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Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. Lighting Up the Flame of Insight.
Before starting Ray Bradbury’s well-known book “Fahrenheit 451”, those who consider themselves realists, coherentists, verificationists and believe in other epistemic theories of truth should think twice about what they conceive as reality.
The 158 – page book published in October 19, 1953 portrays a dystopian American society in which books are proscribed. In this novel Ray Bradbury creates mind-bending fiction that blurs the line of past and future: reality and imagination.
A prolific author of numerous novels, poems, and plays close to 50 books- Most of them being fictional ones based on actual events- created this groundbreaking work. As we read Bradbury’s novel his characters invite us to dive into the character’s mind and their unscrupulous actions. But once we are able to feel what is known in this book as reality, we will feel the main subject of the masterpiece: the burning of books.
In the beginning of the book, Guy Montag, a regular fireman in the futuristic American society burns books. Firemen’s alarms regularly run more than 10 calls every night. As opposed to what we could say a fireman should feel when burning books, Guy seems to become disillusioned about censoring and destroying knowledge. It catches one’s breath to observe the evolution of that alienated feeling inside Montag’s chest. Now that he has awaken from his numbness, he needs to brush up on how his life will turn up and down. As for me, the start of that unsettledness is when Montag meets Clarisse. A 17th-year-old that catches the fireman’s attention because of her unusual way of thinking. She is a girl that by heart proclaims to be ahead of her time. It seems to Montag that this contemporary girl knows more about life than any of the people he has ever known. Though she is unpopular among peers and considered an outsider, Montag sees her as an unusual person in a sybaritic society. She is naturally charming, easygoing and innate. This is why Montag believes it would be strange for one’s curious mind not to ask oneself if the reason behind such cheerfulness is books.
After this first encounter with Clarisse, a series of events begin to unfold: Montag receives the clashing news about her death and begins to recall on their friendship. He realizes that you cannot tell the precise moment when a friendship is born, but just like filling a vessel, with a touch of kindness here and a drop of coziness there, there is a drop that finally makes the heart be taken away. As shown in the text, a group of firemen plunder a book lover’s house that finally causes her death, which creates a sense of doubt inside of Montag’s mind. Another example is the moment in which the main character steals a book before any of his coworkers notice. All of these events begin to “bother” Montag before reaching the stage of complete numbness. Yet, just as he said to Mildred in page 49: “How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?” (Bradbury, R. 1953, page 49).
Among the forgotten universal works Montag refers to throughout the book, there is one I would like to recall on: Dover Beach by Matthew Arnold. As Montag read in a low, stumbling voice, the three women sitting in front of him were touched by his speech. At the beginning of the poem, Arnold talks about how the world used to be protected by faith and trust. But as time goes on and the world seems to become a “land of dreams” people from this dystopic society were guided by lies and remained depressed inside. Montag understands that they are suppressing their own feeling unknowingly. This is why he believes his job is to protect and defend knowledge before the people placed in this story reach the stage of total ignorance.
An introduced main character is Faber, a professor that Montag saw once in a park and presumably built a friendship with. Later he helped him in his early best moments of need. Faber believes he is “a cowardly old fool” (Bradbury, R. 1953, page 86) but for Montag there are different kinds of bravery. For the main character questioning the destruction and ruin his actions produce meant the most meaningful act of bravery.
Across dystopian novels, power and pleasure of books (knowledge) seems to be a constant issue, a constant reminder that with the existent gap, there is no place in between intellect and ignorance. As a whole, the 158-pages of Fahrenheit 451 represent a novel ahead of its time. Bradbury predicted many of the technological advances in a dystopian society. Nevertheless, in practice is not that far from what we call reality. It is one of the author’s best-known books and invites us all to unify as one whole society. At the end, it is our decision if we shut down our ears to the truth or try to listen to the music of knowledge almost loud enough to follow its tune.
Bradbury, R. (1953). Fahrenheit 451. New York, United States.
Miller, L. (2018, September 14). «Washington Black» Reveals the Bonds of Both Cruelty and Compassion. Retrieved from https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/09/24/washington-black-reveals-the-bonds-of-both-cruelty-and-compassion
Seashell Radio (Thimble Radios) by Ray Bradbury from Fahrenheit 451. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.technovelgy.com/ct/content.asp?Bnum=456
(David, Marian) «The Correspondence Theory of Truth», The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2016 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), Retrieved from https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2016/entries/truth-correspondence/