Paperback, 184 pages.
Read from September 8 to 9, 2015.
Bradbury has been scaring book-lovers everywhere with this novel since its first publication in 1954. I decided to re-read this book as my first encounter with it would have been more than 10 years ago. I remember the book leaving me with horrifying impression, it’s one that I’ve never really forgotten. I’m glad that I re-read this book as an adult though as I was able to appreciate some of the more tragic elements as well.
Guy Montag is a fireman. Not the kind that puts out fires and saves lives but the opposite; Montag purposely starts fires. In futuristic plot of this novel, the job of a fireman is to burn the homes down of people who own books with the purpose of destroying the books and teaching the owners of the books a lesson. Montag has never questioned his job, in fact he actually enjoys it to a degree.
In this futuristic world, books themselves are seen as a danger and a disruption to the society that Bradbury has depicted, the premise behind this ideology is that people are happier this way. Sadly, it means that people have become willfully ignorant. They’re wrapped up on medications to keep them happy and let them sleep, or they’re lost in their ‘TV families”. TV has become so advanced that people can actually interact with the actors as they come to life in their living rooms. This new “blissfully” ignorant population has been trained to not feel the desire to learn, or to really feel anything. The attitude of the people in this society is summed up with a by Montag’s Fire Captain, Beatty:
“Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs…. Don’t give them slippery stuff like philosophy or sociology to tie things up with. That way lies melancholy.”
Montag’s world is turned upside down when he meets Clarisse, his 17-year-old neighbour. While their interactions are brief, it’s clear that Clarisse is eccentric and odd. She has an innate curiosity that Montag hasn’t ever witnessed before and she poses question to Montag that he has never ever considered. After Clarisse and her family mysteriously “disappear’ Montage begins to question his whole existence. He cannot accept his current circumstances and he breaks under the overwhelming amount of unanswered questions. Montag sets out to overthrow the current regime of government, regardless of the substantial sacrifices it will take.
As a teenager, I recall hating Mildred. I felt she was a despicable character. However as an adult, while I didn’t like her any less, I could at least empathize with her to some extent and understand some of the decisions she made. What was heartbreaking to read, was how hard Montag tried to reach out to her and have a real connection but sadly, Mildred is shell of person. She doesn’t know what it’s like to really feel or connect with anyone.
I recall struggling a bit with the writing as a teenager, thinking that maybe my age was the barrier but I found some similar issues reading this novel again. The writing style is choppy and so to the point that if you skim for a second, you’ll miss something important. I had to go a n re-read a few paragraphs for this reason.
If you haven’t read this book, you should. It’s a an eye-opening science fiction about the importance of knowledge.