I just finished reading Farenheit 451, approximately 15 years after it was assigned to me in high school. The book was written in 1953 by Ray Bradbury, inspired by several troubling trends seen by the author.
The story follows Montag, a fireman of the future, who’s job is to start rather than put out fires. In this dystopian world, books have been banned by the government to prevent stimulation, conversation, and general disagreement. Montag steals books and throughout the novel tries to understand what could be so powerful about their contents.
Bradbury saw the book burnings in Nazi Germany as extremely troubling, and certainly part of Fahrenheit 451 is a warning for future generations. It’s also a cautionary tale about the shortening (in both length and depth) of literature and news.
This speaks to today’s media climate more than ever. Social media is one of the first place people consume their news, and media outlets understand that clicks mean revenue. Sensationalistic, short articles are everywhere, and the accuracy to which Bradbury predicted this is remarkable. He speaks of a future where books are shortened to magazines, magazines to digests, and digests to digests of digests – where you can read Hamlet in two pages. This creates a world where no one is informed, bothered, or interesting.
I love dystopian novels, but that’s not why I loved this book. It’s the relevance of its cautionary narrative that really hit home. A reminder to read in depth, of the value of freedom of speech, and to question majority opinion.
My Rating: 5/5