“So now do you see why books are hated and feared? They show the pores in the face of life. The comfortable people only wax moon faces, poreless, hairless, expressionless. We are living in a time when flowers are trying to live on flowers, instead of growing on good rain and black loam. Even fireworks, for all their prettiness, come from the chemistry of the earth.”
Author: Ray Bradbury Published: 1953 Pages: 158
I didn’t have much expectation when I began reading this book. As I wrote about in my previous post, I read this as an audiobook which was a whole new experience in itself. All I knew before I began reading is that the temperature that paper burns is 451 Farenheit, a fact which I found alluring and intriguing.
The novel depicts a world in the not too distant future in which the most significant difference is that books are forbidden. The protagonist, Montag, is a fireman whose role, directly contrasting the job of a fireman in the world we know, is to start fires in order to burn books. Montag’s narrative is full of scepticism and pessimism, only relieved when he meets Clarissa. Clarissa is beautiful and mysterious, everything which the women who surround Montag are not. However, after meeting her, Montag finds his mind alight with new thoughts and revelations, some of which he knows may get him killed.
Bradbury’s use of repetition added to the uncanny and tense nature of the novel, and his ability to create characters, from the unhinged Mildred to the brutish Beatty, was just captivating. The obvious irony is the fact that I was learning about a world which abhorred books and my experience was reliant on my ability to continue reading the very object this words condemns. This irony does not go unnoticed by the author, who in the very essence of his writing, demonstrates the futility and absurdity of banning such an educational and eye-opening tool. Furthermore, Bradbury’s ability to be a fantastic writer places a tongue-in-cheek view on his story as he would have undoubtedly been influenced by the writers who came before him.
My only qualm, though it be a small one, was the layout of the novel. Bradbury wrote it in three parts with no chapters separating them, so while it is only a short read, it would have been nice to have the tension increased by the blank space customarily placed at the end of a chapter.
All in all, I was very satisfied with this book, and something which stuck with me after I finished was the idea of a Phoenix. Towards the end of the novel, Bradbury describes the life of a Phoenix and how they burn themselves and are reborn from the ashes. The poignancy of this analogy, along with the book’s premise, reiterates the notion that “we’ve got one damn thing the Phoenix never had. We know the damn silly thing we just did.” Bradbury reflects then that as a nation, we must remember the mistakes we have made in order to not make the same ones in the future. A notion already lost on the world of Farenheit 451.