Monday, March 12, 2012
Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
The following review is written by my son, Derek. This past year I have begun homeschooling him to get him ready for college. One particular concern was his writing skills. I will be periodically posting papers written by him as an exercise to help him improve these skills. Feel free to give feedback!
Fahrenheit 451 is a novel by Ray Bradbury that portrays a nation that has been corrupted by the Government. The message of this novel is shown through the eyes of the protagonist, Guy Montag. Montag is a firefighter in a world where firefighters don’t put out fires but burn books. (Fahrenheit 451 is the temperature at which paper burns.) After meeting a man who reads, he wakes up to the fact that everyone is being kept under control and pacified by laws the government has imposed on its people. It accomplishes this in a couple of ways. First, they outlaw books. Second they keep everything, including education on a shallow entertainment level. As a result, the people can no longer think for themselves and do whatever the government tells them.
Books have been outlawed and are burned by the firemen. This is because, according to the government, books cause people to stop and think which causes division and unhappiness in society. If someone is found with books then firemen are sent to their house. The houses, curiously enough, are fireproof which allows the firemen to burn all the books inside without damaging the building. The person found owning books is considered a threat to the happiness of society and is given the death penalty. This is administered by lethal injection through the mouth of the firemen’s dog. This “firedog” is a machine that has eight legs and always accompanies the firemen on their missions.
Everyone is constantly being entertained. Schools focus mostly on sports rather than education. There’s one room in every house that has huge TV screens built into every wall. Wherever people go they are listening to music on their headphones, paying no attention to the world around them. Because everything is seen as fun and games, no one seems to be able to value life. A group of teenagers hit and kill a young girl with their car and think nothing of it. Neither does anyone else.
The government tells the people that they are happy through entertainment. The people believe this without question. However, since the average person cannot think rationally or judge anything for themselves, everyone is rendered helpless under the government’s control. The country falls apart as the value for life, the earth’s natural beauty and intact families disappear. They are replaced with chaos, injustice, broken homes and a nuclear war but no one cares.
Except Montag. At the end of the story Montag meets an old professor who, it turns out, possesses many books that he has memorized. The story concludes with Montag and the professor traveling to an underground community that has also memorized the books. In this way, Fahrenheit 451 concludes with a glimmer of hope. Fahrenheit 451 is an excellent example of a government controlling its society by robbing it of its ability to think for themselves. It is a warning against a people putting themselves under the government’s power as they mindlessly follow the lies they are fed. Without good literature and education, people’s minds will atrophy as they only dwell on TV shows and music.
Michael Moore's movie Farenheit 9/11 was a sad irony as it was everything Bradbury had warned against in his novel, i.e. allowing the media to think for you under the guise of "entertainment". Bradbury fought against Moore using the title in court but unfortunately lost. -S.H.
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