Damn, what a rush this book was. I went into this novel hearing all the hype about how great it is and the great debate around the book’s central theme and it didn’t disappoint. Fahrenheit 451 to me wasn’t merely about censorship or the soul sucking effects of the “idiot box.” To me, Fahrenheit 451 is also a story about willful ignorance. A future world where everyone is content to waste their lives away in front of a television screen, to never think, to never be challenged, and to never give a second thought to their fellow man. It isn’t just books that the citizens of the future are no longer interested in – folks don’t seem to be all that interested in anything. The character I found most interesting was Mildred – she and the other wives are like little clucking hens that sit around the house all day. They are shining examples of what the world had become: apathetic and self absorbed. They lived within their own echo chambers and willingly ignored the terrible things going on around them.
“A book is a loaded gun in the house next door…Who knows who might be the target of the well-read man?”
Although the central message of this book has done well to stand the test of time even to the present day, I will note that several elements of the story felt like they are becoming quite dated. The obvious absence of the internet, the fears of nuclear war, and of course the wives that never work being the social norm. It’s clear that the book was written during the Cold War era, so it might make things seem a little bit odd for younger audiences.
I had some difficulty with the narration, primarily Guy Montag’s thoughts which to me seemed nonsensical or incoherent at times, but I figured that was intentional given the setting. The plot flew by so quickly and by the end I felt like I had whiplash. The story has a pretty even flow and then… BOOM. The story suddenly speeds up and dives into an action packed ending. Despite my issues, the book still hits hard and gave me a lot to think about. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and had a difficult time putting it down.
Guy Montag is a fireman. In his world, where television rules and literature is on the brink of extinction, firemen start fires rather than put them out. His job is to destroy the most illegal of commodities, the printed book, along with the houses in which they are hidden.
Montag never questions the destruction and ruin his actions produce, returning each day to his bland life and wife, Mildred, who spends all day with her television “family.” But then he meets an eccentric young neighbor, Clarisse, who introduces him to a past where people didn’t live in fear and to a present where one sees the world through the ideas in books instead of the mindless chatter of television.
When Mildred attempts suicide and Clarisse suddenly disappears, Montag begins to question everything he has ever known. He starts hiding books in his home, and when his pilfering is discovered, the fireman has to run for his life.