Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury

From the very beginning, Fahrenheit 451 was a gripping and fast-paced novel.  It did not take me very long to realize that the plot is set in a future dystopian world.  I had trouble putting the book down and quickly finished part one.  Normally, I am not a huge fan of dystopian novels, but there is something unique about Fahrenheit 451 that grabbed my attention.  In my opinion, such a book should serve as a warning for the future or an eye-opening reminder, not simply a horror story for entertainment’s sake.

We live in an age when technology is rapidly becoming more and more a part of our lives.  It seems that we always have to be kept busy and entertained, especially in the case of our smart phones.  Montag’s wife Mildred is very similar to people today, but she is more caught up in technology than we are because society provides her with easier and more intense access to technology.  She reminds me of the sad number of people obsessed with shows like Keeping Up with the Kardashians or Bachelorette; it seems that she knows a copious amount of information about a bunch of random people.  The “Seashells” in her ears are described as thimble radios which provide an “electronic ocean of sound” (page 10) and maintain music and talk that come in on the “shore of her unsleeping mind” (page 10).  What a frightening thought, that humans might get to that insane level of technological stimulation.

Another thing that stood out to me was the main character, who seems to be one of the few people who is not caught up in his obsessive society.  He has been unhappy his whole life without realizing it until Clarisse McClellan asks him seemingly easy questions that get him thinking.  What I find interesting is that only after many years does he realize how fanatical it is to burn books.  I never would have guessed why people burn books in the novel, and the simple answer from the Fire Captain is that people in the past had trouble accepting some books such as Uncle Tom’s Cabin, so they burned them to “remove their troubles.”  To me, it is a ridiculous solution to destroy so much important historical knowledge just out of discomfort.  But the mindset of the society in Fahrenheit 451 is that people should not think deeply or seek profound knowledge, but rather be content with simple information and just focus on sensual pleasure.

Fahrenheit 451 serves as a warning for our possible future.  Even if the book has an extreme take on the future, it is not unfathomable that the world could become much more technology- and stimulation-based and consequently regress.  So far, I have really enjoyed the novel, and I am excited to witness Montag’s discoveries as he explores the world of literature.

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25 responses to “Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury

  1. sophieweigel

    Before I even started to read Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, I was already familiar with the basic premise of the book. Personally, I have read several dystopian novels, but the idea of a society burning books and strongly endorsing the use of technology to keep the people ignorant, seemed particularly intriguing to me.
    The first thing that really caught my attention about the novel was the author’s use of imagery. It was so very descriptive, yet at times, the meaning was vague. It seemed to me like the author really wanted the reader to work to unmask and dissect the true meaning of what he was trying to convey. Another thing I love about Bradbury’s imagery, is just how stunning it is, while there’s also the fact that at times, it may be slightly discomforting or perplexing. But, after reading these quotes, readers can be left with a profound taste in their mouthes. One of my favorite lines reads “As he stood there, the sky over the house screamed. There was a tremendous ripping sound as if two giant hands had torn ten thousand miles of black lines down the seam” (page 13).
    As a fan of dystopian novels, I have learned to not question if the story could be plausible, simply because they are set in the future, and we really don’t know what could possibly happen! But personally, since I have quite an open mind as to what could occur later on in life, I think that something similar to the premise of the novel, could possibly become a reality. As a society, we are so enthralled in the latest technology, that some may argue, this is in fact making us more ignorant people. If we were to gradually become dumber because of our infatuation with technology, we could become putty in the hands of authority. They could take away our books, our face-to-face communication, or our ability to “wonder why”, just as portrayed in the novel, as long as they fully encourage the use of technology. So, although the novel is fiction, who are we to say that something like that could NEVER happen? We really just don’t know.
    ~ sophieweigel

  2. megmsmith

    Fahrenheit 451 Blog Post No. 1–Megan Smith–Dystopia, Then and Now
    So far, I love Fahrenheit 451. I have always been interested in dystopian novels. The idea of a world that could be, or might be, or could have been or was, has piqued my interests, mainly because I read to escape from reality. Dystopian societies don’t have to be realistic for me to love them, they just have to be different from reality, even if that difference is a tiny tweak in the fabric of society.
    Because I love these stories, the recent influx of opposite-utopian YA books following Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games has put me in hog heaven. I have adored Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy, Scott Westerfield’s Uglies series, the Delirium books, and many other novels of their kind. Around the Fifties and Sixties, there was a similar spike in popularity of dystopian books, including George Orwell’s 1984, Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.
    Today’s dystopian books all have something in common, to some extent: A young protagonist is forced to leave his or (usually) her family, and must mature, growing strong enough to beat the seemingly-impossible odds. The protagonist grows strong and brave, mentally and physically, through trials and tribulations. Eventually, they discover that something is not right with their society, be it an oppressive government or an evil force on the rise, and they must use their newfound strength to change their world for the greater good. In Quincy’s blog entry on Divergent, he noted the similarities between Divergent and The Hunger Games. And he’s right, the two books are similar because they were written to satisfy the needs of the current population: a group of smart, rebellious teens who want to make a difference and become more than a pawn in the system.
    In contrast, the dystopian books of the 50’s and 60’s were facing an audience of middle-class, average, joe-schmoe white men who were wary of Communism and spies. Their dystopian societies weren’t oppressing the rights to fall in love, as in Delirium (whose author has slipped my mind), or the right to choose who you can be, a constant dilemma faced by teens, as in Divergent. Their dystopian governments were repressing the basic rights to think, or the rights to read, or the rights to knowledge and information. People in the 50’s and 60’s were really freaked out about Communism, and most of the Communist governments at the time were oppressive in manners similar to those of the dystopian worlds of 1984 and Fahrenheit 451.
    However. The point of this entry is not to put a label on these books and say that they are all the same. Most dystopian books are very, very different. A society that forces children to fight to the death in an annual celebration is very different from a society that burns books and the homes they are contained in. Fahrenheit 451 is one of the most unique books I have read in quite a while. But, character-wise, it is very similar to George Orwell’s 1984. Guy Montag, the main character, is a middle-aged, happily-married, “happy” firefighter (who does not put out fires, instead, he sets books on fire.) He is very similar to Winston Smith, the protagonist of 1984. Winston is a normal, middle-class, middle-aged man who does his morally questionable government job without question. Both characters have a distant wife who is exactly who the government wants them to be: Montag’s wife, Mildred, is a slave to the mind-numbing readiness of technology (Mark compared her holographic family to reality shows like Keeping Up With the Kardashians and Bachelorette), and Smith’s wife is distant and cold and afraid to be with him, the result of Party training. Clarisse McLellan and Julia are very similar, as young, pretty girls with controversial views, girls who defy the government’s wishes.
    So far, Fahrenheit 451 is a 3.5/5. It’s definitely sparked my interest, but it’s very similar to 1984. If it continues the way I expect it will, It shall be a very good book!

