I am so embarrassed to confess that it has taken me 24 years to pick this book up and read it; why did I ever choose to stall?! After starting to read the lengthy The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, written in a heavy Victorian diction I needed a short and quick plotted read. This dystopian novel gave me so much more!
I can sit here and write out all the books that it bears resemblance to, 1984, We, A Brave New World, but I would much rather focus on it’s unique science fiction features. Based in the future, Montag is a fireman proud to be serving his country. He’s not a fireman who rescues people, but rather he is set out to set fire to books. You see, in the future books are viewed as evil and are outlawed. The also believe that “fire [is] best for everything” (151) that didn’t sit well with the carefully organized and controlled society.
“A book is a loaded gun in the house next door” (77)
People spend all their time watching TV, and being surrounded by fictional characters who are used to provide human comfort. “The word intellectual, of course, became the swear word is deserved to be”(76). Instead, everyone is alike, and no one is superior to one another. What more does such an astutely constructed society need?
Montag meets Clarissa, a weird girl who makes him question his actions as a fireman and after this meeting “his routine has been disturbed” (44). He’s never the same. It sets him off to reconsider the way he has been living his life, but more importantly, it makes his think about the society he’s been a part of.
The reader follows Montag through his difficult journey of denial, paranoia and confusion. As he grows aware of the constructs of the society he’s been a part of, he’s convinced that he can sneak books in his house, try to change the minds of his fellow friends and neighbours and try to stand against the practices. Along the way he meets some likeminded people, those that have grown aware of the severity of their constructed society.
Ray Bradbury believe that his “characters must plunge ahead of [him] to live the story”(223) and it’s quite unbelievable that he did not write Fahrenheit 451 but “it wrote [him]” (220). You truly get that sense when reading this book, that you are just following Montag along on this awakening journey.
Verdict: If not my favourite dystopian novel, then top 2 for sure! A must read!