Thursday, January 16, 2020

11. Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451. Ray Bradbury. 1953. 190 pages. [Source: Library] [Classic; Dystopia; Speculative Fiction]

First sentence: It was a pleasure to burn.

Premise/plot: Guy Montag, a fireman, is challenged in his beliefs after meeting a young neighbor girl, Clarisse, who is seventeen and crazy. Though their meetings are brief--she dies soon after--his life is forever changed by the act of actually thinking, observing, engaging.

Guy Montag has his eyes opened--and once they are open--he's quick to see that his society is in BIG, BIG TROUBLE and that most likely it is DOOMED, heading straight for collapse.

My thoughts: Fahrenheit 451 is one of my all-time favorite, favorite, favorite, favorite books. It's not about censorship--not really. Despite what any back cover says.

There is a line in a song from Beauty and the Beast that tackles what this one is about.

Gaston: Lefou, I'm afraid I've been thinking.
Lefou: A dangerous pastime,
Gaston: I know.

It is a nightmarish look at what happens to an entire civilization/culture that embraces the philosophy that IGNORANCE IS BLISS. That a mindless life is a happy life. It shows us the results of several generations CHOOSING for THEMSELVES not to think--to just be entertained quick and easy, fast and mindless. That's why I said it is NOT about censorship. Except for the occasional "oddball" that hasn't been brainwashed by the education system, the parlor families (aka television), the ads and billboards, the majority are happy and content to be mindless. They're not desperate rebels anxious to pick up a book. They don't need the government, the system, the powers that be forbidding them from picking up books and reading. It's almost a non-issue. It's the oddballs that keep the firemen in business.

Mindless, easy entertainment that never challenges or questions--merely entertains has weakened society. Though most wouldn't ever guess it or observe it on their own. They're doomed and clueless.

In addition to entertainment and education (or lack thereof) this one also has MUCH to say about war.

Favorite quotes:
I heard once that a long time ago houses used to burn by accident and they needed firemen to stop the flames. (8)
Sometimes I'm ancient. I'm afraid of children my own age. They kill each other. Did it always use to be that way? My uncle says no. Six of my friends have been shot in the last year alone. (30)
"People don't talk about anything."
"Oh, they must!"
"No, not anything. They name a lot of cars or clothes or swimming pools mostly and say how swell! But they all say the same things and nobody says anything different from anyone else..." (31)

"We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?" (52)

Do you see? Out of the nursery into the college and back to the nursery; there's your intellectual pattern for the past five centuries or more. (55)

School is shortened, discipline relaxed, philosophies, histories, languages dropped, English and spelling gradually neglected, finally almost completely ignored (55)

Who knows who might be the target of the well-read man? Me? I won't stomach them for a minute. Remember, Montag, we're the happiness boys. We stand against the small tide of those who want to make everyone unhappy with conflicting theory and thought. (58)

It didn't come from the Government down. There was no dictum, no declaration, no censorship, to start with, no! Technology, mass exploitation, and minority pressure carried the trick, thank God. Today thanks to them you can stay happy all the time. (58)

Ask yourself, What do we want in this country, above all? People want to be happy, isn't that right right? Haven't you heart it all your life? I want to be happy, people say. Well, aren't they? Don't we keep them moving, don't we give them fun? That's all we live for, isn't it? For pleasure, for titillation? And you must admit our culture provides plenty of these. (59)

The home environment can undo a lot you try to do at school. That's why we've lowered the kindergarten age year after year until now we're almost snatching them from the cradle. (60)

Did you listen to him? He knows all the answers. He's right. Happiness is important. Fun is everything. (65)

"We cannot tell the precise moment when friendship is formed. As in filling a vessel drop by drop, there is at last a drop which makes it run over; so in a series of kindnesses there is at last one which makes the heart run over." (71)

Every hour so many damn things in the sky! How in hell did those bombers get up there every single second of our lives! Why doesn't someone want to talk about it! We've started and won two atomic wars since 1990! Is it because we're having so much fun at home we've forgotten the world? Is it because we're so rich and the rest of the world's so poor and we just don't care if they are? Is that why we're hated so much? Do you know why? I don't, that's sure! Maybe the books can get us half out of the cave. God, Millie, don't you see? An hour a day, two hours, with these books, and maybe. (73-4)

Good God, it isn't as simple as just picking up a book you laid down half a century ago. Remember, the firemen are rarely necessary. The public itself stopped reading of its own accord. (78)

It’s been a long time. I’m not a religious man. But it’s been a long time.’ Faber turned the pages, stopping here and there to read. ‘It’s as good as I remember. Lord, how they’ve changed it in our parlors these days. Christ is one of the family now. I often wonder if God recognizes His own son the way we’ve dressed him up, or is it dressed him down? He’s a regular peppermint stick now, all sugar-crystal and saccharine when he isn’t making veiled references to certain commercial products that every worshiper absolutely needs.’ (81)
I’m one of the innocents who could have spoken up and out when no one would listen to the ‘guilty’, but I did not speak and thus became guilty myself. (82)

It’s not the books you need, it’s some of the things that were once in books. (82)

The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us. (83)

And what does the word quality mean ? To me it means texture. This book has pores. It has features. This book can go under the microscope. You’d find life under the glass, streaming past in infinite profusion. The more pores, the more truthfully recorded details of life per square inch you can get on a sheet of paper, the more literary you are. That’s my definition anyway. Telling detail. Fresh detail. The good writers touch life often. The mediocre ones run a quick hand over her. The bad ones rape her and leave her for the flies. (83)

We are living in a time when flowers are trying to live on flowers, instead of growing on good rain and black loam. (83)

The books are to remind us what asses and fools we are. (86)
"Caesarians or not, children are ruinous; you're out of your mind," said Mrs. Phelps.
"I plunk the children in school nine days out of ten. I put up with them when they come home three days a month; it's not bad at all. You heave them into the 'parlor' and turn the switch. It's like washing clothes: stuff laundry in and slam the lid." Mrs. Bowles tittered. "They'd just as soon kick as kiss me. Thank God, I can kick back!" (96)

Mistakes can be profited by. Man, when I was younger I shoved my ignorance in people's faces. They beat me with sticks...if you hide your ignorance, no one will hit you and you'll never learn. (104)

What traitors books can be! You think they're backing you up, and they turn on you. (107)

Oh God, the terrible tyranny of the majority. (108)



© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

2 comments:

Lark said...

It's been such a long time since I've read this one; I should really pull it out and read it again. :)

Amy Aline said...

I've wanted to read this book for while a now - and I even own it! This makes me want to read it even more! Maybe I'll finally get to it this year.