  3. Mark Yazhari

    I like both your points, and they made me realize that dystopian novels seem to be a popular trend in modern literature. Before I read Fahrenheit 451, I had no idea of what the book would be like, so it was exciting to move along with the book and get caught up in the unfamiliar plot. Like Nic said (in another post), the book is eerily realistic, and I didn’t realize that it was written in the ’50s; Ray Bradbury was way ahead of his time! It is definitely not inconceivable that we could invent essentially iPhones for our ears or huge TV’s that act as walls.

    An important aspect of dystopian novels that I forgot to mention is that they should have a least of grain of truth or reality to them. Otherwise, it is hard for them to have any major effect on the reader. Although it doesn’t seem likely that humankind will get to the point of burning every possible book, I can certainly envision a world that is much more technologically focused even than our current world. As Sophie said, we just never know what will happen.

    Meg, I find it interesting that you rate Fahrenheit 451 a 3.5/5. I would probably give it a significantly higher rating, like a 4.5/5. What makes you give it a 3.5? Just curious. Anyway, I have really enjoyed the book so far, and it sounds like you guys have, too.

    • Serena Zhang

      If I were to summarize and describe Ray Bradbury’s writing style in one word, it would be: art. Simply put, “Fahrenheit 451” is a masterpiece, a mosaic of quotes and eloquence disguised as typed ink letters that delve far deeper into philosophies and ideas than one would imagine.

      At first, I was hesitant to begin reading “Fahrenheit 451” due to my summer reading of another one of Bradbury’s works: “Something Wicked This Way Comes”. Albeit mellifluous and intriguing, the novel’s plot was confusing and hard to follow, with metaphors slightly too abstract to make sense. In “Fahrenheit 451”, however, the literary devices are astounding. The novel’s poetic sense forced me to slow down and decipher certain quotes, rereading them while my mind whirled to comprehend the complexity of Bradbury’s words. Similes, especially, claimed their places affluently throughout the first part of the novel. Such, when introducing The Mechanical Hound, “It was like a great bee come home from some field where the honey is full of poison wildness, of insanity and nightmare, its body crammed with that over-rich nectar and now it was sleeping the evil out of itself” (54).

      Repetition could also be found, placed strategically to ensure extra emphasis, “…a silly empty man near a silly empty woman, while the hungry snake made her still more empty” (73-74). Here, Montag is beginning to realize the bitter skew of his and Mildred’s life, where he is controlled by his job and society and utterly helpless while his wife drowns in her technology-enclosed world.

      Bradbury’s haunting descriptions and filler phrases are ovation-worthy, “Her face was like a snow-covered island upon which rain might fall, but it felt no rain; over which clouds might pass their moving shadows, but she felt no shadow” (43), or, “And the men with the cigarettes in their straight-lined mouths, the men with the eyes of puff adders, took up their load of machine and tubes, their case of liquid melancholy and the slow dark sludge of nameless stuff…” (45).

      Liquid melancholy.

      Beautiful.

      Bradbury weaves masterpieces so easily into the stanzas of the page, it makes the dramatist in me wince with jealousy.

      (I have a feeling already that despite my efforts, this blog post is mainly going to be one large jumbling mass of praise and quotes, so bear with me. I’ll address the other stuff eventually, trust me.)

      In one part, Montag, in a sudden panic, asks Mildred where they met for the first time. After a moment of thought, Mildred still can’t seem to recall the date or location. This is one of the first moments where Montag is starting to question the unknown, to dig deeper past the surface of glamour and routine. After contemplating the meaning of this passage, I’ve concluded the reason Montag inquires about their initial meeting place is because he frightened and intimidated by this new way of outside-the-box, defying-society thinking. He wants to revert back to the simple version of himself, the him that never questioned, the him that did his job like a good husband and fireman. But the events that occur spontaneously after another, from the numerous revelational meetings with Clarisse to the recent fire and the stolen book, are dumping a bucket of ice cold water on his unsuspecting head and demanding he wake up and see his safe, normal world has now deformed itself to reveal the harsh reality he lives in.

      (See? Something other than quotes.)

      That harsh reality gives way to a whole other tessellation of ugly truths that society tries to hide, such as the issue of mindless violence. Clarisse mentions the death of her friends from shootings and car accidents, and Mildred lets slip that in moments of particular fury, she goes out in her car and runs over dogs. Dogs. Dogs! What kind of sick person purposely kills animals for his or her own enjoyment?

      (Obviously, she’s never seen those animal cruelty videos with Sarah McLachlan.)

