Fahrenheit 451 Analysis by Ralph K Jones

Dystopian Literature Review

Fahrenheit 451: Burn the World Away

Fahrenheit 451: Burn the World Away

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury takes place in a near-future dystopian society where instead of putting out fires, firemen are tasked with burning every last book they can find.  Reading or owning books is against the law, and instead, much more tolerable forms of media are appreciated by the public; that being, anything and everything that is without substance. In this dystopia, the true rebels are the books themselves.

The story of Fahrenheit 451 follows Guy Montag, a fireman who partakes in the destruction of literature. He seems to be going through the motions in his life until a chance meeting with a girl named Clarisse McClellan. She boldly tells him that he’s not really in love with his wife, isn’t suited to be a fireman, and that people no longer connect with one another. After conversing with Clarisse, Guy realizes that he’s unhappy with the society he lives in.

Fahrenheit 451 in-depth Review

A turning point occurs when Guy and the other firemen are tasked with burning an old woman’s secret library. Instead of choosing to face punishment, she decided to stay in her house and be burned alive with her books. This made Guy question why someone was willing to go to such great lengths for their books. It made him wonder what was so great about books that made them worth dying over, and he covertly takes a book of his own.

Guy is immediately suspected by his superior, Beatty, of having taken the book, and interrogates him with veiled threats. He lectures Guy on how books came to be banned, and indirectly warns him to burn the book within 24 hours. Guy then reveals to his wife that he has been stashing a library of books in their air conditioning vent. To help with reading them, he contacts an English professor that he had met named Faber. From him, Guy learns the value of books, and the two devise a plan to frame the other firemen by planting books in their homes.

“If you hide your ignorance, no one will hit you and you’ll never learn.”

― Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

However, as soon as Guy returns home, he becomes angered by the trite interactions of his wife’s friends, and reads them parts of “Dover Beach” by Matthew Arnold. They become very distraught at the emotion contained within the poem, and leave shortly after. Guy is called in to the fire station where they get a lead on books that need to be burned, but he is shocked to find that it is his own house, and that his wife has betrayed him. Beatty orders Guy to burn his own house by himself, and tells him that he will be arrested once he’s finished.

Burning Books is how it Begins

In desperation, Guy attacks Beatty with his flamethrower, killing him, and then he is attacked by a deadly mechanical hound. He manages to destroy it, but it injects an anaesthetic into his leg, and he hobbles off to escape his pursuers. He is eventually able to meet back up with Faber, and with his help, he escapes to a group of intellectuals who are dedicated to preserving literature. The book ends with a series of bombs being dropped on the city, completely decimating it, and Guy looking forward to building a future in which books are valued.

The burning of books in Fahrenheit 451 is the perfect example of what can result from technological advancement mixed with social regression. Homes were made completely fireproof, so firemen were no longer needed for their original purpose, which is in itself, a good thing. At the same time, however, society became engrossed with easily digestible media that would not offend people in any way. As a result, books were burned in order to take away people’s worries, but this had the adverse effect of dulling their lives. This society valued comfort over the intense experiences that literature has to offer.

Fahrenheit 451 Ralph’s Wrap Up

Although it’s unclear of whether or not the diminished state of society was due to literature being destroyed, literature undoubtedly remains the last true bit of life in this society. This is precisely why the old woman decided to burn alongside her books: works of literature provide the most fulfilling human experience that there is. Behind every book is the unique person who wrote it, and there are boundless worlds contained within that are all waiting to be explored. In the society of Fahrenheit 451, but also in our world (to an extent), books have more life than actual people.

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