Saturday, June 2, 2007

Fourth Book: Fahrenheit 451: Camille's Review

I know I had read this book before, but I didn't remember a thing about it. Also, I had it mixed up in my head with a short story from The Martian Chronicles. (The one where the last person in the town hears the phone ring and tries to figure out where it's coming from. That's all I remember.)

So Fahrenheit 451 is about a fireman named Montag. You can't call him the politically correct firefighter because he does exactly the opposite. He starts fires. Firemen, in Bradbury's "future" society, set fire to homes for which they've gotten the alarm or a tip-off that there are books on the premises. Montag, at first, enjoys his job. His wife stays home, drugs herself, and watches TV all day, except that the TV is huge and takes up whole walls and you can interact with it. After Montag meets a strange and different teenager on his block, he begins to see things in a different light and realizes that there is more to life than what his society has become.

I agree that this book has earned its status as a classic. But what truly amazes me is Ray Bradbury's extremely insightful portrayal of the future. For instance, the book was published in 1953. TV had only really gotten off the ground 5 or 6 years before. I think only about half of the American population even had TVs in 1953, and 1953 was also the first year that color television was available. I think it's just amazing how he was able to foresee the power and influence that TV would gain over the years. Of course, we don't have TVs on all four walls in a room BUT-- we do have ever-increasingly larger screens available, some people do spend all day with it, some people are obsessed with certain shows or actors. It's a big part of almost everyone's lives.

The people in the book are so out of touch with the natural world, human emotion, art, or any kind of deep thought. Everything is supposed to be vacuous and fun. In a conversation between two of Montag's wife's friends about how their children are, one of them says she has no children and the other says she had two by Cesarean even though her doctor told her she didn't need to. She said something along of the lines of it being easier to have had the surgery. (Then she puts the kids in front of the TV when they're not at school.) Again, in light of the current issue of unnecessary C-sections, Ray Bradbury was spot on.

Our society is not like the one in Fahrenheit (although the book takes place sometime in the 90s.) But it could be. So everyone, keep reading! Love your books and keep them alive.


Michelle said...

Interesting fact you brought about how forward-thinking Bradbury was! I just realised the other day that there are more tvs in our house than there are people!

Camille said...

He really amazed me with what he predicted. I didn't realize he's still alive. He's 87 and lives in the L.A. area.