Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury is an incredibly interesting and, at times, deeply unsettling novel on just how far humanity will go to suppress what it doesn’t understand.
The book is set in a dystopian future- the United States has become a massively powerful republic, and all news coverage and media are centered around a single event: the “War,” which the Republic is winning. It centers around a seemingly ordinary firefighter named Montag- but in this universe, firefighters do not put out fires. They light them, burning down houses which contain contraband items, usually books.
On one such night, Montag witnesses one woman refuse to leave her house, choosing to burn with her books- and is unsettled. How important must books be if she is willing to die with them? From the smoldering wreckage of the house, Montag takes a single book home with him. On his way home, he meets a teenager named Clarisse, who is out alone, walking in the night. Clarisse expresses the beauty of the night, and how the fallen autumn leaves “smell like cinnamon.” Montag is again deeply uncomfortable- primarily because he himself never thought to look up at the night sky or focus on the smell of fallen leaves. Soon, wracked with guilt about his crime of taking a book, Montag decides he will simply read a few pages to satisfy his curiosity, and then burn the book. But what he finds will change his life forever….
I, personally, have a love-hate relationship with this book. The dialogue is clumsy, the expositions are vague, and the setup and lead-ins for the plot are often simply nonexistent. However, what makes Fahrenheit 451 so memorable is the ideology rather than the imagery. There are indeed some beautifully-written passages where Bradbury fully lives up to the term “author” and beyond- but the idea that the slow eradication of culture and eccentricity is the individual citizen’s fault as much as it is the government’s really rings true in today’s society especially.