Banned Book Club is a meme I host where we read one historically challenged book a month. We support free speech and fight censorship every chance we get. Join our Goodreads group and DM me on Twitter to join our group chat.
Book of the month: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Banned for: Vulgarity, reference to the Bible, and using the God’s name in vain.
Guy Montag is a fireman. In his world, where television rules and literature is on the brink of extinction, firemen start fires rather than put them out. His job is to destroy the most illegal of commodities, the printed book, along with the houses in which they are hidden.
Montag never questions the destruction and ruin his actions produce, returning each day to his bland life and wife, Mildred, who spends all day with her television ‘family’. But then he meets an eccentric young neighbor, Clarisse, who introduces him to a past where people did not live in fear and to a present where one sees the world through the ideas in books instead of the mindless chatter of television.
When Mildred attempts suicide and Clarisse suddenly disappears, Montag begins to question everything he has ever known.
How ironic is it that a book about book banning got banned? I’ve always wanted to read Fahrenheit 451 just to see why the book was banned. And as with every other read of the Banned Book Club, I wasn’t able to see a single solid reason for certain school districts challenging this book.
Fahrenheit 451 is set in a dystopian world where firemen set fires instead of putting them out. And they set fire to books. The government in this totalitarian world claims that books propagate a sickness in man. But that’s just a front–they know that the people who read are more knowledgeable and hence, will be difficult to control.
The protagonist, Guy Montag, is a fireman too. He initially loves his job and doesn’t wonder why books need to be burned in the first place. He does his job unquestioningly, at least until he meets Clarisse McClellan. Clarisse isn’t like the rest of the people Guy knows. She speaks with clarity and questions everything that doesn’t make sense. She wakes something up in Guy. How thinking on his own changes his life forms the rest of the story.
Written in 1953, Fahrenheit 451 is a brilliant social commentary that is valid even today. When you put a totalitarian government together with an obsessive dependance on technology, what will happen to the number of people who think on their own? This book was certainly the Black Mirror of the 20th century. In fact, the Hound Dog from this book is probably what inspired the robot in Metalhead (Season 4).
It’s also wonderful to see just how much Bradbury has predicted about future technology–you see references to headphones, bluetooth earpieces, drones, and so much more, albeit addressed with different names. Seashell radio, anyone? 😉
The only problem I had with this book was with the metaphor-heavy writing. I love metaphors and even I wasn’t able to stand some of the metaphors in this one. It broke the flow for me in quite a few places and hence made my reading slower.
If this book were written today, I’d complain about how little we hear of Clarisse after the first few pages and how Montag’s character development gave me whiplash. But it wasn’t written today. This book was certainly ahead of its time and we have to agree that it’s the pinnacle of social commentary.
I’m sitting near my bookshelf as I write this. Looking at all the books I own, I know for a fact that I am who I am because of the books I read. My character, my thoughts, my actions, they were all influenced in some way or other by the books I’ve read so far. Fahrenheit 451 shows a world which knew this and hence set out to destroy it. And that’s scary. Extremely scary.
Rating: 4 out of 5