I have been an avid devourer of books since I was a child. My hunger to read new material got so awful that I would read the phone book. Not the numbers so much, but the information that the book held. I truly believe there is only one literary work that should be considered the greatest literary work of all time. It is called “Fahrenheit 451.”
Written in the early fifties, the story is set in a dystopian future. Firefighters don’t put fires out; they create them to burn books. The protagonist of the novel, Guy Montag, is one such fireman.
Critical thinking and intellectualism have been replaced by the media beaming what they think the people should know through their television sets.
One such example of the power the media has is Montag’s self-medicating and passive wife, Mildred. Only, one day he meets a new neighbor, named Clarisse McClellan, who inflames an idea that had been playing in the back of his mind for the last decade or so. “Why?”
Why does he do the things he does? Why is society the way it is? What does rain taste like? Meeting Clarisse and later tracking down Faber – a professor who knew what life was like before instant gratification overtook rational thinking – profoundly changes Montag.
He goes as far as murdering three fellow firefighters, including his boss Captain Beatty, and running away from the law in a sensational chase that didn’t even include him for the grand finale. He later bunks down with the “Book People,” the ones who survived the decay of society as they know it. They have memorized pieces of literature for future generations.
The world set up in “Fahrenheit 451” is beginning to look a lot like the 21st century. We have all become conditioned to accept the things that we are told without questioning too much. If we question, someone with a quick tongue will silence us, appease us, to shut us up.
Some do fight, but the majority are dependent on the media to think for them. Unfortunately, society is quick to condemn or celebrate whoever shows up on the front pages of newspapers, who appear as the top stories on our evening news, or who will get more hits to their websites.
The idea of a federally funded unit being set up to eliminate books was an amazing premise. What’s so shocking about the book is that it’s not so much the government is a tool, but going along with what the people want.
The people didn’t want books to harm their stability, so the government passed laws outlawing books. Even though I am in college now, and writing in books is accepted, I can’t bring myself to deface books in any way, shape, or form. It just doesn’t seem right.
So the idea of burning books because the government said so is an incredibly frightening thought.