Imagine a world where books are burnt and reading is out-lawed
Guy Montag is a fireman; but in this world a fireman’s job is to find books and burn them. In the society Montag lives in, people don’t think or feel, they just go on doing what they’re told. Teenagers drink and hurt/kill other for fun. There are virtual families, only television screens to interact with. Books are banned; people in possession of books are put in institutions, their books are burned along with their houses.
Montag lives a content life as a fireman. That is, until, one day, he meets his new neighbour, Clarisse McClellan – the seventeen year old, who is endlessly curious about all the things the world has forgotten to care about. In this bland lifeless world, she represents individuality and freedom. The young girl makes Montag question his happiness, makes him feel uneasy about the life he lives.
One day, on seeing a woman choose to burn alive with her house full of books, than live without them, Montag begins to wonder if the world is wrong about reading, after all. And that is when he steals a book to see for himself…
I haven’t read many dystopian novels, but I always wanted to read this book. The idea of a world without books is scary, fascinating and even after all these years (the book was published in 1953) very relevant. You hardly see kids playing in the park anymore, usually they just sit at home and play videogames. Reading is un-cool and the movies are becoming increasingly nonsensical. Don’t you think? And so the author shows us the future – a world where those who dare to think and feel differently, those who dare to think at all, are suppressed by the society.
“With school turning out more runners, jumpers, racers, tinkerers, grabbers, snatchers, fliers, and swimmers instead of examiners, critics, knowers, and imaginative creators, the word ‘intellectual’, of course, became the swear word it deserved to be. You always dread the unfamiliar. Surely you remember the boy in your own school class who was exceptionally ‘bright,’ did most of the reciting and answering while the others sat like so many leaden idols, hating him. And wasn’t it this bright boy you selected for beatings and tortures after hours? Of course it was. We must all be alike. Not everyone born free and equal, as the Constitution says, but everyone made equal. Each man the image of every other; then all are happy, for there are no mountains to make them cower, to judge themselves against. So! A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it. Take the shot from the weapon. Breach man’s mind. Who knows who might be the target of the well-read man?”
The author doesn’t ask us to really follow books, because that would be as dangerous a statement as any. Reading makes us think (contemplate, whatever.) It is like food for the mind. The author wants us to be curious; remember why things should be done and not just how. Reading helps us hold on to the thing that makes each of us unique; our mind, our opinions.
It’s a beautiful concept, the theme of this book. What I didn’t appreciate, was the execution of the idea. The fast-paced, science-fiction-ey style of writing makes it an exciting read. But, the book is too short; Montag has his epiphany-moment, even before you understand this new world or its rules. The characters are strong and the novel, with all its metaphors and symbols, gives you a lot to ponder over; but too much is left to you. I would have liked a longer history of how society got to this point, or Montag’s life over the years, before this abrupt turn of events.
That being said, I do think it is a book everyone should read.