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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  1. This is, quite possibly, my favorite book. Unlike its sister novel, Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451 expresses hope for a better tomorrow. Also, I always liked the juxtaposition of water and fire in this novel. It provides a very nice (almost biblical) contrast.

    One thing: I always looked at this novel not as a diatribe on government control, but as the worst possible excess of rampant democracy. It isn't the government that controls the people but rather the people that control the people. The government simply reacts to the will of the people and the will dictates: don't offend anyone, enjoy life. Don't think too much.

  2. Ryan: I agree with your assessment of the culture in the book. I think we've pretty much arrived at that point: don't offend, don't think etc.

  3. I still haven't read this book but I really want to. By the way, I despise the way news masquerade as entertainment these days.

  4. Man of la Book: My son's review was based on a particular point he wanted to make. The story is really exciting and fast-paced. Typical Bradbury sci-fi.

  5. I love this book :) Trev @

  6. Trev: Yep. You can't beat classic Bradbury. Thanks for stopping by. I'll be coming to visit your site, too.

  7. Good job, Derek! You made your point very clear. I suspect your writing and language skills are way above average. I think your college professor will be pleased.
    If a review is supposed to make me want to read the book, then I guess this was more of a book report than a review, which is a good thing, right?
    You demonstrated that you can communicate well with the written word, which was the purpose of the exercise, right?
    I'll give you an "A".

  8. Phyllis: Thanks for your kind comments. It's not a book report but rather a paper with a theme. His theme was that when people reduce everything to an entertainment level they lose their ability to think on a discerning level.


I welcome comments from anyone with a mutual interest in the subjects I written about.