First, a confession: I've not read "The Scarlet Letter" yet (though it is on Mount TBR), but I did see quite a lot of parallels with "Oranges Are Not...moreFirst, a confession: I've not read "The Scarlet Letter" yet (though it is on Mount TBR), but I did see quite a lot of parallels with "Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit" which I read recently: a girl brought up with a fixed belief system in a highly religious family must question these beliefs when she becomes an outcast from her church and community.(less)
An amazing book, but a terrifying and depressing picture of the dark, savage side of humanity once the veneer of civilisation has been stripped away....moreAn amazing book, but a terrifying and depressing picture of the dark, savage side of humanity once the veneer of civilisation has been stripped away. Whether or not such a descent into madness is inevitable, imagining what would have happened without the sudden deus ex machina ending is chilling.
The illustrations by Sam Weber in this Folio Society edition are beautiful.(less)
After reading The Forever War* with it's time travel by effect of relativity I've moved on to time machine-free time travel by means of a really long...moreAfter reading The Forever War* with it's time travel by effect of relativity I've moved on to time machine-free time travel by means of a really long sleep...
It's hard to judge this novel on its own merits, rather than making comparisons with later depictions of dystopias such as the equally highly stratified society of Brave New World, published over a quarter of a century later. In some ways it's very much of its time: more so in the racism and sexism which may be far more jarring to a modern reader than Victorian predictions of future technology. Indeed the predictions of technology seem far more accurate than some of the future attitudes. By the late 2090s it appears we will have moving walkways, televisions and aeroplanes, and the now merely 'half savage' Negro will unquestioningly follow the orders of his white masters.
In Wells' preface to the 1921 edition, he admits that by that time he is convinced that this future society of a more-or-less literally stratified society crammed into few massive cities with the countryside empty is rather unlikely. He no longer believes that evil capitalists will take over the world, however the "money is power" idea would seem to be more relevant now in a time when companies lobby politicians and some companies have more money than the economies of some entire countries. The future is a strange place in which to live...
**spoiler alert** The 'Snowpocalypse' outside or whatever they're calling it now on the news has put me in the mood for some dystopian science-fiction...more**spoiler alert** The 'Snowpocalypse' outside or whatever they're calling it now on the news has put me in the mood for some dystopian science-fiction (possibly followed by some post-apocalyptic? Why not!). Actually, the news programmes on TV relate to what seems most striking this time I've reread Fahrenheit 451 - the inanity and inconsequentiality of what's left of society. What is more representative in real life of the fictional pointless nonsense that Mildred watches on the wall-screens than entire news broadcasts that only tell us what we would know if we just looked out of the window? Specifically: it's snowing!
Of course there is the obvious issue of censorship with the book-burning firemen, but what is interesting is the society that has produced them. As Beatty tells Montag, it wasn't the government that forced the firemen on the people, rather it was the people that wanted them. What may have begun as a minority-empowering idea quickly progressed to 'political correctness gone mad' as our real-life media would put it: anything that potentially could offend anyone must be destroyed, thus all books are burned and the media talk about nothing important.
While it is easy to draw parallels between the society depicted in Fahrenheit 451 and our own, there is one important difference: it has never been easier to share information, or stories, thoughts and opinions. Even if a country started burning all its books, at least the majority of their content could be sent via the internet and safely preserved on the other side of the world. Meanwhile, more-or-less instant communication means that people can get together more easily to protest against and hopefully stop harmful initiatives such as the book burning. This doesn't mean, though, that sitting in front of a computer is the answer to everything: instead of just reading about or watching things, we should all sometimes take out our "Seashell"-like earphones and, like Clarisse McClellan, go out and experience our world first-hand.(less)