      Furthermore, when Montag confesses his inner struggle with his conscience about leaving a woman to die, burning with her books, Mildred simply brushes the matter off, as if hearing your husband indirectly kill an innocent person is equivalent to the reciting of a grocery list. It’s repulsive, this nonchalant attitude towards murder. In fact, it’s so disgusting and terrible that it reaches an unrealistic level, which is probably one of the only downfalls of the novel, in my opinion. The meaning of Bradbury’s writing is clear and his intention is easily acknowledged, but often the far-fetched instances make the novel rather unbelievable (even though, yes, it is fiction and dystopian). Due to this, I had a hard time empathizing with the characters and thus could not, at times, completely submerge myself in the flow of the novel.

    • megmsmith

      I gave the book a 3.5 because even though it is good, the language is interesting, and the premise of the story is intriguing, it seems like the first section did little for the storyline. Hopefully, over the next two sections, Bradbury will develop the plot some more!

  4. megmsmith

    And Serena, you mentioned the Sarah MacLaughlan terrible abused animal commercials, and how Mildred’s clearly never seen them because she likes running over dogs. I know you meant it as an offhanded comment, but it really made a point: Books were banned to eliminate controversial or challenging or uncomfortable ideas. Those Sarah MacLaughlan Arms of The Angel commercials make people feel overly guilty and bad for not helping the poor abused puppies, and they make a lot of people really uncomfortable. Books make people question their ideals, morals, and actions, much like humane society commercials. Mildred doesn’t think twice about running over dogs, she enjoys it. Like Mark said, books were banned to reduce thinking. Perhaps, are the books banned to remove guilt as well?

    • Mark Yazhari

      Great point; I think you are right in that books are banned to remove guilt. I just watched a Sarah MacLaughlan Arms of the Angel commercial on YouTube, and I have to admit, it did a seriously good job of guilt tripping. I can see why people wouldn’t want to be exposed to such commercials, because commercials about charities can make people uncomfortable. However, simply getting rid of every challenging book or commercial as in Fahrenheit 451 is a terrible solution, because you are not getting rid of the truths that books or commercials have to offer. People have the right to have their ethics challenged; in fact, that is a healthy part of life. Instead, the government in Fahrenheit 451 eliminates all sources of controversial information altogether, and creates a terribly ignorant and materialistic society.

  5. Mark Yazhari

    The second of three parts of Fahrenheit 451 was predominantly about Montag’s fight against his corrupt societal system. (Note: I don’t remember where our group planned on stopping for this second blog post, so don’t read ahead if you haven’t yet finished the second part of the book.) For the most part, Montag was unsuccessful. Although he joined forces and formulated a plan with the old man Faber, he was unable to channel his anger at society in the most effective way. He made the mistake of reading poetry to his wife Mildred and her friends, of letting Mildred discover and report the books he kept secret in their backyard, and of not being careful enough and giving his secret away to the fire captain. For this post, however, I am more interested in focusing on Montag’s discoveries with Faber rather than his failures.
    In my opinion, the most interesting scene is when Montag reveals to Faber his agitation and desire to learn from books. Faber’s response is extremely profound: “It’s not books you need, it’s some of the things that once were in books…The same infinite detail and aware could be projected through radios and televisors, but are not. No, no, it’s not books at all you’re looking for! Take it where you can find it, in old phonograph records, old motions pictures, and in old friends; look for it in nature and look for it in yourself. Books were only a type of receptacle where we stored a lot of things we were afraid we might forget. There is nothing magical in them, at all. The magic is only in what the books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment of us” (78-79). What an eloquent way to describe the purpose of books. The part that stood out to me the most was the fact that books themselves are essentially useless, as mentioned in the article written by Mortimer J. Adler, but the content of books is not. This suggests that Montag’s society is corrupt because its content, or its morals and beliefs, are hollow and perverse.
    Why did people seek to get rid of books? Faber lists three reasons why books were upsetting to past societies and therefore outlawed. First, he says that books have quality and “show the pores in the face of life” (79), which upset people who didn’t want to have their ethics challenged. Faber says that “somehow we think we can grow, feeding on flowers and fireworks, without completing the cycle back to reality” (79). Second, he says that books are needed for true leisure. He says that you can’t argue with the four-wall televisor because it seems so true and doesn’t give you time to protest. (Furthermore, it provides an unhealthy amount of stimulation.) Books are a world of their own, and since they aren’t “real,” you can close them at any time and take time to think about them. In other words, they only influence you as much you let them; the four-wall televisors influence you without you even realizing it. The third reason is related to the first two, that you have the right to take action based on what you learn from books. Faber concisely sums up his three reasons: “Number one, as I said, quality of information. Number two: leisure to digest it. And number three: the right to carry out actions based on what we learn from the interaction of the first two” (81).
    I respect Faber in some ways but not in others. His ideas are profound, but he is a coward who doesn’t have the courage to take action and fight against society. Instead, he lives a safe life of seclusion and attempts to be happy without books. He wants a change to occur, but he doesn’t want to be the one in charge of such a change. “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” What do you guys think about Faber? Anything else about the second part of Fahrenheit 451?

  6. Serena Zhang

    First off, I was especially struck with Mark’s input on the issue of Montag’s society and how it “is corrupt because its content, or its morals and beliefs, are hollow and perverse”. This, in fact, leads me to my own thoughts on the novel.

    Indeed, it is all hollow. Not only society, but their minds as well. The first page of Part Two mentions how “empty and gray-looking” the parlor looks after the screens are turned off. Mildred is described almost as being in shock, when in fact it is only the silence that surrounds them. That’s exactly it: she is so used to the blasting noise and clamor of the usual parlor walls that once the veil of chaos is lifted and silence prevails, she is lost. How strange it is, to get used to living in constant noise so that silence is a strange concept.

    But then I got to thinking; are we not just as hollow and empty ourselves?

    I’ve heard enough stereotypes about Lake Oswego than I would care to delve into, but the majority of them include the label of “The Bubble”, or “Rich Kids with Starbucks and iPhones”. And it’s true, whether you admit it or not, but in essence, in what other communities view us as, Lake Oswego does very much embrace and fit the idea of a snobby, ignorant town.

