Therefore, Fahrenheit 451 may disappear from the shelves under the guise of hate-speech or lack of relevance to a modern educated society.
It's not too late, though. You can still get a copy and read it before the firemen arrive.
I suggest doing so!