Tryn's Reviews > Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
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's review
Jul 25, 11

really liked it
bookshelves: classic, novel, dystopia
Read in July, 2011

I’ve heard this title mentioned for years without ever really knowing what the novel was about. I’m glad I finally took the time to read it. This is now my favorite of the distopias I’ve read, probably because it is centered on books. What would a world without books be like? Like the world inhabited by Montag, the fireman in Fahrenheit 451—a world of diversion, superficial entertainment, speed, distraction, escapism, shallow relationships without history or future, and meaningless goals.

My son Morgan read this book right after I did and we had an interesting discussion about it. We both liked the idea of people being libraries, repositories of the ideas and images and language of the books they have read. When we read a book it becomes part of us and we can share the insights we gain, even the beautiful language, with other people. If books were banned or unavailable (or what is more likely in the real world, ignored), it is left to those who have read them to preserve the books inside themselves and to share what they know with others, in the hopes of inspiring them to try the value of books for themselves.

Bradbury says that for books to have an influence on a culture there must be two things present: 1) leisure to read the books and think about them and 2) the freedom to act on what we read and put into practice the ideas we encounter. If people are too distracted to read the books and if they lack the freedom to act on what they read, the books may as well have been destroyed.

Morgan and I both wondered why Clarise seems to be such an important character, even though she only appears in one scene. We decided that Clarise shows that clarity and depth of thought are not dependent solely on the availability of books. Inquiry and curiosity and observation—about nature and people, about anything—these are the stuff of a valuable life.

I particularly like two images from this novel: first, books as birds. I had never thought about the way an open book looks like wings. That image struck me as so perfect and beautiful. It made me think about how birds can represent freedom and higher thinking. And I was also struck by Bradbury’s idea of the sun burning time. The sun burns time, like the firemen burn books, like bombs burn a city. Since 450 degrees Fahrenheit is the temperature at which paper burns, this is a story of destruction from the title to the last page. But out of the ashes of that destruction, the novel suggests, can arise something that could never really be destroyed at all, the greatness of the human spirit, long preserved in books, now carried inside those who care about the great ideas of the ages.

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