Fahrenheit 451: Escaping the Pit
Review by teen library volunteer Benjamin GabbayI picked up Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury as one of the book prizes given out at a library event last year. I knew close to nothing about the story; it was simply one of those classics that one “ought to read.” I sinfully allowed it collect dust on my shelf for a few months, not even removing the sticker on the back so I could properly read the synopsis. Sometime near the end of 2012, finally, I decided to give Fahrenheit a read.
And at least twice I wanted to abandon it. Why? Because it was depressing. I read stories to explore fascinating lives and worlds, and the world that the protagonist Guy Montag lived in sounded like a spot-on description of hell. Here I found myself drifting about in a murky pit void of all joy and meaning, where people live like make-upped Neanderthals that have had their skulls hollowed out and crammed with firecrackers and aluminum foil. This was largely due to the fact that, in this sad tale, books are taboo—to be burned, never to be read.
Guy Montag is a fireman. And a fireman, according to Bradbury’s dystopia, is someone charged with the burning of contraband literature. With Montag’s perspective just as vapid as his neighbors’, you can understand why I initially felt like tossing Fahrenheit into the firemen’s flames. Then, Guy Montag began to change.
Spurred by a few sidewalk chats with a sprightly 17-year-old girl named Clarisse, Montag begins to stir from his complacence and to realize just how twisted a world he lives in—where free thought is anathema and the minds of the masses have been crippled to fit inside a single filthy box of obedient vainglory. Whereas I had at first found nothing remotely inspiring about Fahrenheit, it was suddenly redeemed by Montag’s awakening. He was just as frustrated with the story as I was; unlike me, he could do something to change it. But budging a world so blissfully apathetic proves to be nigh-impossible, not to mention deadly.
I’m sure many of us have at some point felt like a Guy Montag to this world, struggling upstream against mainstream senselessness. Ray Bradbury is a herald, if not a prophet, to have envisioned this miserable, all-too imminent world over fifty years ago. Clearly, he saw it coming. How much time do we have left till every wall in our home has become a television screen and the pen and page have been all but forgotten?
Fahrenheit 451 is the perfect book for our time. Read it today, before the firemen whisk it off to the burning heap.