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Fahrenheit 451 ()


New York Public Library's Books of the Century

    Play the man, Master Ridley; we shall this day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England as I
    trust shall never be put out.
           -Hugh Latimer

Guy Montag is a Fireman, but in the future envisioned by Ray Bradbury, firemen don't put out fires, they start them.  Firemen are responsible for burning books; all of which are banned, so that the people of this dystopia will not be troubled by difficult thoughts.  Instead of reading, they watch endless soap operas on large screen TV's and the government provides for all their needs.  Guy has had some qualms about his job, but he's never really thought through exactly what it is he's doing.  But then, in short order, he meets an odd young neighborhood girl named Clarisse McClellan, his wife nearly kills herself with sleeping pills and, finally, when the firemen are called to an old woman's house, she refuses to leave:

    Montag placed his hand on the woman's elbow.  "You can come with me,"

    "No," she said.  "Thank you, anyway."

    "I'm counting to ten," said Beatty.  "One. Two."

    "Please," said Montag.

    "Go on," said the woman.

    "Three. Four."

    "Here." Montag pulled at the woman.

    The woman relied quietly, "I want to stay here."

    "Five. Six."

    "You can stop counting," she said.  She opened the fingers of one hand slightly and in the palm of
    the hand was a single slender object.

    An ordinary kitchen match.

And before they can light the fire, she lights it herself and Guy is forced to consider what it is about books that would make a person do such a thing.  As he tells his wife:

    Last night I thought about all the kerosene I've used in the past ten years.  And I though about
    books.  And for the first time I realized that a man was behind each one of the books.  A man had
    to think them up.  A man had to take a long time to put them down on paper.  And I'd never
    thought of that before.

As it turns out, the old woman has, like Hugh Latimore, lit a fire that will change the world, because Guy joins the nascent resistance to the book-burning government.

He remembers meeting an old man named Faber in a park some time earlier and the hunch he had that the man had a book.  Indeed, when Guy tracks him down, it turns out that Faber was a professor and he explains to Guy why books are of value:

    Number one, ... quality of information.  Number two: leisure to digest it.  And number three: the
    right to carry out actions based on what we learn from the interaction of the first two.

Each bolstering the other's confidence, Guy and Faber set out to resist the system and, ultimately, Guy escapes to the wilderness beyond the city, where wandering bands of men are preserving great texts in memory, against the day when the knowledge is needed and learning is again valued.

While not quite in a league with Orwell or Koestler, Bradbury's classic tale is an important treatment of the central themes of the century (of every century).  His vision of a society where people have traded freedom for security had a particular resonance during the Cold War, but it should continue to be read as a cautionary tale.  We head to the new millennium in the midst of the most spectacular flowering of Freedom that the world has ever known, but there is a continual tension in the species, between those who value that freedom, whatever its costs, and those who would choose the security offered by a controlled society and those who are afraid of uncomfortable ideas. freedom has the upper hand, but the struggle continues…

(Reviewed:)

Grade: (A-)

  

Websites:

Ray Bradbury Links:
Men with Lit Matches: a review of Fahrenheit 451, The Fiftieth Anniversary Edition by Ray Bradbury (A. W. R. HAWKINS, The University Bookman)
Montag’s seminal moment takes place as he and his fellow firemen are burning down a house that contains books, and the homeowner, rather than leave her books behind, stands among them determined to be burned with them as a witness to their value. Before she burns, she quotes from the English Reformers about whom she’d read: “Play the man, Master Ridley; we shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out!”

From that early point onward, Fahrenheit 451 shows Montag on a quest for truth. And he, the destroyer of books, becomes a hoarder of the same, until even his fellow firemen turn on him and burn his house to the ground in their sheer intolerance of learning.

Like so many of Bradbury’s works, Fahrenheit 451 is priceless. And it bolsters perfectly the point that Russell Kirk made when he wrote, “Bradbury’s stories are not an escape from reality; they are windows looking upon enduring reality.”

    -OBIT: Ray Bradbury, Master of Science Fiction, Dies at 91 (GERALD JONAS, June 6, 2012, NY Times)
    -OBIT: Ray Bradbury dies at 91; author lifted fantasy to literary heights: Ray Bradbury's more than 27 novels and 600 short stories helped give stylistic heft to fantasy and science fiction. In 'The Martian Chronicles' and other works, the L.A.-based Bradbury mixed small-town familiarity with otherworldly settings. (Lynell George, 6/06/12, LA Times)
   
