Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Guy Montag

I recently finished Bradbury's landmark book Fahrenheit 451. Its one of those books I have heard about for so long, but never actually took the time to read. What a book!! I really enjoyed the story but even more then the story was the message behind the writing. At first it was easy to jump to the conclusion that this book is yet another powerful tool against the evil of censorship. In fact, prior to reading it that was what I had heard about it and assumed it was about. Yet after reading it, I discovered a far more profound message then mere anti-censorship.

The primary thing that stuck out to me was the the laziness of humanity. Written in 1953, the book is extremely prophetic on the apathetic & lazy nature of people today. Essentially the people of the story have given themselves over to mindless entertainment with an expressed goal of simply having fun. Life becomes about seeking pleasure, having fun, and finding happiness. As a result people stop thinking, stop caring, and stop learning. Books become evil and are burned not so much as a result of censorship but because people are too lazy to use them anymore. Its easier to simply become numb to the simple pleasures of life. Book require thinking, challenge assumptions, and do not allow people to rest comfortable. All of that is too much for the lazy culture. I was blown away because in much the same way I see that of our current culture as well. How many people do not read anymore? Internet, movies, television, and other forms of mindless entertainment have taken the place of reading. People do not want to learn and do want to be challenged anymore. We have become a lazy culture. Is it too much of a stretch to say that it will not be long before books "die" for us as well.

The other thing I gained from the story was the blame we often put on governments and government systems for our own inadequacies. We do not spend our own money well - and yet rail at the government for poor spending. We do not educate our kids at home - and yet rail at teachers for not doing enough for our kids. We do not like a variety of things - and yet it is often ourselves who are to blame for society's ills. In the book, the city and life of the people is ugly and pathetic. And yet the reality is that the people in the story have all earned their place. Too many refused to do anything about their situation and as a result their society crumbled. The firemen who burned books were not the problem. The culture that allowed for books to be burned was the issue.

Fascinating book. I am glad I finally took the time to read it.