    If you haven’t seen those walking around with caramel frappuccinos welded to their fingers, or are one yourself, I’d be confident enough to say that you’ve been either living quite literally in a hole, or a stubborn liar. (I’d completely choose the green tea frappuccino over the caramel any day, though.)

    But I digress.

    This fits into a section in the “Fahrenheit 451” during which Montag has a mini-rant to Mildred, “Is it because we’re having so much fun at home we’ve forgotten the world? Is it because we’re so rich and the rest of the world’s so poor and we just don’t care if they are? I’ve heard rumors; the world is starving, but we’re well fed. Is it true, the world works hard and we play?” (102).

    Now, I’m not implying that we are a bunch of no-good, selfish children who are totally oblivious to the world, but I am bringing up the obvious fact that in reality, many of us are less aware of the real issues outside our “bubble”. Sure, there’s starvation and rape and shootings, but what else? What are the real, nitty-gritty things about the world besides the big stuff that make it into the news? Not many of us would know, and frankly, not many would care.

    Now let’s focus on the actual storyline itself. We are brought back to Montag’s journey of self-discovery. On page 108, after he has a crazed breakdown in the monotonous droning of the train, Bradbury writes him as running instead of taking the escalator, “because he wanted to feel his feet move, arms swing, lungs clench, unclench, feel his throat go raw with air”. Finally, he is coming alive! He is breaking out of the stale enigma he was encased in and wanting to breathe, wanting to feel emotions and be carried away on their throes, instead of just letting himself feel them. This part was motivating to read, to see Montag begin to change at last, starting from his mindset and very character within.

    Which brings me to Faber. I cannot help but feel sympathy for him. His guilt that he could’ve changed the future and prevented books from burning teaches a profound lesson. One must speak up for one’s own self, whether opposed by friend or foe, it does not matter. No one should keep you from staying rooted to yourself, and standing your ground.

    Similarly however, I was quite frustrated at Faber several pages later. During Montag’s outburst at Mildred and her friends, Faber reprimanded him for being a fool. But Montag was simply saying what he believed in, and trying to knock some sense into the blighted minds of those around him (and rightfully so). I was absolutely enraged at the part where Mrs. Phelps and Mrs. Bowles spoke about the topic of children. Mrs. Phelps stated them as being disastrous, and Mrs. Bowles compared them to doing laundry.

    How dreadful.

    (I had to stop reading at this point in order not to copy Montag and rip the pages out of the book, screaming incoherently in rage at the characters.)

    (Alright, that’s a bit of an exaggeration.)

    But I digress (again).

    And what more? The two idiotic women continue to mention politics, talking of how they voted for one man solely based on his looks and degraded the other because of his name and attire.

    Really? Are they really this dense? I’m quite ashamed to be a female at this point, honestly. I can only hope they are saved later from their own ignorance.

    (Why is it that in almost all the books we read, I have absolutely no patience for the female characters?)

    So I believe I should end it here, before my computer spontaneously combusts from the force of which my fingers are smashing the keys. For the sake of me, the novel, and my keyboard, I implore Bradbury to churn out a miracle and make the women of the novel forget their silly ways.

    Looking forward to seeing all of your responses!

  7. megmsmith

    After reading the second section of Fahrenheit 451 and the corresponding blog entries, I have been shocked by how similar the world of the story is to the world of today.
    Today’s people are comfortable in their ignorance, much like the Mildreds of Fahrenheit 451. I remember reading some infographic on the percentages of adults reading after high school and college, and an astounding 42% of adults never pick up a book after college. Now, I know, many people, especially in an Honors English class, cannot imagine life without reading for fun. But still, many people do not read books when they are not required.
    Meanwhile, as the populace reads less and less, entertainment becomes more and more immersive. Even as I write this, I am emailing a friend back and forth about nothing in particular, listening to music, and playing an utterly pointless game called Cookie Clicker. And my level of technological immersion is less than average. I could be doing more: I could be skimming social media websites, watching TV, playing video games on my phone, and watching YouTube videos of cats doing adorable things and fat people dancing.
    In Fahrenheit 451, the people rarely read, and spend most of their time watching their Families on their televisors. Parallels, guys.
    Now, let’s take a moment to discuss old man Faber. I agree with Mark in that he is brilliant, but I do not agree that he is an old coward. His brilliance is shown undeniably through brilliant quotes, such as “It’s not books you need, it’s some of the things that once were in books…The same infinite detail and aware could be projected through radios and televisors, but are not. No, no, it’s not books at all you’re looking for! Take it where you can find it, in old phonograph records, old motions pictures, and in old friends; look for it in nature and look for it in yourself. Books were only a type of receptacle where we stored a lot of things we were afraid we might forget. There is nothing magical in them, at all. The magic is only in what the books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment of us” (78-79).
    But Mark argued that Faber is a coward because he does not go out and take a stand by physically going out and defending the ideas books hold. Instead, Faber sits within the comfort of his home and fights via a microphone planted in Montag’s ear.
    Courage is being scared and doing the right thing anyway. One of my favorite quotes about courage is, “You don’t just give up. You don’t just let things happen. You make a stand! You say no! You have the guts to do what’s right, even when everyone else just runs away.” –Rose Tyler, Doctor Who
    Faber is doing the right thing and taking a stand and being the change, but because he is a feeble old man, he can’t go out and protest without being caught. Honestly, he’d probably bust a hip running away. Also, he does not have access to some of the resources that Montag does. Montag has access to forbidden books on a daily basis because of his job as a firefighter. He can grab the books and resources they need for their covert mission, while Faber is the brains behind the brawn. Faber is not cowardly for using another man to do what he cannot, he is clever.
    Now, like every argument, mine has flaws. For discussion’s sake, what do you guys think about Faber? Coward or clever man?


