Sunday, February 19, 2012
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Books are a relic from the past thought to be a threat to people's sense of contentment and well-being. Books incite emotions! They create chaos and havoc in an otherwise orderly (i.e. entertained and sedated) society. Anyone found harboring books must be punished and have their collections burned. Indeed some people choose to commit suicide by burning right along with their libraries, an action the government uses to prove just how unhealthy books are to the population. See? Books make people do crazy things.
It took me a long time to get through this because I just don't connect well with fantasy dystopian worlds. But I stuck with it because what I really wanted to know was how the characters and, really, the whole society could justify an existence without books, knowledge or learning. What would that even look like, and were there any successful dissenters? Fahrenheit 451 gives us a small glimpse, and it's creepy.
Guy Montag was a fireman whose job it was to start fires. And he enjoyed his job. He had been a fireman for ten years, and he had never questioned the pleasure of the midnight runs nor the joy of watching pages consumed by flames . . . never questioned anything until he met a seventeen-year-old girl who told him of a past when people were not afraid. Then Guy met a professor who told him of a future in which people could think. And Guy Montag suddenly realized what he had to do . . . (back cover)
"You know, I'm not afraid of you at all." He was surprised. "Why should you be?"
"So many people are. Afraid of firemen, I mean. But you're just a man after all." pg7
"It's fine work. 'Monday burn Milay, Wednesday Whitman, Friday Faulkner, burn 'em to ashes, then burn the ashes'. That's our official slogan." pg8
How rarely did other people's faces take of you and throw back to you your own expression, your own trembling thought? pg11
School is shortened, discipline relaxed, philosophies, histories, languages dropped, English and spelling gradually gradually neglected, finally almost completely ignored. Life is immediate, the job counts, pleasure lies all about after work. Why learn anything save pressing buttons, pulling switches, fitting nuts and bolts? pg55
Faber sniffed the book. "Do you know that books smell like nutmeg or some spice from a foreign land? I loved to smell them when I was a boy. Lord, there were a lot of lovely books once, before we let them go." pg81
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. pg83
"Ladies, once a year, every fireman's allowed to bring one book home, from the old days, to show his family how silly it all was, how nervous that sort of thing can make you, how crazy. Guy's surprise tonight is to read you one sample to show how mixed-up things were, so none of us will ever have to bother our little heads about that junk again, isn't that right darling?" pg99