I was never a big fan of dystopian literature and I was never recommended such a novel throughout my childhood. But one day in college, this situation was about to change, when my literature teacher came into the classroom and started talking about Brave New World by Huxley. A new door was opened for me that day and I started diving more and more into the dystopian genre.
Fahrenheit 451 was forever recommended to me as a staple to this genre. And if you’ve read my review for A man called Ove you know how I feel about hyped books. But since Ove crawled inside my heart and found himself a spot there, I decided to give this book a chance as well.
What’s the story about?
We are introduced by Ray Bradbury into a place somewhere in the future judging by some of the descriptions, a place in which houses are fireproof and books are banned. Since the houses became fireproof, the firemen are now burning books instead.
Our main character, Guy Montag, is part of the above mentioned firemen and his job is to burn books alongside with their owner’s house. But one day he experiences some kind of awareness when they burn a living person alongside her books. Shortly after we discover that this wake-up call was not that sudden as it appeared.
this section contains spoilers
Fear – Everybody lives in fear, which becomes pretty obvious the second Guy Montag is describing Clarisse. What seems to be a normal behaviour for a teenager, is described almost as something that could get you in trouble. We get to see her through Guy’s perspective and we see how peculiar she seems to be in comparison to other females, such as Millie, his wife.
For most of the novel, fear acts like a fuel to Guy, much as the kerosene used when burning books. Although a broad feeling, fear takes many forms and it dictates almost every move that Guy is going to make. Fear is also a presence around the other character in this universe.
A clear example of fear being a presence around these people is the moment when Guy Montag brings out a poetry book to show his wife and her friends. The entire scene in which Guy reads a poem to show them how absurd poetry is, only to result in one of the guests crying, obviously moved, but also scared of how she was feeling towards a book. Of course, this aspect is not clearly mentioned in the book, but from my perspective, this is pretty clear a situation in which fear acts like a puppet master.
Fever – The entire book feels like we are all living in Guy Montag’s fever dream. After his wake-up call, Guy goes into a vertigo state, from which he cannot find a way out. Or does he? The next day after he and his team have to burn a living person alongside their books, Guy is taking a day off because he feels sick. We find out later on when Beatty comes visiting, that Guy is actually hiding a book under his pillow, a book taken from the previous night’s fire.
During this day, Guy proceeds to do a lot of things that normally do not make sense, like showing his wife other books he stole in the past and culminating with him bringing a book to his wife’s gathering, even though he knew this could trigger an alarm called on him (or several, as it happened later). Even though the book starts at a normal pace, the entire mood changes quickly and, in certain points, we get the feeling that we are running alongside Guy towards the river. This whole experience feels like a fever dream.
Fire – In Bradbury’s novel, fire is a bivalent character, appearing as good or bad. In some scenes, the fire appears as both characters at once. This characteristic changes along with the perspective. For example, in the same instance, Beatty and Guy will see the fire as different characters (one sees salvation, the other sees murder).
Before meeting Clarissa, fire meant cleansing to Guy. The fire was the tool through which bad things were removed. But quickly after, fire becomes the exact opposite in Guy’s perspective: a horrible tool used to instigate fear into people and killing everything, dead or alive. But towards the end of the novel, fire becomes again something positive. When coming out of the river and onto the tracks, Guy sees the fire in the distance, which meant human presence. This is how he’ll find out about the people mentioned by Faber.
In the end…
…reading this book was a rollercoaster. Once you get acquainted with the genre, you start to anticipate some twists and turns, yet this book still had some gasping moments waiting for me with each page turn.Photos by Fredrick Kearney Jr, Marek Szturc, Aziz Acharki