Emma Krebs

United States

I'm a 17-year-old student trying to figure out my place in the world of writing.

Adoration--An Insight Into What Makes Fahrenheit 451 Beautiful

January 19, 2021

        Books were born to be well-loved. When I received a copy of Fahrenheit 451, I was reminded of that fact. The book did not have a shiny exterior with glossy words, nor was it a book with blinding white pages that you would see on today’s market. It was aging; yet, held a beauty to it. It’s tattered edges and weathered pages told a story of its first owner and the quality of the story. It was the sign of an adored book.  
        Written by my favorite author Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 takes place in a bleak dystopian future where this adoration for books has been destroyed. The protagonist, Guy Montag, is a ‘fireman’ whose job is to start fires rather than put them out. Specifically, burning printed books and their readers. Society had outgrown the attention span needed for literature and turned to mindless, snappy entertainment. Feeling purposeless and being narrow-minded was a normal trait, if not an expected quality, of this world. Everyone accepted it as it was, including Montag. However, his expectations are flipped on his head when his new neighbor Clarisse starts talking to him about a past where no one lived in aimless entertainment; rather, they turned to books to learn of a wider perspective than their own. 
        The first aspect of this book I want to talk about is the symbolism of the characters. The four main people I will talk about are Montag, Clarisse, Mildred(Montag’s wife), and Beatty(Fireman captain and Montag’s boss). They each represent a different aspect of their society. Montag represents the inner struggle of resisting cultural normalcy despite society’s claims that he should not resist. He is initially stuck in between Clarisse and Mildred’s thinking as he tries to understand how his ideologies of books and lack of thought were never sustainable. Mildred represents someone who is happy to stay in the current problematic society because it’s easier to forget problems than solve them. She encourages Montag to do the same despite the deep depression she is in. Meanwhile, Clarisse represents the opposite. She is someone who takes time to appreciate being able to think and relishes in calling out the faults of their society. The final character happens to be my favorite as his complexity from his character contradictions is fascinating. Captain Beatty is the main obstacle Montag faces in his character arc, often tripping him up through his use of literature references. He was the part of the old society that enjoyed thinking, but eventually, he moved on because that’s what he thought he needed to do. These characters all show different portions of society as they handle change and ignorance, which make them relatable and interesting to read. Some of these charcaters hold onto the past, some forget, some move on, and others learn just as we would in their shoes.
        The next portion of the story that was particularly interesting was the world-building. Despite the major changes described in the previous paragraphs from our society to theirs, no one ruling force caused it. As stated in the book, “‘Remember, the firemen are rarely necessary. The public itself stopped reading of its own accord.'” It’s the public that caused this, and Ray Bradbury conveys this point well. Characters actively seek out readers and books to burn; they snitch on their neighbors, friends, and family. Teenagers skip school and drive their cars fast on roads to hit people. Billboards are fifty feet long just to get the attention of drivers’ short attention span. It’s these small interactions and details that add up to create a unique world where the characters dictate the direction of the story. 
        The final, and most important, reason to read this book is the theme: the conflict between thought and censorship. As Bradbury himself puts it, “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” Being able to spread paradigms of thinking is an important aspect of a culture to have because it broadens people’s views of the world and other humans in it. A large part of the reason books are so well-loved is because it digs deep into another person’s psyche, culture, and passions. Books are like gateways into people’s souls and by broadening our perspectives through reading we can become experienced in compassion. When Fahrenheit 451’s society chose to burn books and thus censor themselves, they chose to lose that portion that makes them human. 
        As a reader, I often reflect on this book and try to imagine myself in a world where books were gone. Mindless entertainment already perpetuates our society, and I find myself having a more and more difficult time pulling myself away. However, I remember that Fahrenheit 451’s story has merit in the fact that we could easily fall prey to censorship, and have before. It makes me stop and appreciate the slower portions of life similar to how Clarisse wanted Montag to enjoy it. This book is a necessity to read for any book-lover or dystopian fanatic, and I highly recommend it for others to truly understand how introspective thinking is a human characteristic I will always crave to pursue. Fahrenheit 451: my truly adored book.
Fahrenheit 451. New York: Ballantine Books. Bradbury, Ray, 1920-2012, Fahrenheit 451. New York: Ballantine Books, 1996.

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