Fahrenheit 451 — Ray Bradbury
Generally mistaken as a story that ransacks into the realms of censorship, Fahrenheit 451, according to Ray Bradbury himself, actually tells how media consumption tarnishes our interest in reading literature.
The book title refers to the temperature Ray Bradbury understood as the autoignition point of book paper, which is Fahrenheit 451.
Originally a novella, given the title of “The Fireman” back in the early 1950s, it critiques the dysfunctional American society which is relentlessly getting more and more dysfunctional. It is eerily prophetic in many ways, considering the overwhelming ascendance of media and technology of today.
“You must understand that our civilization is so vast that we can’t have our minorities upset and stirred. Ask yourself, What do we want in this country, above all? People want to be happy, isn’t that right?… Well, aren’t they? Don’t we keep them moving, don’t we give them fun? That’s all we live for, isn’t it?… Colored people don’t like Little Black Sambo. Burn it. White people don’t feel good about Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Burn it.”
And so the dawn of the book burning bustle kicked off…
Albeit the shortness of the novel, it still took me a while to finish the book. It was a little too dragging, especially at the first and second parts. The prose was too wordy, too flowery. The author has a tendency to thrust lengthy tangents into the story, over-describing every situation; in a way that skimming doesn’t strike as a sin. But of course I did not skim; however, I think I’ve damaged my brain somehow.
Tedious for the most parts, not until the climactic part; I still found myself surprisingly drawn into the story. Somehow I am still unconvinced that Bradbury does not endeavor to address censorship in this book since it appears to be the most fundamental perspective. Or maybe, media consumption really is the underlying message of the book, and that, possibly, he may be subtly hinting at something; something like the historical manifestations of book burnings and intellectual freedom.
Mankind, much later into the story, was further viewed as a race of phoenixes. A phoenix lives an endless cycle of long life; dies in flames just to be reborn again and again. Simply put, “the phoenix represents the cyclical rebirth of society from its constant waves of self-destructive behavior.” Nevertheless, what the phoenix doesn’t have is the awareness of the past life it has lived, while man is very much aware of the past mistakes he has made, and therefore can commit to a different change of heart. But sadly, just like the phoenix, man is constantly repeating his mistakes over and over again.
A great read—strikingly frightening in its implications and a thought-provoking one. 🙂