Saturday, March 21, 2020

Fahrenheit 451

Title: Fahrenheit 451
Author: Ray Bradbury

In a dystopian future American society where books are banned, Guy Montag works as a fireman, whose job is to burn down the books when there is an alarm intimation that somebody possesses copies of outlawed books. In this dystopian culture, people do not read books, do not enjoy nature, do not spend time alone, and don't think individually or have meaningful conversations. Instead, they drive really fast, watch large quantities of television on wall-sized sets, and listen to the radio on "Seashell Radio" sets that are hooked to their ears. It is also a time of impending war on the society, and destruction.

Montag's views about his job is in for a change when he unintentionally strikes a conversation with his seventeen year old neighbour Clarisse McClellan, who pushes him to question his own idea of happiness, and whether books and their perceptions really warrant burning. A series of troubling events further make Guy Montag resolute about the goodness of books. His wife attempts suicide after constant TV watching. Clarisse dies in a car accident. And, when the alarm blares for the firemen to burn down the stocks of books with an old lady, Montag is assigned the duty. He reaches the old lady's house to find out that she has an old, secret collection of literature. The old lady asks Montag to burn her also along with her books, in a teary-eyed hopeless state. Montag exits the house without burning.

The rest of the story follows Montag as he rebels against the senseless laws, gets into a habit of reading secretively until the day his own wife betrays him and sounds the alarm of books at home. After an adventure of hide and seek with the police officers that come to arrest him, Guy Montag meets a group of people who read and memorize the literature in the hope that they can reprint them in circulation some day. A war plane drops bombs recklessly across the city, and it brings the city down to shambles. Guy Montag and his group set out to look for survivors, and build a civilization where there will be books again.

It is an extremely weird, dystopian novel. But I really liked it. The pace of the story, and the sequence hooks you to it. If you are wondering why were even books banned in the first place, a monologue by Guy Montag's boss in the fire department, somewhere in the middle of the book, gives you a background to the main story line.  

The book stresses on the monotony induced by constant TV, and how they dumb down our brains. Ray Bradbury's other short sci-fi stories also promote the ideas of enjoying nature, thinking deeply, reading books, connecting with people, and being the social beings that humans are even in the world of technology. Even though the book is set in a highly dystopian and fictional society, somewhere we feel that it is that much closer to reality that it would have been 20 years ago!

It was a good read. I really liked it!

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