“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.”
-Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
The twentieth-century has seen many dystopian stories, from Huxley’s Brave New World to Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. These stories, in addition to gaining popularity as classics of the English language, have instigated thought and belief about a future human civilization. What initially started out as a forewarning of the powers of science had evolved into a tale of life under a theoretical future dystopia. In Fahrenheit 451, this practice is done no differently. Acclaimed author Ray Bradbury tells a story of a totalitarian regime similar to that of Brave New World, which means that the citizens literally have no independent lives — videlicet, they are dependent upon the television for running their lives. Take the protagonist’s wife, for example — her life nigh entirely consists of watching television in her parlor. She is dependent upon the television to the degree of considering it her “family.” This dependence can be seen in people whom we call “couch potatoes.” Bradbury, in a sense, crafted this dystopia similar enough to the present that it provokes many a thought — especially about the road the future will take.
This story centers around Guy Montag, a fireman who counterintuitively starts fires instead of extinguishing them. Like the typical fireman, Montag’s job is to burn books (the title, incidentally, is based on the temperature at which book-paper burns). One day, Montag meets Clarisse McClellan, an eccentric girl who tells him of a past where people used to find entertainment in literature rather than television. After Clarisse unexpectedly disappears, Montag starts to question everything he’s ever known. He begins to sneak books from his burnings into his home; however, when his purloining gets discovered, he has to flee for his life.
Besides being a suspenseful tale of rebellion, Fahrenheit 451 doubles as a shockingly accurate glimpse into the future. Bradbury predicted that books would become obsolete as newer technologies such as televisions and radios came into existence. Therefore, he created the firemen as a symbolism for censorship — as a symbolism for the demise of literature and rise of modern technology. When Fahrenheit 451 was first published in 1953, the technology was not as modern as today. For example, there weren’t cell phones or video games or portable music players (these only came in the 1980s). After they were invented, we have seen teenagers obsessed with video games similar to Montag’s wife’s obsession with television. We see children using the television from a young age as a means of learning. Bradbury has many times made me stop and wonder: in which direction is the future heading? Is it heading towards a world dominated by technology where literature ceases to exist? If so, then Bradbury is, arguably, the most veracious soothsayer the world has ever seen.
I would recommend this book to people who like science fiction, general reading, and dystopian fiction. The edition that I read was the sixtieth-anniversary edition from Simon and Schuster, which contains an introduction from Ray Bradbury himself. In addition, the book contains deckle-edged paper, which makes the aesthetics very pleasing. All in all, this is a great edition of a very evocative novel.