  8. nicq98

    To be completely honest, I really have very little to say about Fahrenheit 451 that has not already been said. However, going off Meg’s post, I would agree that Faber is not a coward for his choice to be the mastermind controlling from the shadows. He’s a very, very old man who is incapable of any real physical activity, not to mention that with many years of isolation he has few contacts he can use to subvert the government. Staying undercover and advising Montag is the only reasonable thing he can do under the circumstances. Unfortunately, his and Montag’s efforts are very severely undermined by the fact that Montag behaves with extreme recklessness regarding the books he secretly possesses, going so far as to reveal a copy of the Bible on a crowded bus and actually read a book of poetry to Mildred and two of her friends. There is simply no excuse for uncovering one’s possession of forbidden literature and in doing so endangering the security of such a highly important enterprise. To put it concisely, Montag acts stupidly while Faber seems to be more of a voice of reason.
    Another minor issue I have with the story, which I believe is something the author deliberately included to illustrate the sheer stupidity of the book’s society, is the the fact that nobody really cares about the fact that there is a nuclear war about to go on. There is mention of it, sure, and jet bombers (which are sadly not described in detail) regularly make flights above the cities, but the entire fact of an upcoming nuclear exchange is just barely noted in the lives of most people. It is simply staggering how shallow and thoughtless the society in Fahrenheit 51 has become.
    Any thoughts on the points I’ve made?

    -post by Nic Quattromani

    • Mark Yazhari

      I like all of your points, Serena, Meg, and Nic. Serena was completely accurate in saying that Lake Oswego is not so much different from the society in the story. We may not be as brainwashed and obsessed as Mildred and her friends, but it seems that we cannot go one day without staying in constant communication or buying a Venti Frappuccino. With regard to Meg’s and Nic’s comments about Faber, I agree that it is too late for him to actively bring about change, since he is too old, but what about before? Why didn’t he protest when books were first being eradicated? Although he seems to have relatively good intentions, I think Faber is generally afraid of being the source of a societal change, just as he was decades ago. So the question becomes: could Faber have made a difference when books were just starting to be eliminated, and if so, why didn’t he do anything?

  9. While catching up on my reading this month, and checking out all of your blog posts, I really got to thinking about the world in which we live in today. It really does seem as though many of us are content with growing up in a state ignorance. It’s as if a lot of us think we don’t need to be educated, and that we already know as much as we need to. I thought that the author Ray Bradbury made an excellent point of using his characters to symbolize the different types of people living in such a sheltered society.
    I agree with Mark in the sense that Faber seems to be a coward. I think he’s a great example of the type of person who may have strong opinions on society’s inadequacies and weaknesses, but is to afraid to act on his beliefs. Faber has lived in the same society for years and years, and is just accepting of the way things are. He is used to minimal to no change.
    I think Montag is a strong representation of that minority who just wants to break society’s mold, and wants to live in an environment in which he is free to express himself. Montag started out not fully realizing the problem with the society he was living in. He later realizes that there may be a better way to live with more individual freedoms, such as actually obtaining information from educational resources, (as crazy as that may sound).
    In my opinion, Mildred’s character suitably exemplifies the (unfortunately) majority of people who are satisfied with following society’s rules and codes, and feel no need to ruffle the feathers. She doesn’t even seem to think there is anything wrong with having a very underdeveloped level of thinking.
    When Serena first compared Lake Oswego to the society in Fahrenheit 451, I’ll be honest, it really wasn’t that difficult to see a relation. Now I don’t live in Lake Oswego, I actually live in NE Portland, so I’m kind of able to bring a different perspective to the table. If you’re wondering, (like many people do) why on earth I am driving all the way out here to go to school, the main reason is just that it is a very wonderful school district! But because I wasn’t born or raised here, I can definitely admit that some of these common stereotypes are slightly, (if not very) accurate. Like Serena said, ya’ll really do love your Starbucks!
    But on the real though, I have had many conversations with many different people residing in Lake Oswego, and although everyone is always very nice and (in my opinion) not necessarily snobby, there does seem to be a shared commonality. Many people seem to have an ignorant state of mind. Not by any means stupid, but just unaware.
    And just as in Fahrenheit 451, most seem to be perfectly alright with that. In fact, they willingly admit to it, by calling LO “The Bubble” themselves, implying they live in a sheltered community. But I think the big question is… Is that so bad?
    What if living in a sheltered society really does keep us happy? What if we don’t necessarily need to know everything to live in harmony with each other and the environment we live in?
    Personally, I believe I need to know things in order to be fully accepting of the life I’m living in. Although it may be upsetting, scary, alarming, or unsettling to learn of the things that go on in the world, I think it’s important to, at the least, have a desire to learn, let alone actually doing so.
    This is why I admire Montag’s character. He has not gone along with his wife’s approach to society’s rules by simply following all of the social codes, and being susceptible to every little normality. Instead, he actually dares to put himself out there, and challenge his own individual notions, along with society’s rules. I also admire Montag for not acting similarly to Faber either. Montag isn’t willing to just give up or accept things so easily. Montag appears to have more of an inquisitive, insightful, and curious mindset than any of the characters.
    Overall, I think the main thing to keep in mind, is too not always be so hard on ourselves for obediently following along with society’s expectations, because it can definitely be a challenge to question the way things are commonly done. After all, we are just kids! That’s definitely no excuse, but hey we’re still learning right? I think it’s just important to at least do our best to try and become educated on the world around us.

  10. Mark Yazhari

    Before I ask you my main question about the third one-fourth of the book, I would like to revisit an early scene when Montag interacts with Captain Beatty. Beatty first argues to Montag that it is necessary to burn books in order to maintain the happiness and peace of their society. He says, “Colored people don’t like Little Black Sambo. Burn it. White people don’t feel good about Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Burn it…Burn all, burn everything. Fire is bright and fire is clean” (57). Captain Beatty brings up an interesting question: why do we need new knowledge? In the real world, we have made so much technological progress that we wealthy Americans really don’t need to change anything to remain comfortable. In Lake Oswego, it seems that practically everyone has a sustainable amount of money, which translates into a nice home and a comfortable life. If the whole world stopped making progress, we would be just fine, because we have every material thing we could possibly need. So why should we care?