-OBIT: American science fiction author Ray Bradbury dies age 91 (NICK CLARK, 06 JUNE 2012, Independent)
    -OBIT: Ray Bradbury dies aged 91 (The Telegraph, 6/06/12)
    -OBIT: Author Ray Bradbury, who fused sci-fi with morality, dies at age 91 (Agence France-Presse, Jun 7, 2012)
    -REMEMBRANCE: LOVING RAY BRADBURY (Junot Díaz, 6/06/12, New Yorker)
    -OBIT: Ray Bradbury, a passionate sci-fi writer with the gifts of a painter: Ray Bradbury wrote his more than 500 stories, novels, plays, and poems on a typewriter, creating imagery that helped bring sci-fi and fantasy into the mainstream of American popular culture. (Gloria Goodale, Staff writer / June 6, 2012, CS Monitor)
    -REMEMBRANCE: Ray Bradbury vs. Political Correctness: The science-fiction author, who died Wednesday, was a fierce critic of thought-control. (SOHRAB AHMARI, 6/06/12, WSJ)
    -REMEMBRANCE: Ray Bradbury, Pulp God: The fabulist of the Space Age was half doomsday prophet, half man-child. (Bryan Curtis, June 6, 2012, Slate)
    -REMEMBRANCE: Remembering Ray: A visionary science-fiction writer, and a dispenser of good advice. (Ted Elrick, 6/06/12, National Review)
    -REMEMBRANCE: Ray Bradbury, Dead at 91, Taught Generations of Readers How to Dream: The fantasy writer Ray Bradbury scorned the label of “science-fiction writer” and taught generations of readers the benefits of letting their imaginations run wild, writes Malcolm Jones, 6/06/12, Daily Beast)
    -INTERVIEW: Ray Bradbury, The Art of Fiction No. 203 (Interviewed by Sam Weller, Paris Review)
    -REMEMBRANCE: Ray Bradbury: Finding Our Reflections Where We Didn't Expect Them (PETER SAGAL, 6/06/12, NPR)
    -FILMOGRAPHY: Ray Bradbury (Imdb.com)
    -INTERVIEW: Rocket Man: In conversational orbit with Ray Bradbury (Steven Mikulan, 6/26/04, LA Weekly)
    -REVIEW: of Fahrenheit 451 By Ray Bradbury (Alexander Zaitchik, NY Press)

Book-related and General Links:
    -ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA : "ray bradbury"
    -ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA : "bradbury, ray"
    -INTERVIEW : The Romance of Places: An Interview with Ray Bradbury (Robert Couteau, Quantum: Science Fiction & Fantasy Review. Spring 1991)
    -INTERVIEW : with Ray Bradbury (Joshua Klein, The Onion AV Club)
    -INTERVIEW : An interview with Master Storyteller Ray Bradbury (Jason J. Marchi, New Century Cinema)
    -ESSAY : Ray Bradbury is on fire! At 81, the veteran author of sci-fi classics "Fahrenheit 451" and
 "The Martian Chronicles" is suddenly very hot in Hollywood (James Hibberd, August 2001, Salon)
    -ARTICLE : Ray Bradbury on Spiritual Aspects of Creativity in the Next 100 Years   (P. Clay Vollmer)
    -Green Town, IL : A Home for Ray Bradbury
    -Ray Bradbury (Alpha Ralpha Boulevard)
    -The Bradbury Scrapbook  For Mrs. Senner's Class | Due on 5.16.00 | Vadim Gordin
    -Ray Bradbury (Bio & Links)
    -SERMON : SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES (Rev. Linda Smith Stowell, June 6, 1999)
    -LINKS : Top: Arts: Literature: Genres: Fantasy: Authors: B: Bradbury, Ray (Open Directory)
    -ARCHIVES : "ray bradbury" (Find Articles)
    -ARCHIVES : "ray bradbury" (Mag Portal)
    -STUDY GUIDE : Study guide for Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles (1950) (Paul Brian)
    -ONLINE STUDY GUIDE : Farenheit 451 (SparkNotes)
    -STUDY GUIDE : Fahrenheit 451 (ClassicNote)
    -STUDY GUIDE : Fahrenheit 451 (CampusNut)
    -REVIEW : of Fahrenheit 451 (Alex Gibbons, New Statesman)
    -REVIEW : of Something Wicked (James Seidman, SF Site)
    -REVIEW :  of Something Wicked  (Joe Hartlaub, The Book Report)
    -ANNOTATED REVIEWS : Bradbury, Ray (Medical Humanities)
    -REVIEW : of FROM THE DUST RETURNED A Novel By Ray Bradbury (HARLAN ELLISON, LA Times)
    -REVIEW : of From the Dust Returned by Ray Bradbury (Dorman T. Shindler, The Denver Post)

FILMS :
    -FILMOGRAPHY : Ray Bradbury (Imdb.com)
    -INFO : Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983) (Imdb.com)
    -BUY IT :  Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983) DVD (Amazon)
    -DVD REVIEW : of Something Wicked This Way Comes (Mike Lang, DVD Review)
    -DVD REVIEW : of Something Wicked (John Larsen, Lightviews)

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