Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Book Review: "Fahrenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury was a genius. He was aware of his surroundings and how they would ultimately contribute to a Utopian future that would be created by individuals who thought they can achieve perfection, but come to the conclusion that this complete perfection would be achieved by a level of sameness for the general population controlled by a domineering government. In this particular instance, Bradbury uses Fahrenheit 451 to concentrate on a society that uses the tactics of censorship in the form of book burning in order to wipe away the information that has been set to print while brainwashing its citizens to believing that this is a society of ponies and rainbows. After reading this spectacular novel, you will come to believe that, perhaps, banking into the ebook in exchange for the physical one may perhaps mean banking in on a future in someone else's hands.

Fahrenheit 451 was released in 1953 and told the story of a fireman by the name of Guy Montag. The only difference between the firefighters (all of which are men) in this point in time and in our own is that these firefighters do not put out fires, but start them in order to burn books and enforce the laws of the land. This practice, according to their history, was started by in 1790 and the first firefighter was Benjamin Franklin. Such a notion provides the reader with a key example regarding the power of censorship in this particular society, even if someone were to challenge it. Montag is much like the others in the way with which he follows along with the routine on a consistent basis. Montag is NOT like the others in the way that he has an opportunity to understand and then go on to question what occurs around him. This begins when he is approached by Clarisse McClellan, a seventeen-year-old who is close to nature and constantly questions this society and brings up occasions of a much more quaint place to live. The two engage in interaction with one another to the point that Montag is heavily swayed to question.

Montag lives with his wife, Mildred. She represents what could possibly be called the most accurate subject to the brainwashing of the society. She holds more compassion (the little that there is) for her television family that make up three walls of her household over the real, physical people such as her husband. The one thing she desires most is a fourth wall that will allow her to interact even better, not factoring in the fact that it would cost a third of Montag's income for that year. Mildred has completely lost touch with the current society and follows the trend of one who is thoughtless and self-centered, not afraid to detach herself from Montag at any moment.

Beatty, another direct antagonizing figure, plays the role of the closest direct contact Montag has to the law. He is Montag's boss and finds the written word to be absolutely ridiculous to the point that its only purpose is to burn it. He finds Montag's not feeling well as ridiculous following the murder of a woman that refused to leave her book collection. The best way to see Beatty as being the abrasive bully that lays down things as they are meant to be, even if they are not. Encouraging Montag to stray from the path of conformity include Faber, a retired English professor that guides him along through a seashell ear bud, and Granger, who will see later on and leads wanderers that possess the same goal to preserve the written word.

What I am about to say is going to come off as being a SPOILER, so you have been warned. Clarisse is deemed to have been dead toward the beginning of the story (about page 43) due to getting hit by a car following the shunning of her family, deemed strange by society. While the film version was very much a dud, it did include something that Bradbury did not: Clarisse joined the wanderers. Bradbury actually liked this revelation so much that he decided to include this in the rewritten version of this novel. How do I feel? Indeed the alternate ending, for if anyone, Clarisse would be the person Montag would most likely have the greatest connection with when it came to an ideal reunion. Mildred, being out of it completely, would not. A reunion between the two, no matter how hard Montag thought of her, would have felt immensely cold and distant.


Through observation, it seems as if Guy and Mildred Montag are deemed as being Montag and Mildred. Why do this? A reasonable explanation would be to look at Montag's first name as being Guy. I have a strong feeling that Guy was meant to be created as the character that had the most rapid transition throughout the novel. Mildred and Beatty were subjects to society, while Clarisse, Faber, and Granger were subject against. Guy Montag belongs somewhere in the middle, beginning as a satisfied individual before one that strayed toward questioning authority and challenging their deeds. This "guy" could refer to any subject, even if in this particular case, this subject is classified as being male.

Fahrenheit 451 is a brilliant work of literature that deserves necessary recognition and study in a way that will only grow as time goes by. Ray Bradbury has been known to expand on the idea of "what-if," asking questions along the lines of, "What if we went to Mars?" "What if being a pedestrian became illegal?" "What if we went back to time and changed one of its features?" In this case, the question as hand would be, "What if we lived in a future where we were bred and told to think in a specific fashion?" Signs of such a future become clearer and clearer. These are not necessarily identical, but there are definitely parallels. The modern era, instead of advanced televisions, are heavily dominated by smart phones and tablets that are easily accessible and work almost as if they are a battery to their particular subject. It is difficult for several to live without these appendages and Bradbury takes to account these ideas that would be appropriate for 1953. If written today, the advancement of the smart phones and tablets would be taken into account and heavily so.

I read this for the first time as a sophomore in high school. This led to deeper research on Ray Bradbury and assignments that involved choosing one book to save if I could only save one (yeah, like I could answer that question?). While it took me until after this reread to embrace an absolute appreciation for Fahrenheit 451, my appreciation for Bradbury has consistently blossomed since then. I did a research paper on Bradbury, I collect his novels and short story collections, and I finished his sequel to Dandelion Wine, Farewell Summer, in one day (don't worry, I read Dandelion Wine, too). My appreciation for Bradbury is and will continue to grow as I indulge my passion to literature in an even further fashion. To reread this novel, something I rarely do, was an excellent decision on my behalf. I have come to the conclusion that as a whole, Fahrenheit 451 has been deemed as Bradbury's most recognizable and greatest achievement. Bradbury has come out with so many spectacular works, but I will attest that this was his most important. If there was just one work with which he could be attributed to, this would be the one.

Verdict: 10/10


  1. I knew you'd review Fahrenheit 451 someday. I agree that the book is Bradbury's greatest achievement, based upon my appreciation for Bradbury and his published works. I managed to read Fahrenheit 451 last summer during ESY, and it grabbed my attention enough for me to focus on the finer details. I recently read 'Night Meeting' and 'All Summer in a Day' as part of my English class' sci-fi unit. I assume you have read these two short stories already, as you are a big fan of Bradbury's work.

    1. I read Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, Dandelion Wine, and Farewell Summer on the novel end. For short stories, I read A Sound of Thunder, The Pedestrian, The Emissary, The Night, and I am almost positive that I am leaving some out. Very fascinating you have a sci-fi unit. Is this English I at CCC?