Now twenty years later, I have reread Fahrenheit 451 and know, without a doubt, why the book stayed with me.
Imagine a world where books are burned. A world where firemen no longer come to the rescue to put out fires but come to burn your house down if you are caught with books. They no longer wield water hoses, but flame throwers. That is the world that Guy Montag lives in. He is a fireman, and for years he's rejoiced in the destruction that his flame thrower produces, burning the hated nonsensical books of the past. And you know what the ironic thing about that is, books are illegal, yet not because of a government edict, oh no, because the citizens of our country made it so! It was the peoples choice to turn their backs on books. Life is not happy when you can think and criticize, form opinions, argue points. It complicates things. So what do they do? They dispense with anything that will allow for that type of communication.People have submerged themselves in meaningless, utterly useless television.
But then one night after work as Montag is walking home he encounters a young girl, Clarisse. She is a strange one. But why is she strange? She is strange because she actually talks and listens and looks and observes the things around her. She's considered a social outcast. And Montag is fascinated by that quality. He begins to question his job, his life. And then to further tempt his questioning curiosity about books and the reason they are so hated, a job comes in. Another burning is to be done. But this time the lady whose house is the next victim of the torch, sets herslef on fire along with her books. She cannot bare to be witness to the destruction and still live. But before the bonfire begins, Montag secretly snatches one of her books. Disturbed and unstable, Montag goes home and we learn that that is not the first book that Montag has lifted from a burn site. He has collected many books over the last year, secretly wanting to learn what the big deal is about reading and books. His life is not happy like it is supposed to be. Everyone is supposed to be happy without books. Without needing to think, to question, to wonder. He wonders what life was like before life became "simple". But in reality, the simplicity of life is not the outcome from life without books. With murders and suicides and violence and life at high speed, life is very much complicated. People have only brainwashed themselves into thinking that life is simple and happy, because they no longer think for themselves. Now Montag has had a change of heart, and finds himself on the run from the very people he used to be.
I think one of the most remarkable things about this book is the fact that it holds so much truth in the way things are in our society today. Back in the late 40's when the book was originally written TV's were only just beginning to enter households. Who would have thought that 60 years later we would have all this amazing technology to consume us in our everyday lives. In a lot of ways we are that society in Fahrenheit 451. We are a society that doesn't take the time to look around and listen, what with our cell phones and day planners and internet and satellite TV? Who has time? There is a reference in the book of the 20 foot billboards you see on the highways. In the book, because people drive at break-neck speeds, they extended the billboards to 100 feet, so people can see what is being advertised. Slow down. Enjoy what is around you. Look! And Read! Life should be enjoyed, not gobbled up in the technology that drowns us.
I read this book just in time for banned book week. I find it very interesting the reasons people choose to ban this book or that book. Religious content, political views, profanity, nudity, sexually explicit, homosexuality. And you know what I gather from those reasons, the people making the fuss are simply insecure individuals. Each one of those reasons are part of our everyday life. If you are secure in who you are, then you would not feel threatened by its content. But you know, this whole thing with banning books due to content actually promotes the non-thinking, non-opinionated aspects of the society in Fahenheit 451 from happening. When a book is banned or is labeled controversial, it makes people wonder. It piques curiosity to learn what is within those pages that someone finds offensive. Take The DaVinci Code for instance. 80 million copies sold in 6 years! 80 million! That is a staggering number, especially in the short amount of time it's been in print. Now if you took away the controversy, and no one made a fuss, how many copies do you think would have sold? I doubt that many! So I say fuss over books, it brings them to light to some one who may not have known about it otherwise. It promotes critical thinking, opinions, and who are we without our opinions and thoughts? I don't agree with banning books, just because the content is written down doesn't mean it's going to become part of society, because you know what, it already is! So who cares if it's written. People do do drugs. People do have sex. People do say bad words. People are homosexual. And yes, people do have different religious beliefs. Just because you ban a book, doesn't make those things go away. We are individuals. We are who we are. And no one should be able to take that away by saying we cannot write this or that.
I have not read The Catcher in the Rye, but that is my next book to read for Banned Book Week, providing I can find a copy in the store today.
Did you know it was banned book week? Do you plan on reading anything that has been banned in the past? Do you have any thoughts regarding the banning of books?