    This is Beatty’s argument, and the argument of the corrupt government in the book. Clearly it is a flawed argument, but why? In a nutshell, we humans need to work and be stimulated to be happy. By “stimulated,” I don’t mean from technology, but rather from juggling a perfectly busy life. If we didn’t have hard work, there would be nothing but “comfort” and “luxury,” which would lose their purpose without something to act as a contrast to them. As students, we’ve all at one point or another desperately wished that we did not have to go to school, because it requires much if not most of our time and effort. But let me ask you, if we didn’t have any school and simply lived our entire lives comfortably at home, with our friends, and with our iPhones, would we be happy? I know I wouldn’t be. As hard as it can be sometimes, school is one of my largest focuses. Believe it or not, it brings me some of the greatest joy in life, because there is no feeling like spending hours on an assignment and having your efforts pay off, or from simply learning interesting information that will make me a more well-rounded and well-informed person.

    So how do the people in Fahrenheit 451 manage to spend most of their lives in complete ignorance with their seashells and televisions? Why don’t they ever argue against their corrupt society and attempt to make a change? The reason that they don’t do anything is because they have been trained not to do anything. As Captain Beatty puts it: “The home environment can undo a lot you try to do at school. That’s why we’ve lowered the kindergarden age year after year until now we’re almost snatching them from the cradle” (57). The people in the novel have basically been brainwashed, so that they can “contentedly” spend their time in a constant state of stimulation and comfort. It is the rare person like Montag who questions the standards of society and dares to bring about change. And it is the truly corrupt person like Captain Beatty who backs up the equally corrupt government with deceitful words.

    Finally, I arrive at the section of the book which we covered, when Montag is discovered by Captain Beatty and about to be taken to jail. Beatty taunts him, calling him an “idiot,” a “fool,” and a “snob.” It seems as if he wants Montag to kill him, since Montag is equipped with a flame thrower. Eventually, Montag is too angry and tormented to help himself, and he kills Beatty in a swift act of murder. My question for you guys is whether you think Montag did that right thing and whether Beatty deserved to die. What do you think?

    • nicq98

      Wait, we were just supposed to read the third quarter of the book? I finished it already… Anyway, regarding Mark’s discussion question, I would think that Montag’s killing of Beatty was fairly justifiable. Beatty was, after all, a staunch proponent of an oppressive and unjust societal system. There is also the issue that Beatty was just about to arrest Montag and track down Faber with the portable earpiece, so if Montag had not used his flamethrower his entire anti-government operation would have been completely compromised. In any case, Beatty was actively taunting Montag and goading him to pull the trigger, and insulting an already enraged man holding a live flamethrower is never a very prudent idea.
      I speculate that Beatty actually did seriously want Montag to kill him, at that moment. Perhaps, as demonstrated by his erratic behavior in both extensively quoting books and constantly ranting about the evils of them, he has just snapped from the internal moral dilemma of working for an oppressive state he tries so hard to justify yet knows, deep-down, is in the wrong. He could have had, long ago, the same conflict Montag experienced between the actual thought provided by books and the empty entertainment of modern culture, but just ended up reluctantly choosing differently. What do you think of my idea of Beatty as a morally conflicted antagonist?

      -post by Nic Quattromani

      • Mark Yazhari

        That’s a very interesting point, Nic. I never thought of Captain Beatty as having internal struggles, but rather I thought he was an intelligent yet blinded individual who senselessly gave into his corrupt government. But perhaps you’re right; maybe Beatty struggled his whole life about the true nature of books, up until his death. Any person who has read as much as he has and who can quote from a variety of famous sources obviously has some serious literary background, and it hard to have a literary background and not be at least a little inspired by books deep down.

        I think Montag made the right decision in killing Beatty, and it is hard to blame him, anyway, because he was and is going through extreme moral examination and internal conflict. Captain Beatty was not a good person, and his society is better off without him. However, do you guys think he was a purely evil character? More generally, is it possible for a person to be purely evil? Let me know what you think.

  11. megmsmith

    This past section, and you guys’ comments about it, have made me think a lot about Captain Beatty. Nic mentioned how Beatty taunted Montag, who was currently holding a flamethrower, and how taunting a man with the means to push a button and end your life is not a good idea.

    The idea has come up that perhaps Beatty wanted to die, and that made me think. If he wanted to die, he must have been thinking pretty deeply about his moral character. On some level, he must have realized that his work, destroying lives and ideas, was deeply wrong, and that kind of realization proves that he is not evil. I read a quote once, “Every villain is a hero in his own mind.” I think Tom Hiddleston, who played Loki in the Thor movies, said that. A villain, an evil man, does not see the evil in his actions. He thinks he is doing a good thing. Beatty, if indeed he wanted to die, must have realized, on some level, that he was doing the wrong thing. And that kind of self-examination proves that he is not all evil.

    So if he knew he was doing the wrong thing, why didn’t he just pull the trigger himself? Beatty was still bad enough to want Montag to die with him, and he wanted to prove to the world that Montag was a bad man. So Beatty coerced him into killing him in cold blood. This action, in his mind, would kill two birds with one stone: He would die, and Montag would be considered a dangerous murderer. Even in his mental swarm of regret, and as his dying wish, he wanted to be a better man than Montag.

