Recently I asked my English teacher friend, Ron Coia, to loan me some books I should have read in high school, but chose instead to play basketball. The first book he gave me was Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.
Originally published in 1953, this book seems increasingly prophetic. Bradbury describes a society in the future that has no need – or even worse – a disdain for books. There are at least two reasons for such a state of affairs. First, books can be controversial. They can offend. Therefore, in the interest of not offending any minority group, such books and thinking should be done away with. Second, society has become a purely ‘entertainment’ society, and therefore has no need with pausing and thinking (which good books require).
Bradbury describes a world where television is pumped into homes on wall-sized screens… sometimes on each of the four living room walls at once. The viewers are then constantly bombarded with noise and flashing images. While not watching these screens, the characters have ‘sea shells’ in their ears that pump music and noise into their minds (think ipods). Schools have done away with any type of formal education, focusing rather on sports and government indoctrination.
Because technology has advanced so that there is no longer a need for firemen to put out fires, these firemen are now the ones with the duty of enforcing the ‘no books law’ by searching out and burning any remaining books.
When I read this great book I thought first of my philosophy professor from Denver Seminary, Dr. Douglas Groothuis. Dr. Groothuis has long lamented our cultural attraction to diversions and mind numbing, incessant entertainment (to fight this, at restaurants he’ll engage in what he calls ‘culture jamming’ by turning off the blaring tv nearby). In seminary he pointed us students to Blaise Pascals’ works who also lamented diversions.
Secondly, I thought of the recent hit movie “The Book of Eli”…. Anyone who reads Fahrenheit 451 and sees the movie will see the parallels and blatant high jacking of plot and themes by the movie.
This was a fun, quick, and insightful read. I highly recommend it.
Here’s a few quotes I jotted down while reading:
“We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?” pg 59
“Not everyone born free and equal, as the Constitution says, but everyone made equal” pg 64 (used by a character to justify the book burning)