For several years during my youth, my mind decided that Fahrenheit 451 and Fahrenheit 9/11 were the same thing. That’s probably pretty embarrassing to admit on a literary blog…but in my defense, they’re pretty similar titles and 9/11 was probably first major world disaster I paid attention to in my young life. After years of picking up context clues and realizing that Fahrenheit 451 and Fahrenheit 9/11 were indeed two different artistic entities, I decided it was time to culture myself and read Fahrenheit 451.
This happened last summer when I was visiting my oldest sister while she was living in Holland, Michigan, a.k.a. Rich Retired Old People Town, USA. Needless to say, there wasn’t much to do during the day when my sister was at work unless I hitchhiked to the beach (too shady) or went to one of the seemingly infinite ice cream shops (too fattening). I decided to take advantage of the alone time and read. When I saw Fahrenheit 451 on my sister’s bookshelf, I thought I owed it a read since I didn’t even know what this classic was for many of my formative years. I read it in one sitting.
Fahrenheit 451 was written by Ray Bradbury in 1953, and is still widely considered one of the most famous dystopian novels ever written. The novels entails a post-literature future where owning books is a punishable offense. The main character, Guy Montag, is a fireman whose job is to burn any leftover books people attempted to salvage. The catch? Guy Montag is hiding books of his own. Throughout the novel, Montag struggles with his newfound ache to question the society that everyone so passively accepts. He must decide if attempting to make a difference in society is worth throwing his entire life way.
Above all things, this book renewed my love of reading. As a self-identified bookworm, I don’t always appreciate or even read books as much as I should. I occasionally go through phases where I feel completely uninspired to read, but Fahrenheit 451 made me want to do nothing but read. I continued my book a day schedule the next couple days of my stay in Michigan until it was time to go home.
Basically, Fahrenheit 451 is an important book to read whether you’re literature — crazed or not. I know this is a horridly cliché description, but it’s a book that really makes you think. There are many dystopian elements of the novel that are uncomfortably similar to modern society. Even today many cultures don’t have the right to free speech or free press. And the cultures that do are overwhelmingly reliant on mass media, which can dangerous if people are not careful to criticize and analyze the media they consume.
As Ray Bradbury wrote, “there must be something in books, something we can’t imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there. You don’t stay for nothing.”
— Kelly Lyons, Fiction and Non-fiction Editor