Saturday, May 30, 2015

Book Review: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

First, a few notes:

  • I will never cease to be amazed by old dystopian authors' ability to look into the future and accurately predict what will happen that will suck.
  • I, although a nerd and a teacher to boot, am a 26-year-old product of the high-tech, fast-paced 21st century. 
  • In the case of this book, I am reading like a writer, more than like the average Joe.

Basic concept:
The short novel takes place in the indistinct future. Bradbury (author), writing from 1953, does a phenomenal job of predicting the affect television will have on society.  Books are now a threat to the status quo and must be burned.  Firemen start the fires that burn them. The novel's only round, dynamic character is Guy Montag, a fireman.

My observations, opinions, and analysis:
There is a very high level of symbolism in this novel.  Because I listened to the audiobook - and because I'm not always as smart as I think I am, some of it was lost on me.  This means most of it would be lost on the average high school student and many adults.  The literary allusions were just within my range of familiarity, which means all other people with literature and library degrees would get them, but it's a toss-up for math majors and computer tech guys. 

I found the biblical allusions, and the veiled theme that the Bible is the most important book capable of healing a world totally destroyed, touching and understated.  This is good in that the 21st century populace will not be preached at and moralized to.  This is bad in that lack of biblical knowledge will send the allusions right over your head. The words carry double the weight when you know where they came from. 

My aesthetic reactions and recommendation:
The book is short - 5 hours by audio, 150 pages of text. This is good, because some of the imagery and symbolism and allusion drags.  Having only one (real) character, for me, can be tiring.  There's a section very near the end where Guy is caused to wonder what knowledge really is and where it is kept. I am slightly ashamed to say, I cried. If I think about it too hard, I will cry again.  This is probably not a reaction the average person should expect. You've got to really really love books. 

If you have it in your mind to pick up Fahrenheit 451 and read it, you are probably very ambitious, or a nerd, or you like a challenge. If that's true of you, do it. Pick it up, read it, struggle through it, get all the way to the end.  If you are not a reader, this is not a starter book. If you haven't read anything since high school and you're older than 20, this is not how you want to reacclimate yourself.  If you read the Bible (specifically not in the NLT or Message translations), you might want to give this a taste.  See how it goes.

I don't think I could teach this to anyone, but AP students, or seniors who had been through a rigorous English curriculum.
8 out of 10 points.  That's my standard rating.

No comments:

Post a Comment