A dystopian world where firemen carry kerosene in hoses and burn books! That fact itself was enough for me to be away from reading Fahrenheit 451! Couldn’t hold it for any longer, for I wanted to know why would people BURN books! Ray Bradbury has written one of the strangest books I have read!
It’s a book with very limited characters. Firemen do the job of burning all the books. This is considered a way to control. Anyone with a book is a traitor. So, a group of people (rather book-admirers) devise a way of preserving everything read in people’s minds! No-one asks any questions! They just do things they are asked to do!What a world!
Guy Montag, the protagonist, a fireman and his wife are living a make-believe life. One fine day, Guy meets a young girl Clarrisa who questions everything and makes him realise ‘the’ missing element in there world! He has his own collection of stolen books, which he then reads. Guy gets baffled when they had to burn a woman alive because she did not let go of her books. And he thinks this:
“Last night I thought about all the kerosene I’ve used in the past ten years. And I thought about books. And for the first time I realized that a man was behind each one of the books. A man had to think them up. A man had to take a long time to put them down on paper. And I’d never even thought that thought before…It took some man a lifetime maybe to put some of his thoughts down, looking around at the world and life, and then I come along in two minutes and boom! it’s all over.”
These events trigger the quest of things which in turn lead to unpleasant circumstances.
For me, Fahrenheit says two things. Firstly, the power of knowledge & sharing it. Secondly, how technology (TV, virtual world etc.) can do to our lives. This was not very evident, probably because the book does not have too many/ too much of high-tech things. I loved this though from the book:
“The average TV commercial of sixty seconds has one hundred and twenty half-second clips in it, or one-third of a second. We bombard people with sensation. That substitutes for thinking.”
The mechanical hounds were despicable. There are some beautiful thought-provoking lines and some really badly described characters.
I got the 60th anniversary edition! The novel itself is just a little over 227 pages and quick to read. But, it had about 100 pages of Introductions etc which were quite interesting. Ray wrote the whole book in basement of UCLA library, paying dimes per hour in 1940s. It was first named as Fireman! Ray called so many people to know the temperature at which books burn, but in vain. Until one day, he called a fireman and he got ‘451 Fahrenheit’ as the answer which was then swapped and made the title of the book! I read somewhere that this one is ‘a love-letter to books’ !! Whether or not you are a book-lover, you must read this!
“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.
It doesn’t matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.”
“If you hide your ignorance, no one will hit you and you’ll never learn.”
“The good writers touch life often. The mediocre ones run a quick hand over her. The bad ones rape her and leave her for the flies.”
“Books were only one type of receptacle where we stored a lot of things we were afraid we might forget. There is nothing magical in them at all. The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the Universe together into one garment for us.”
“Do you know why books such as this are so important? Because they have quality. And what does the word quality mean? To me it means texture. This book has pores. It has features. This book can go under the microscope. You’d find life under the glass, streaming past in infinite profusion. The more pores, the more truthfully recorded details of life per square inch you can get on a sheet of paper, the more ‘literary’ you are. That’s my definition anyway. Telling detail. Fresh detail. The good writers touch life often. The mediocre ones run a quick hand over her. The bad ones rape her and leave her for the flies. So now you see why books are hated and feared? They show the pores in the face of life.”