Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

May 25, 2010
Is it better to live in a society blissfully ignorant or painfully aware? It is intelligence and curiosity that created human dominance over all other species on this planet. Technology is the result of this human intellect. Ironically in this story, society uses technology to squelch the very same human intellect and curiosity that created that technology in the first place. In Fahrenheit 451 the protagonist, Montag, was an awakening of human curiosity and intellect; through many events he slowly discovered that he was living a blissfully ignorant life. Ignorance suppresses human dignity and integrity. Montag learns that human spirit and dignity result from the inherent curiosity of the human mind--and books are a major component of human intellect.
In the beginning Montag’s curiosity unconsciously began with his hands; he stole books and hid them but had no idea why. Montag’s job, as a fireman, was to burn books. He loved his job of burning books so much that at the end of the day “…he would feel the fiery smile still gripped by his face muscles in the dark. It never went away, that smile, it never went away as long as he remembered.” (Page 4) He truly loved his job without thought.
Early in the story Montag meets his neighbor; a free-spirited, 17 year old: Clarisse McClellan. She is a symbolic mirror for the protagonist in this story, she makes him ‘see’ his faults and irrational beliefs. In many ways Clarisse challenges and questions the authority from which he operates. While they were on a walk, she points out; ““Bet I know something else you don’t. There’s dew on the grass in the morning.” he suddenly couldn’t remember if he had known this or not, and it made him quite irritable” (Page 9). During this walk he begins to notice her natural curiosity and wonderment of nature. Montag is so engrossed in his book burning occupation he hasn’t ever thought about the fact that books are the igniters of this curiosity that he recognized in Clarisse.
Early on in the story Mildred, the wife of Montag, is portrayed as a mindless television-addicted zombie. In the same light, their marriage is portrayed as empty and meaningless. In about the middle of the book Montag showed Millie a hoard of books he hid in the air-conditioning vent throughout the years. Millie’s response was unexpected “…she ran forward seized a book and ran towards the kitchen incinerator. Her caught her shrieking, he held her and she tried to fight away from him, scratching.” (Page 64). Mildred lived according to the law regarding books; they were illegal and should be destroyed immediately. At this point in the story Montag is confused; he was concerned about his empty relationship with his wife, and was torn between rebelling against the book-burning law and his past love for his job as a fireman.
One of the most essential scenes is when Beatty, Montag’s boss, visits Montag at his home. For it is here that Beatty shows exceptional understanding of why the government burns books: it is fear and fear alone. “Who knows who might be the target of the well-read man?” Beatty asked Montag. This is when Montag decides that he can no longer go forward and burn books for a living. After his house is burnt by the orders of Beatty, he leaves the city and finds ‘The Book People’ living in the country.
Books are the foundation of human intelligence and curiosity—and this is learned by Montag through a long process. At first Montag loved his job, burning books. Yet he didn’t know why. Next he meets Clarisse who shows him the beauty of nature which he hadn’t realized. Through Mildred, Montag realizes the meaninglessness of his marriage. His boss, Beatty educated him regarding how and why books are burned. Montag learned through a series of experiences that without books a society is simply a mindless congregation of wasted human spirit and integrity.





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daffodilsNblueskies This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jun. 10, 2010 at 4:18 pm
I've been thinking about reading this book and I'm so glad I read this review! I can't wait to start reading :)
 
katie-cat said...
Jun. 4, 2010 at 2:50 pm
The book was really and eye-opener.  I don't know how I'd survive if books were illegal.  It's not an easy book to read, I had read it twice to really understand it, but that aspect is what makes the book so good-it makes you think.
 
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