A Quick Word

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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Fahrenheit 451 (1953)

Don't have enough time to read the book or even the review? Watch this video as it highlights the major plot points, characters and themes used in this cornerstone of modern literature.

Created by Jack Collins, AcademicEarth.org

Now, as reviewed by Choc:

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradburry
Fahrenheit 451 is about a dystopian future where books and critical thoughts are outlawed. "Firemen" who no longer serve to fight fires because houses have been made fire-proof take on a radically different task-- to burn books. 

Guy Montag is the story's protagonist, he is a fireman who does his job with unequaled satisfaction and pride, standing immovably on his sense of purpose, affirmed by the firemen's informal philosophy: "BOOKS ONLY MAKE US UNHAPPY." Montag however has not read a book in his life, he therefore is a sort of blind follower to the Firemen's creed. 

Montag's neatly packaged disposition however is tested when he met Clarisse, a 17 year old, whom he became friends with.

Clarisse is almost an anachronism, she seemed not to belong in the book, she was a romantic in the true sense of the word, in that she sees beauty in the simplest of things, like the morning dew on leaves, the way raindrops fall on your face, the intricacies of facial expressions and such. She has a personality worthy of a Butler Yeats poem, suggesting meaning in the immaterial and wonder in the mundane. 

This quality is something uncanny in the story's social landscape where people no longer "wonder" because they are dumbed-down by the absence of creative thought and ideas that books provide. 

Clarisse asked Montag questions like: "are you happy?" and "have you ever read any of the books you burn?" these questions, as far as Montag is concerned are mere rhetoric, but in the contemplative silence of his lonesome (after the mysterious death of Clarisse) he is forced to give the questions more depth, and in the process lets his DOUBT crack his erstwhile invincible belief in the system and spur his curiosity about books. 

Already curious and in doubt, Montag was forced to watch as his fellow firemen burn an old lady along with her books, this was not unprecedented by any stretch in his job but what disturbed Montag was the repose and the lady's calm acceptance of her fate, she WILLED to be burned along with her books, as if her life rested on the very books themselves. 

The ensuing feeling montag felt can only be expressed in his own words:

"There must be something in books, things we can't imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there. You don't stay for nothing." 

Montag then sets off to read some of the books he had saved unwittingly and joined with others who had been "intellectuals" in the past, professors, writers etc. and together they planned a return to intellectual liberation. 


In the story, books are outlawed because they "ONLY MAKE US UNHAPPY", but how true is this claim? 

We've all heard of the saying "a book is a loaded gun in the wrong person's hands". You only have to ask john Lennon for an affirmation of this.. his infamous killer--mark chapman was carrying the book "Catcher In the Rye" when he killed the musician, chapman didn't resist arrest but offered the book to explain why he killed Lennon... essentially he thought of lennon as a "phony".. 

Or who could forget the opening and closing words of the communist manifesto---a spectre is haunting europe.... the proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains ... these words effectively launched the socialist and communist movement..

Rizal and "Uncle Tom's Cabin", women's rights and "The Feminine Mystique" heck! who knows what Harry Potter or The Twilight Saga has done OR HAD BEEN doing in our collective psyche, the effects of which will only manifest itself in the future... 

As I understand the novel, I think that aside from the caveat the society is suffering from a dumbing-down of it's people due to the waning interest in the Subtle (now replaced by the Obvious), and the eschewing of activities that make people think, I think that the story also tells us books OR KNOWLEDGE is the force that shapes us and the world. True, that knowledge can be dangerous, and it had in fact altered the course of history many times, it started wars, political movements, murder and mayhem. But these turning points in history are mere by-products of KNOWLEDGE-- the most rewarding of all gains... and thus, something that we cannot do entirely without. 

When Einstein discovered the relationship between, mass and energy.. He paved the way for nuclear and atomic bombs,.. would you readily forfeit this monumental discovery for the bad effects it spurred? 

When Newton wrote his laws of physics he essentially wrote the foundation of war rockets. 

Ideas and knowledge do not kill people, even guns do not kill PEOPLE..

PEOPLE KILL PEOPLE.. and mankind will forever have this burden on his shoulders-- 

The burden of knowing...

Source: http://choc27.multiply.com/reviews/item/5

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