    And then there is the question of total evil: I do not believe that everyone is totally evil. Some people say, “Look at Hitler! He killed millions of people in cold blood! He was a racist and a murderer!” What people don’t realize: he was human. He was Christian (at times, he didn’t act like it), vegetarian, charismatic, he even cried like a baby when his mother died. In the end, he killed himself. People speculate why he did it, but I believe that remorse and fear of living up to his actions. When people start to dehumanize bad people like Hitler, that is when they take over, because they look harmless. They pray, and refuse meat, miss their mothers, and, oh, hey, they also commit genocide. He was still human, despite how inhuman he was portrayed. That’s the thing about humanity: No matter how evil they act, even the worst people still have shreds, tiny shreds of goodness somewhere inside of them.

    Anyone want to be the devil’s advocate and argue “ultimate evil?”

    • Serena Zhang

      I’m so glad Meg mentioned the part about how most “bad guys” don’t consider themselves “bad” at all.

      Just think about an argument you may have had with your parents or a friend. Who was wrong, and who was right? Who had made an error, hurt a feeling, or was to blame? Most likely, both parties felt that the other was responsible. For this reason, I can’t help but feel irritated when people over-exaggerate Hitler’s history. Yes, he did terrible things, but he had his own motives for doing them that seemed good and reasonable in his head.

      Also, keep in mind that Franklin D. Roosevelt had two mistresses, chain-smoked, and drank 8-10 martinis a day. And let’s not forget another important “good” guy: Winston Churchill. Widely considered to be one of the greatest wartime leaders in the 20th Century, he is often thought of with adjectives such as “brave” or “honorable”. But some people fail to realize the full truth: that he was kicked out of office twice and used opium in college.

      Maybe those aren’t quite as harsh as attempting to eradicate an entire race, but the point is, there is evil and purity in everything that lives.

      There are no bad people, only bad actions.

      As for the matter of Captain Beatty, I’d say his death was regretful (and slightly gross, especially the description of twisting in on himself like a wax figurine) but necessary for Montag’s escape and the future of their society.

      Another issue I want to address is Beatty’s speech on page 141. He argues that fire is the otherworldly force that acts as an eraser, an eternal vacuum for all problems. He says: “Its real beauty is that it destroys responsibility and consequences. A problem gets too burdensome, then into the furnace with it”.

      This way of thinking is alarming, yet it appears numerous times throughout the story. The idea that simply brushing away, or in this case, burning away, one’s problems, that bluntly ignoring one’s responsibilities is a foolproof way to get rid of the matter. One cannot simply erase everything and expect it all to turn out alright.

      Then again, the concept of “erasing/burning” seems to also have its positive impacts on the characters.

      On page 142, Montag is seen burning everything in his home. The passage goes: “…he wanted to change everything…everything that showed that he had lived here in this empty house with a strange woman who would forget him tomorrow…And as before, it was good to burn, he felt himself gush out in the fire, snatch, rend, rip in half with flame, and put away the senseless problem. If there was no solution, well then now there was no problem, either”.

      Perhaps this is a coping mechanism for him. Maybe “burning” his past, erasing all signs of his former, mechanical life, is helping Montag build something anew from the ashes and give it strength to thrive. Sometimes avoiding the past can be a solution, depending on the situation.

      What do you guys think? Is complete “burning” of one’s past problems a cowardly way to force away the blame, or is it an attempt that could lead to a new start?

      • Wow! I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your online discussion here. Your ideas are insightful with thoughtful connections to our past and modern society. You have created quite the dialogue.

  12. megmsmith

    Fahrenheit 451 Book Review

    7/10 stars

    This book was an interesting read. I loved the descriptive and vivid language. (Bradbury sure loves metaphors and similes!) The idea of a society which burned houses for holding books was interesting, but I don’t think the storyline was executed very well.

    There were times when I was a bit bored. Even though the plot was filled with action and philosophy, most of the dialogue was drab and boring. Everyone, especially Faber, Montag, and Beatty, spoke in a manner that was very grandiose for a society that did not read. I found that that was very unrealistic. Nobody talks like that in real life! (Yes, I know this is fiction, but it is supposed to represent a possible future society.)

    Another thing I did not like about this book was how detached the main character, Montag, was. As a reader, I felt no connection with him whatsoever. Even though I had a window into his thoughts and feelings, he was utterly impersonal to me. Perhaps this is because of the audience differences in dystopian literature between time periods that I discussed in my first comment. I really didn’t care what Montag did or what became of him, which is a major fault on the part of Bradbury.

    However, I loved the way the author made Beatty such an onion of a character in his final moments.

    This was a decent book with an interesting writing style and good concept but poor characterization and dialogue. 7/10 stars.

  13. Mark Yazhari

    Fahrenheit 451 – 7 out of 10 Stars

    Fahrenheit 451 is a well-written and thought-provoking book, but, as Meg mentioned before, it does not have a very interesting plot line. At the beginning, I was very excited to see Montag finally begin to discover the secrets of books and read some books with his wife. Unfortunately, the story does not continue along that path for very long. Even though the novel is dystopian, I was hoping deep down that Montag would at least free himself and his wife of their corrupt and constantly stimulated society, but in the end his wife betrays him and almost gets him killed.

    After Montag meets with Faber for the first time in many years, the book becomes a little dull to me. When I read it, I kept itching for there to be some sudden obstacle or catastrophe for Montag to overcome, but all he does is come up with a farfetched plan to wipe out all of the firemen. Even though he rids the world of Captain Beatty, his efforts in the long run do not really bring about a change in his society because his city is eventually bombed and destroyed. I found little to no source of happiness or hope in the book.

    I realize that the entire purpose of a dystopian novel is to show a terrible possibility of what our world could become, and in doing so it can provide us today with a better chance of preventing such a possibility. Ray Bradbury does an excellent job of creating a very convincing dystopian society by using skillful figurative language and providing many deep thoughts and ideas throughout the book, but he does not make Montag a very endearing character or develop a particularly interesting plot past the first part of the book. Fahrenheit 451 provides a few valuable lessons and is good, solid read, but I will probably not read it again.

