What I'm Reading
A classic science fiction story depicting a future American dystopia. Only it's not really the future because we are already there.
Written during the Cold War when censorship, burning and banning books were rife (published in 1953), this story is set in the future (by the author's perspective) when books are banned because they give out the wrong messages. No one is required to think, just watch huge televisions on the walls of their homes, listen to things from the buds placed in their ears. If anyone does manage to find a book it will be burned along with the owner's house and maybe even the person themselves. A fireman's job is to set fire, not put out fire.
I studied Ray Bradbury at school and some of his work has stayed with me. I was impressed with his ideas and how they often demonstrated what might become of us if we didn't always stay aware. He is a beautiful writer, poetic with great imagery and I was mesmerised by his purple prose at school, although now I feel he can overdo it a bit. I did not read this one at school but if I had, it would have given me nightmares.
This book is a simple, straightforward story of how a fireman has a change of heart when he meets a schoolgirl considered a rebel because she thinks for herself. After she disappears, the protagonist reevaluates the concept of thinking, of books, of learning, of life. He has philosophical debates with several other characters with regard to the excitement of fast cars, television and music taking over the desire to read as well as the challenge ideas literature and books in general can promote. I noted that The Bible was one of the books discussed. Another factor involved in the burning of books was the great levelling effect. People will always find someone who is more well-read than they are, which leads to feelings of superiority or envy. So there is a conflict between knowledge and ignorance.
It is an important read in this modern age as it shows how mass media has taken over from intellectual pursuits, such as reading quality literature, with the real possibility of an illiterate culture. There are a couple of outdated features such as how everyone smokes all the time, the fact that the firemen are all men, but these are minor points compared to the serious and current issues. Censorship is alive and well all over the world. Even in our permissive, artistic Britain, the 'politically correct' banner is pressurising authors to write about characters representative of their own gender, culture and race. That is censorship as far as I'm concerned.
Fahrenheit 451 is not science fiction. It is prophecy.