Friday, May 9, 2014

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451: 50th Anniversary Edition

Fahrenheit 451 takes place in a society where houses are fireproof (unlike the “stick houses” of today) and the job of the fire department is to start fires not stop them.  Specifically the job of the fire department is to burn books.  I’m not sure entirely why.  There was something about preventing inequality and unhappiness but that seems like a cop out on so many levels.  Even if Bradbury was trying to play devil’s advocate nothing about that argument makes sense.  

I wish I had read Fahrenheit 451 in a high school English class, perhaps then I would have gotten more out of it.  Instead I was rather disappointed and if truth be told, a little annoyed.  The disappointment stemmed from the writing.  It is set in an alternate reality, but that reality wasn’t adequately described.  This reminded me a little bit of Matched which takes place in a society where literature, music, and other forms of art have been distilled town to the 100 best representatives of each and the rest has been destroyed.  I’m not saying Matched is a great piece of literature but it had better world building and a better explanation for why and how that society was organized the way it was than Fahrenheit 451 did.

My annoyance mostly had to do with a passage where one of the characters is describing how there used to be books and how those books had to be made less offensive as so not to offend “minorities”.  This really annoyed me.  It reminded me of when people make racist/homophobic/whatever remarks and then complain that their First Amendment Rights are being violated when other criticize them for it.  The First Amendment does not make one immune from criticism.  It simply means the government cannot prevent speech or punish speech (with a few limited exceptions).  Other people have just as much right to say what they want, including criticizing the first speaker.  If this book is meant to be an allegory about censorship then it seems to undermine itself with passage like the one just described.

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