Home > Literature, Reviews > Review of Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Review of Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451This is a classic science fiction novel, and one of the most polemical books I’ve read. It’s the future (as it so often is in science fiction novels) and books are forbidden. With advances in technology, homes have been fireproofed, so the firemen (I suppose I should say ‘fire fighters’, but they are exclusively men in the book; it is over fifty years old, after all) of the future don’t put out fires, they light them – whenever someone has been reported to be in possession of contraband literature.

From the get-go, the main character, Guy Montag is depicted as a manly man, proud of his book-burning duties. However, his humanity and curiousity are quickly stirred by his encounter with a young ingenue called Clarissa and by both his wife’s latest suicide attempt and her addiction to the wallscreens in their home. Guy embarks on a dangerous journey, some of which is inevitable – like the desctruction of his own home – some improbable – like the scene where he openly reads a book on the subway. The climax of the book is something of a deus ex machina, the end result of a sub-plot that simmers in the background of the novel.

Some of the writing in Fahrenheit 451 is impressively poetic and powerful; at other times it descends into melodrama. I found that the story itself didn’t flow all that well – it starts with a brooding period that lasts about half the book, then Guy has a breakdown and ends up having to flee back and forth in fear for his life. You could say the jerkiness of the pacing reflects the unpredictability of Guy’s plight.

Where the novel scores big is the prediction of the drug-like immersiveness of TV and the diminishment of the the role of books in American society. I can’t say I I’m an expert in this latter area, but Bradbury in one of several afterwords appended to the novel describes how universities wanting to use his books had also wanted to edit out some of the more controversial passages. In the story, it isn’t the government that leads the move to outlaw books, it’s pressure groups and religions objecting to this and that until there’s nothing left worth reading and the government decides to do away with books altogether.

Categories: Literature, Reviews
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