Friday, July 17, 2015

Journaling Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451. Ray Bradbury. 1953/1991. Del Rey. 179 pages. [Source: Bought]

It was a pleasure to burn. 

I've reviewed Fahrenheit 451 at least seven times. But I've never journaled the reading experience. This is one of my favorite, favorite books. And it's a book that I think everyone needs to read at least once. That goes for Christians as well. Yes, there are a couple of bad words, but that alone should not deter you from reading an excellent book.

I have a few questions for you, before we begin--before I begin.

  • Have you read Fahrenheit 451? 
  • If you have, what did you think of it? What would you say the book is about? 
  • If you haven't read it, what have you heard about it? What are your assumptions about the book and what it is about? What is keeping you from reading it? 

A few weeks ago, I was reading A.W. Tozer, and there are a handful of quotes that make a great framework for discussing Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451.
A German philosopher many years ago said something to the effect that the more a man has in his own heart the less he will require from the outside; excessive need for support from without is proof of the bankruptcy of the inner man. If this is true (and I believe it is), then the present inordinate attachment is evidence that the inner life of modern man is in serious decline. The average man has no central core of moral assurance, no spring within his own breast, no inner strength to place him above the need for repeated psychological shots to give him the courage to go on living. He has become a parasite on the world, drawing his life from his environment, unable to live a day apart from the stimulation which society affords him.
For there are millions who cannot live without amusement; life without some form of entertainment for them is simply intolerable; they look forward to the blessed relief afforded by professional entertainers and other forms of psychological narcotics as a dope addict looks to his daily shot of heroin. Without them they could not summon the courage to face existence.
The all-out devotion to entertainment as a major activity for which and by which men live is definitely something else again. The abuse of a harmless thing is the essence of sin. The growth of the amusement phase of human life to such fantastic proportions is a portent, a threat to the souls of modern man. It has been built into a multimillion dollar racket with greater power over human minds and human character than any other educational influence on earth.
So for this first post, I'll be writing about the first part of "The Hearth and the Salamander."
Characters we meet:

  • Guy Montag,
  • Clarisse McClellan, 
  • Mildred Montag, 
  • Captain Beatty. 

Basic plot:
Guy Montag is a fireman who realizes, after his meeting with Clarisse, that he is unhappy and afraid. He's unhappy with his job. He's unhappy in his marriage. Is it right for him to be unhappy in his job? Yes. In my opinion. One fire in particular haunts him. Is it right for him to be unhappy in his marriage? It's certainly understandable.

Clear communication with Mildred is difficult indeed. Mildred is a perfect example of all that's wrong with this future society. (Read above quotes). Mildred cannot live life without amusement. She's addicted to her three walls--her parlor, her family. She's also addicted to her earbuds. She does draw her life from her environment.

Slowly but surely, it is foreshadowed that Guy Montag is not your typical fireman. He doesn't blindly follow the rules. He's starting to think for himself and beginning to ask hard questions. He has dared to take home a few books. If you haven't read the book, you might not realize that firemen start fires. And that primarily they burn books. That in this future-world books are illegal. Captain Beatty pays a personal call to Montag's home. Much is revealed about the past and present through dialogue. Actually almost everything we know as readers comes through dialogue. Guy's conversations with Clarisse. Guy's conversation with the guy that pumped Mildred's stomach. Guy's conversations with Mildred. And the heavy on world-building conversation with Captain Beatty.

"You sound so very old."
"Sometimes I'm ancient. I'm afraid of children my own age. They kill each other. Did it always use to be that way? My uncle says no. Six of my friends have been shot in the last year alone. Ten of them died in car wrecks. I'm afraid of them and they don't like me because I'm afraid. My uncle says his grandfather remembered when children didn't kill each other. But that was a long time ago when they had things different. They believed in responsibility, my uncle says…" (30)
"People don't talk about anything."
"Oh, they must!"
"No, not anything. They name a lot of cars or clothes or swimming pools mostly and say how swell! But they all say the same things and nobody says anything different from anyone else..." (31)
"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?" (52)
There you have it, Montag. It didn't come from the Government down. There was no dictum, no declaration, no censorship, to start with, no! Technology, mass exploitation, and minority pressure carried the trick, thank God. Today, thanks to them, you can stay happy all the time, you are allowed to read comics, the good old confessions, or trade journals. (58)
We must all be alike. Not everyone born free and equal, as the Constitution says, but everyone made equal. Each man the image of every other, then all are happy, for there are no mountains to make them cower, to judge themselves against. So! A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it. Take the shot from the weapon. Breach man's mind. Who knows who might be the target of the well-read man? Me? I won't stomach them for a minute. And so when houses were finally fireproofed completely, all over the world (you were correct in your assumption the other night) there was no longer need of firemen for the old purposes. They were given the new job, as custodians of our peace of mind, the focus of our understandable and rightful dread of being inferior: official censors, judges, and executors. That's you, Montag, and that's me." (58-9)
You must understand that our civilization is so vast that we can't have our minorities upset and stirred. Ask yourself, What do we want in this country, above all? People want to be happy, isn't that right? Haven't you heard it all your life? I want to be happy, people say. Well, aren't they? Don't' we keep them moving, don't we give them fun? That's all we live for, isn't it? For pleasure, for titillation? And you must admit our culture provides plenty of these." (59)
You ask why to a lot of things and you wind up very unhappy indeed, if you keep at it. (60)
The home environment can undo a lot you try to do at school. That's why we've lowered the kindergarten age year after year until now we're almost snatching them from the cradle. (60)
Did you listen to him? He knows all the answers. He's right. Happiness is important. Fun is everything. And yet I kept sitting there saying to myself, I'm not happy, I'm not happy." (65)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

No comments: