As classes pick up, and students begin to busy themselves with midterm preparations, the idea of sitting down with a book for a leisurely read probably seems ludicrous for many hard-workers looking to end the year on a high note—but, that’s one of many concerns that Fahrenheit 451 raises.
The novel, written by Ray Bradbury and published in 1953, depicts a dystopian future—sometime after 2022—where humans have given up reading, asking questions, or dwelling on anything that might make them unhappy. In this world, people are encouraged to go to work, and come home to sit placidly in front of interactive television screens.
While many readers, including myself, might notice some similarities to our contemporary world, this novel is still a dystopian story.
In this alternate future, firemen—who some say once put out fires—start infernos in the houses of anyone who willingly shelters books. To make matters worse, it is taboo to discuss any philosophical ideas, and those who spend time talking with each other, in any meaningful way, are put on a watch list.
So, the stage is set for Guy Montag, a long-time fireman, to meet a curious 17 year old girl who takes the time to point out some of the subtleties of the world—and to make Montag question the very society that he has helped to create.
Readers are then taken on a suspenseful adventure as they discover the real nature of Bradbury’s world, and the characters whose fear and complacency have allowed it to take shape.
At 158 pages, in most publications, Fahrenheit 451 is not a particularly long book. Yet, the impact of this short novel can still be felt in today’s society.
When the book was first released, it was not instantly recognized as an exceptional piece of literary work—as it was even ironically banned in some schools in the United States—but, as time went on, the book garnered numerous awards including the 2004 Retro-Hugo award for best novel.
Indeed, the dystopian premise of the novel has—also ironically—been used to make more new-age adaptations, including radio shows and two films, released in 1966 and 2018.
It is probably fair to say that Bradbury’s telling narrative of Guy Montag has captured the imaginations of several generations—as readers, viewers, and listeners come to realize the horror of rejecting knowledge and curiosity.
While the stresses of university can be real, reading a short book like Fahrenheit 451 might be the perfect way to relax, and change the way that you look at the nature of a bustling life that doesn’t have time for books.
Plus, if that doesn’t sound like enough of a good reason to pick up this quick read, the novel has a gripping narrative, surreal characters, and a plotline that leaves readers wanting more.
After all, Fahrenheit 451 is a classic—and if the warnings of the dystopian novel are to have any weight—then it’s important to remember that, even if there is a cutting-edge Netflix series premiering in the near-future, books still have an important role to play in raising questions—and engaging minds.