Fahrenheit 451 is a science fiction novel by Ray Bradbury which depicts a dystopian future society where books that have any intellectual value are banned and destroyed where-ever they are found. With a Hedonistic and lawless society, the highest achievement for any individual is happiness and the masses are banned from any form of free thought, knowledge or the emergence of intelligence as the ultimate method of control. The populous has even been encouraged to abandon any form of self control and the streets are full of car crashing youths and robotic hunting dogs. The title itself refers to the temperature at which book paper is thought to burn.
Guy Montag is a fireman, which in this future means he protects society by burning books, but on a rainy night while on his way home he meets Clarisse, a young woman who has a free thinking and liberating view of the world which is quite at odds with society. This encounter opens Guys mind to question his life, career, home and marriage.
Written in the 1950's during the height of the cold war, you could be forgiven for thinking that the main theme of the novel is the control of the people by the state but while this has been clearly an influence, the actual main running theme is one of mass media and television's control of the population along with the destruction this plays on peoples reading habits and the alienation that such forms of media cause. In the same way that video was supposed to have killed the radio star, television has caused a paradigm shift in peoples choice of entertainment and even their attention spans.
This may sound fairly obvious in the 21st century (especially for any parent of a teenager), however this book was written nearly 60 years ago, when television was only really taking off. Ray Bradbury managed to not only predict this social trend but even the creation of portable media players:
in her ears the little Seashells, the thimble radios tamped tight, and an electronic ocean of sound, of music and talk and music and talking coming in
Fahrenheit 451 is a masterpiece of science fiction dystopia, intelligent, creative and thoughtful, this is science fiction at it's very best.
Written on Thursday 8th July 2010 by Antony.
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