Saturday, September 26, 2009

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (Banned Book Week 2009)

Banned Book Week
September 26 - October 3
2009

Fahrenheit 451
by Ray Bradury
1953

Twenty years ago I had to read Fahrenheit 451 as part of my required reading in the ninth grade. At the time reading wasn't my "thing". But for some reason, the book never left me, even though I could never remember why. Nothing about the book stayed with me, just the title.

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?


11 comments:

Blodeuedd said...

I should read it, but it would me too sad, I hate to see or read about people who burn books. Scary

Donna [Fantasy Dreamer's Ramblings] said...

Well put Amy! I really hate when other get up on their high horse and start telling others what they, should and will do - this is the same as forcing ones beliefs on others. People banning books are one the worst offenders. Book burning is just sacrilege to me. *cringes*

Amy C said...

Hi Blodeuedd,
while there is a bit of book burning in this, it's the message the author is trying to get across. It's a really crazy future, and I would recommend any one and everyone to read it. It's not written in a sad way, almost a bizarre way. Very interesting. Ray Bradbury has some really great metaphorical descriptions.

Hi Donna,
Thanks for your thoughts. If you haven't read this book, I think you should. You'd like it.

Erotic Horizon said...

tal rocking sum up of this book... Clarisse was such a well describe character to make such an impact on guy...

"the people making the fuss are simply insecure individuals"

You couldn't have said it any better... thats one of the reason I love SCI-FI, the little grains of todays impossiblities are the realities of tomorrow...


I'll be at Lexie, Poison Realities this week celebrating ban week with her...

E.H>

Cecile said...

I had no idea that Banned Book existed. I read Catcher In The Rye in high school and was drawn to it then. And I find myself eyeing when I go to Wal-Mart. I am trying to get the reading material I read back in high school. Because like you, back then, I just did not get it. Now I do and want to smack my forehead sometimes. I bought To Kill A Mockingbird and I want The Outsiders and Of Men and Mice. There are a few old ones that I want, just to have. Because they met something to me.

But I totally agree with you one the way people judge. Look, people were doing crap way before it was in print. And just because you print it does not mean that it is going to be done. But of course those people who make the fuss are the people that needs to take a look within themselves and ask WTH is going on inside myself first. Remember when you point a finger at someone else.. Three automatically point back at you!
Great post Amy!!!
I hope you have a great weekend! Been thinking of you lately!
Hope all is well!
Love ya hon!

Kris said...

I love that book. I did not read it in school but my hubby did and kept his copy so I read his. I did read catcher in the Rye in high school and was very impressed with it and have since bought two other Salinger books. i do not believe in banning books but I do think that there are different maturity levels for different books. So I think that elementary and middle school libraries need to be age appropriate. I read erotic romance, i do not want it banned from the library but I do not want my 7 year old reading it either. Parents also need to monitor what their kids read and discuss it.
Wow that was a long post. I will stop now :)
happy reading this week.

Tracy said...

Wow - it sounds like it would be a killer to read, emotionally that is. But it also sounds really, really good. Thanks for the review Amy.

Yes, I knew it was banned books week but wasn't planning on reading a banned book. I should probably re-think that. lol

Amy C said...

Hi Tracy,
Actually, no, it's not an emotional read, rather a crazy read! Just the thought that it was the peoples own choice to turn their backs on books and allow for that type of future, the obsession over technology rather than the written word. I think it's a neat book for everyone to read, especially those that love to read.

Hey E.H.,
Thank you! I agree about Clarisse. For the short amount of page time she had, she was a strong character, because she made such a huge impact on Guy.

I did stop by the blog you mentioned. I've been meaning to head back over there and see what posts she has going on this week. I must do that soon. Thanks for letting me know.

Amy C said...

Hi Cecile!
Yes! I have added a few more books that I read in High School that were banned and even a few others :). I stopped by a book outlet store and found several and there are several more I want to go back sometime and get. Not just banned books, but classics, books that are on the Random House list of top 100 books of the 20th century!

Hi Kris,
I totally agree with you. Books should be age appropriately picked for school reading. But to ban a book from a school based on what they seem to be primarily banned for...swearing, sexuality, drugs...it just seems ridiculous. Kids are faced with much more than that in real life! I just find it interesting that a lot of the books people want banned from school are on the top 100 list of best literature! I think it's funny that some of the books my son has read are banned, like Captain Underpants! I thought they were fun books. I mean, yeah, they were not the most appealing, but they were just silly! Why anyone would bother putting up a fuss over them is beyond me!

It all makes life interesting, I guess :).

Tracie Yule said...

I think the banning of many books is about parents insecurity in dealing with sexual issues with their children. They believe that if their children do not see it or read about it, then they are "protecting" their children. In some ways, I think that the banning of books has a lot to do with how our society perceives sexuality and also how we have those discussions with our children.

My Blog 2.0 (Dottie) said...

Hi Amy!

I left a comment before, but apparently it didn't take, lol!

I love this book, one of my favs. Glad you found the time to enjoy it too. A lot of scifi and fantasy books make the banned list, I guess, because it's either too close to reality or too far away from. If you think about it, either way it's just plain scary. So, I guess I'll continue reading banned books. What's the fun of reading if you can't be controversial ocassionally.

Dottie :)