451 F is the temperature at which paper starts to burn.
This dystopian science fiction book tells us the tale of the future of human race which has no imagination, burns books and finds its solace in other mind numbing forms of entertainment.
“Stuff your eyes with wonder, he said, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.”
Guy Montag is a fireman. Unlike the firemen of today who put out a fire, Bradbury’s firemen start them. Guy is in charge of tracking and burning down houses of people who try to hide or preserve books.
But Guy is unhappy. Partly due to the discord in his marriage and partly because he cannot afford to install a fourth TV wall in his room. This hits a peak when his wife attempts suicide and his timely intervention saves her.
At this point, Guy meets Clarisse; the free-spirited teenager who has a sense of imagination, an appreciation for nature and a penchant for books. Fascinated by her ability to think up new things, Guy starts wondering what makes her so different from the others until Clarisse suddenly disappears one day.
“Don’t ask for guarantees. And don’t look to be saved in any one thing, person, machine, or library. Do your own bit of saving, and if you drown, at least die knowing you were heading for shore.”
A few days later Guy is forced to burn down a house along with an old woman who refuses to part with her books. This, along with the other events, jolts Guy into picking up a book. And for the first time, he reads the book.
The sinister events that follow lead us to understand the true nature of society and of man in Bradbury’s futuristic world.
Year of Publication- 1953
Printed Pages- 227
The underlying theme of censorship is elucidated well when Captain Beatty, Guy’s commander at the fire station talks about how various groups started getting offended by the contents of a few books and slowly this led to a complete ban on all books as a result.
Bradbury also shows us the perils of exposure to technology (read TV) that has resulted in short attention span and a lack of imagination.
That said, the take on technology leans towards the negative aspects which makes it mildly biased. So much that Bradbury, in one of his recent interviews, was apprehensive to the idea of making this book into a Kindle format (“Those aren’t books. You can’t hold a computer in your hand like you can a book”).
“Oh God, the terrible tyranny of the majority. We all have our harps to play. And it’s up to you to know with which ear you’ll listen.”
Though 63 years old, this book is by no means outdated. A disturbing and powerful take on the human society, this is a must read for all those love their books.