Fahrenheit 451 is one of the greatest pieces of American literature. Now, in 2008, I can see that America is becoming more like that world Bradbury thought of years ago.
I truly believe that reading is becoming out of date as time goes by; Fahrenheit 451 put that belief into perspective. The deeply allegorical book that was originally published in the 1950’s for Playboy Magazine was set in the time frame of the early 1990’s. This classic novel presents us with a world where people have chosen to give up reading, lives of substance, and peace for a world of hedonism, high minimum speed limits, and illiteracy. As I read this incredible book I was almost crying at the end because it was just so good. It made me think, reflect, and realize that literature is the most important part of a meaningful, scholarly, and thoughtful society. This behemoth dystopian masterpiece taught me the power of books and reflective thought, just as Ray Bradbury intended it to teach.
Understandably, Bradbury could not have known what a great book he was writing at the time. The purpose of this book was to teach people to leave the television and the families’ people had created on the screens and go back to reading classic literature. As he says “There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them”. He also said that television is a thoughtless activity and as every one of those quarter second clips goes by on the screen we forget to think, all the fast pictures going by makes us think we’re thinking. Books are not the opposite of televisions as they do not teach us how to think, but they are the catalyst for individually developing our minds in a good way. The main character Guy Montag brings up a story from his youth about how his older roguish cousin paid him to fill a sieve with sand at the beach. He continually tries and tries to fill it up, but the sand always sifts through. This is how books work with our minds, they never stick around for too long, but you have to keep trying because putting something worthwhile into your brain continuously is better than nothing at all. If no one ever put any literature, books, or truth into their minds, the world would turn into an awful place.
My version of what the word dystopian means is that the world has come out the opposite of what we wanted it to be like. I know that’s kind of a crude description, but I’ve grown a love of dystopian style art. Movies like Idiocracy, Pleasantville, and Brazil show artist renderings of what they think the world will be like as we continue on our current course of action. Books like Fahrenheit 451, 1984, and Brave New World have much in common with the movies I mentioned earlier, but the one central idea that all anti-utopian media outlets possess is that mankind has become a wasteland of human thought.
The big difference that gives Fahrenheit 451 the edge over all the others of its genre is that it gives a logical and feasible reason to the breakdown of the mind, the choice to quit reading. Is today the same as Bradbury’s depiction of the future? No, we aren’t even close, colleges are still teaching liberal arts to young minds, English classes can still give reading assignments, and bookstores are still legal. Are we heading down the same path as the book? My unfortunate instinctual answer is yes, websites like Wikipedia, Sparknotes and Cliffnotes.com are shortening books so that whole works of literature can be read in under an hour. Movies like The Bourne Ultimatum, Moulin Rouge, and Sin City give us no time to stop and think about what’s going on while we watch them. And I’ve heard too many of my friends say they only read when they have to.
To conclude, reading is a blessing of the people that writers give to us. Although our fast-paced lifestyle is fun and a part of our culture, I think that we need to begin reading more to add texture to our lives. As Professor Faber says “Do you know why books such as this are so important? Because they have quality.” And what does the word quality mean? To me it means texture. This book has pores.” (Faber, 83) If we could add texture to our lives and still appreciate roller coasters, violent video games, and high-speed action movies, I think the world would be a better place. That would define the paradise of having your cake and eating it too.