It took me a while to get going with this book. For one, as the author (Ray Bradbury) rightly says, the book is crammed with metaphors. It takes some time to get used to that. But once you are there, there is just no stopping you till you finish the book.
I’m 50+ years late in reading this book, but the book is more relevant today than it ever was back then!
Imagine a world where there are no more books. A world where owning books is a crime, let alone reading them. A world where people who own books live in hiding, and if found that they own books, they are burned along with their books! That is the dystopian world where the story takes place.
Guy Montag works as a fireman. He makes a living by burning books. Yes. You read that right. His job is to burn books and not put out fires. Because in his world, everything is fireproof! Everyone in his world is obsessed with the TV and the radio. And his world is so fast-paced that walking is a crime, talking is a crime, and silent introspection a bigger crime. Eventually, no one has time for books. He is married to a stranger and believes he is happy and content in life. That is until he meets Clarisse.
Enter Clarisse. A free-spirited teen, who stands for everything against the strands of Montag’s world. She questions everything, talks a lot, and is just happy being free. She is what everyone calls a weirdo. Though initially annoyed, Montag enjoys his talks with this girl and begins to question his own beliefs about everything. And then, just as suddenly as she appeared, Clarisse disappears.
While he is still reeling under the aftermath of a world without Clarisse, Montag’s world comes crashing down on him, when, on a regular day at work, instead of setting fire to a book, he pockets it, and goes on to read it!
What follows after is what Montag decides to do with his newly found knowledge.
A lot of things the author had to say in the book were scary. They seemed to hint towards a future we are heading into (or are we already living in one?!)! Like for example, the entire premise of burning books because they have a lot of information (aka truth) in them that would overthrow the delicate balance of the world – a world built on a foundation of lies. If you’d like to learn more about just how real banning and burning books is, you can read here. Interestingly, Fahrenheit 451 was also banned or censored during all the years since its publication for various reasons. IRONIC!
The book is just 100 odd pages. And it is a guaranteed page-turner. So do give it a shot and let me know what you think.
P.S. Banned Books Week 2019 is being celebrated right now, from September 22 to September 28. Coincidentally, I got to read Fahrenheit 451 during this window!
Favorites from the book:
Lines: “But you can’t make people listen. They have to come round in their time, wondering what happened, and why the world blew up under them. It can’t last.”
Takeaways: Make noise when it matters, not when it is too late!