  14. nicq98

    Fahrenheit 451- 6 out of 10 stars

    Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 was, overall, a fairly interesting book that raised important points about censorship and modern society. I found the dystopian setting to be fairly well-developed and a very intriguing reflection of the way our society seems to be headed with the dumbing down of media and increased government control of information, but in the end a society in which books are completely outlawed seems somewhat implausible. In addition, I have a few grievances with the author’s writing style that seems overly abstract and sparse on detail. Due to this and the slow-moving plot I spent much of my time reading being rather bored.
    Despite these complaints, there are a few specific elements of the novel that I enjoyed. I liked the ending, as nuclear warfare is always interesting to read about, and it is fairly hopeful as the survivors are able to finally institute a return of literature and thought with the old society destroyed. I also found some of the characters to be compelling, such as Clarisse McClellan, who provided a remarkable contrast to the mindless masses in the story, and Captain Beatty, who was rather complex beneath the surface.
    In the end I would recommend Fahrenheit 451 to anybody interesting in dystopian fiction and/or classic literature, though I personally do not intend to read the book again.

  15. Serena Zhang

    For me, Fahrenheit 451 was a grand-slam, phenomenal read. It fully deserves the 8.9 stars out of 10 with which I award it.

    (I’m afraid my fussy side won’t allow it a full 9 stars, due to some of the reasons my peers have listed already.)

    I admit, there were parts in the story where I was lost, and where the abstract thinking caused a bit of confusion or uncertainty for me as a reader. As Meg and Mark mentioned, the plot is a tad uninteresting.

    Then again, not every book is going to have exploding cars or sparkling supernatural beings or boys with lightning scars that live under staircases.

    In fact, the unique style of Bradbury’s writing in Fahrenheit 451 is exactly what makes the book a refreshing, beautiful read. The poetic devices, the intricate internal struggle Montag deals with throughout the majority of the novel, the frustratingly air-headed characters, and of course, the original idea of a future society burning books and living completely in-sync with a multitude of plasma screens-all of that adds to the completely alluring sense of the novel. (For me, that is.)

    I mean, even the beginning was astounding! It snatches you right out of your seat with the rawness of the first statement:

    “It was a pleasure to burn”.

    Fantastic.

    “It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed”.

    This was the first time I actually wanted to get out a highlighter and pen and start marking passages. I’ve probably quoted more sections of the book on sticky notes than would be wise, but it wasn’t a waste in any way.

    Although the book wasn’t a roller coaster of dramatic plot twists and action scenes, it was definitely worth it when a certain quote came up that was just pure radiance. I’d recommend Fahrenheit 451 for anyone who is eager for a new taste of artistically-blended writing but also patient enough to follow the story and with a little scribbling on sticky notes, discover the subtle overlays of wonderful literature.

    I think a little applause for Mr. Ray Bradbury is deserved, don’t you?

  16. Hey Guys, so sorry this has gotten onto the blog late! I’ve been having issues getting these entries to post on the site!

    Entry # 3
    In this month’s section of Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, I was specifically interested in the devotion Montag had for literature. It appears to me as though the whole of society is against any type of an actual intellectual learning experience. I noticed that at one point or another, each of the characters except for really Montag all dismissed the idea of learning from books. I also realized that even though many may secretly be interested in delving into the world of literature, they all pinion themselves from taking any action.
    While reading this section something quite interesting popped out at me, and those were the passages in which Beatty, (I would argue the most outright book-hater I’ve ever heard) is able to quote Shakespeare word for word. “What’ll it be this time? Why don’t you belch Shakespeare at me, you fumbling snob? ‘There is no greater terror, Cassius, in your threats, for I am arm’d so strong in honesty that they pass me as an idle wind, which I respect not!’ How’s that? (119). I thought that this passage was quite intriguing. I was fascinated by how Beatty was able to give a word for word mini-monologue written by Shakespeare, when he always talks so much about hating books. I thought that maybe this would hint at a time when Beatty remembered the way that things used to be, living in a world with literature, where maybe Beatty used to be interested in books.
    An interesting quote that I found while reading states, “It was pretty silly, quoting poetry around free and easy like that. It was the act of a silly damn snob. Give a man a few lines of verse and he thinks he’s the Lord of all Creation. You think you can walk on water with your books” (117-118). This particular quote was very interesting to me, because I think that it suitably exemplifies the way that books can change us. By having a source we can go to containing true information, poetry, history, or even fictitious fantasy, we have the ability to broaden our views and perceptions of the world, even if the world in which we actually live in, upholds a close-minded view.

  17. Fahrenheit 451 – 8.5 out of 10 Stars

    Throughout reading Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, I felt very actively engaged, and compelled by the author’s writing style. Before even reading the novel, the idea of a dystopian society without books appeared very interesting to me. I really enjoyed the fact that Bradbury took the concept of censorship, (in which all places in the world have even a little bit of) and turned it into an extreme. Throughout my reading, I was forced to think a lot about society, and our daily lives.
    I really thought that it was enjoyable to look at the perspectives of the different types of people in society. The “one who wants to make a change, but is too afraid too take action” (Faber). The “one who will do anything to try and make a change” (Montag). The “one who wants nothing more than to fit into society, and is content with keeping her head down, and not saying a word” (Mildred), and so on. I felt as though each of these characters exemplified common members in society, and it was interesting to see their interactions with each other, and how they act as individuals in this crazy distopian society.
    I think that the main reason that I wouldn’t give this novel a 10/10 stars, (although a phenomenal one) is just that there were some aspects of it that dragged on for a while, and were a little too slow-moving. I definitely think that the imagery the author used was beautiful, the fast-paced action scenes were essential, and the long dialogues between characters were insightful. But I just think that Bradbury could have cut out several pages of things such as Montag’s inner thoughts, and descriptionz of the scenery.
    Overall, I really enjoyed this novel, especially being a fan of dystopian novels myself. I really enjoyed the initial concept, as I stated before, and I think that it was well executed by Ray Bradbury.

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