Surprisingly, I have never read this book up until now. That’s because I did International Baccalaureate in high school, rather than regular or AP courses, and thus, read more international books than those from the American classics.
This book is a dystopic fiction set in the future. The job of firemen is now to start fires rather than put them out. They burn books. Guy Montag, the main character and a fireman, meets an odd girl named Clarisse who changes how he views the world. He become curious, and that curiosity and questioning of the way things are gets him into trouble as he begins to learn more about the books he should be burning.
As you can guess, one of the major issues of this book is censorship. Now, I love the topic of censorship. There are so many good books that are censored for different reasons. But, although the government has hired the firemen to the censoring in this book, it is not political censorship…well, according fire-chief Beatty, it didn’t start that way. It was because of the people themselves. According to Beatty, as the world population grew, so did the amount of minorities. Censorship has always been to secure the feelings of the minorities (in my YA Lit class at BYU, I learned about a mid-western school that the PTA personally took markers and crossed out parts they didn’t like in Tom Sawyer, especially about the slaves and the n* word). Well, there were too many minorities, and you couldn’t keep them all happy. But, at the same time, the education system was starting to lack because people were becoming too involved with television and mass media, which was making stories shorter and shorter to appease the ever-shortening attention span of the people. Schools payed more attention to athletes rather than intellectuals and thus, there were less academic students. Those were were smart, were looked on as pariahs and hated above all else. All this led to classics being burned, philosophy and theology as well as other “iffy” material that caused contradiction and contention, and finally, just all books were outlawed because someone somewhere was going to be “hurt” by them.
After reading this, I looked back at the date of publication–1953. How far have we come? Well, we do have shortened versions of classics. How many of you read the Sparknotes rather than the actual book in school? How many looked up info on it to write your essays? Personally, I never have, because I love to read, but it is a common thing. True, movies are getting longer–rather than 1.5 hours, they’re becoming 2-2.5 hours. But, in an interview Bradbury gave in 2003, he mentions how the clips have become shorter. We are thrown a lot more images in a second than we used to, and our brains crave to catch up to it. Thus, children, as we can really see today, are reading less and less. Bradbury says he wasn’t trying to predict the future, but he warns us that we need to start in the education system, he right out says, “The educational system needs to be corrected.” Teacher followers I have and parent followers, which one of you don’t agree with this statement?
One of my favorite questions and answers from the interview are thus:
Q: “What can teachers, educators, and parents do to instill a love of language in young people so that they appreciate the power of the word in a culture that is increasingly dominated by the visual?”
A: “Hand them a book, that’s all. Science fiction, fantasy–my books have changed a lot of lives. My books are full of images and metaphors, but they’re connected to intellectual concepts. Give one of my books to a twelve-year old boy who doesn’t like to read, and that boy will fall in love and start to read.”
This is very true! I had a conversation with one of my high school teachers and friend who also had her….
Teachers can be inspiring with books.
But, look, I’ve veered off topic of actually reviewing the book Fahrenheit 451! Back to that!
I liked it. It was an easy read–I finished it in just one day, including all the little notes and tabs you see in the picture. Bradbury uses a lot of description. Choose just about any paragraph out of the book, and you can list all the senses he used in it! Perfect for teaching kids descriptive writing.
However, there are some areas that get a little less linear and a bit more abstract. You have to read the few pages over and over again and wonder, what just happened? Did this really just happen, or was it in Montag’s mind? There was a set of 3 pages that I put a tab and wrote on it, “WTF? Discuss with class and see what they think.”
But, all in all, especially reading it in 2013 and seeing how close we are to Bradbury’s society, it was a very good read and there is a lot of discussion I can get out of it for my 8th graders in the fall.
I give it a 4 out of 5.