Fahrenheit 451 is, unlike many books I have read recently, a nice, quick, and easy piece of literature. Judging from the speed by which I managed to progress through roughly a third of the novel in only a few days, I would say that it is a worthy break from books like Cold Sassy Tree which took seemingly forever to finish. Quite fortunately, Ray Bradbury’s concise writing style does not compromise on content. Plenty of thought-provoking material is provided, with interesting characters and a detailed dystopian setting quite superbly conveyed over the course of the first few dozen pages. The protagonist, Guy Montag, is an ordinary fireman who, unlike the firemen of today, is tasked with starting fires rather than stopping them. His entire job consists of going to the houses of people who possess forbidden books, soaking said houses with kerosene, setting the entire place ablaze to destroy the books, and quickly leaving while the conflagration dies down on its own. The prospect of enormous firestorms sweeping through the suburbs as a result of this is only addressed by the somewhat laughable excuse that the houses are somehow completely fireproof, which tasks my suspension of yet does not particularly lessen the enjoyability of the story.
Aside from that detail, the setting of Fahrenheit 451 is almost chillingly realistic. In an indeterminate time in the future, American culture has become so shallow, devoid of meaning, and focused on instant gratification that people, such as the main character’s wife, immerse themselves in cheap entertainment and don’t even bother to think about things anymore. Books are banned as the knowledge and potentially offensive messages they contain are perceived as a threat to the shallow, unthinking form of docile happiness that is the cornerstone of the novel’s fictional society. This is an especially frightening scenario because a similar form of thinking seems to be slowly and insidiously creeping its way into modern media, with “reality” television sitcoms and lowest-common-denominator literature providing cheap, entertaining fodder for the masses whilst causing their critical thinking skills to atrophy. Overall, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 presents a clear warning of the dangers that could result from a continuation of this trend.
-Post by Nic Quattromani