Synopsis: Guy Montag is a fireman – in other words, his job is to burn down houses of anybody who is found to own books. He thinks he’s happy with his job until he meets Clarisse, a teenager who makes him question his belief about books, his marriage, and society in general.
My Thoughts: Loved it. I’m a fan of Ray Bradbury as it is, but this is my favorite so far. It’s so meaningful and scary. I suggest anyone read it, even those who are not interested in dystopias generally. This is not your typical teenage dystopia that are being mass produced at the moment.
The following is my analysis adapted from Susan Wise Bauer’s The Well Educated Mind’s description of how to think about a novel. It will have spoilers.
👽What is the most central life-changing event?
Meeting Clarisse changing Montag’s entire outlook on life.
👽Am I transported? Do I see, feel, and hear this other world?
Oh yes, this world was very real to me.
👽Can I sympathize with the people who live there? Do I understand their wants and desires and problems? Or am I left unmoved?
I am moved by Montag’s desire to understand what he has been doing, and why society has become the way it is. I feel for him when Clarisse is removed from his life, and he mourns her loss.
👽Is this a fable or a chronicle? If the novel is a chronicle, how are we shown reality: Physical? Mental?
Despite being a dystopia, this world is very believable. It chronicles the time of Montag meeting Clarisse to the moment he discovers what he is going to do about the mess that has become of his society. The book takes place mainly in the mind of Montag, so I would say reality is shown mentally.
👽What does the central character want? What is standing in his or her way? What strategy is pursued to overcome this block?
Montag wants to understand the world around him, and to spend as much time with Clarisse as possible. Clarisse is taken away from him, which is tragic to him. He is also blocked by the illegality of his desire to find out more about the past in general and books in specific. His strategy to overcome this is to perform illegal acts which lead to his eventually being found out.
👽Who is telling you this story? Is this person reliable?
Montag is telling the story in his head. I would guess that this person is reliable, other than having been indoctrinated in society’s rules for all of his life.
👽Where is the story set?
The story is set in a futuristic dystopian society in which it is unwise to think for yourself and illegal to own books. The universe is indifferent to Montag’s plight.
👽Images and metaphors: Are there any repeated images? If so, is this a metaphor, and if so, what does it represent?
The repeated images are Clarisse, who represents revelation and clarity, books, which represent knowledge, and fire, which represents destruction of knowledge.
👽 Endings: Does the end have a resolution or a logical exhaustion?
The story does have a resolution – the city is destroyed by war, and Montag runs into a group of people who has memorized certain passages of books so that when society grows again, they are able to start reprining the books.
👽Did the author choose characteristics to make a statement about the human condition?
Yes, the human condition in this represented as becoming less and less interested in knowledge and more interested in instant gratification and zoning out the life that surrounds them.
👽Is the novel self-reflective?
To a certain extent, I believe that Bradbury is worried about where society is going, and that, in a way, is self reflective. But I don’t think Montag is supposed to be a reflection on himself.
👽Did the writer’s times affect him?
3 thoughts on “Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury”
This is such a good and important book. It deserves the fame that it has garnered. Like most of the well written dystopian novels, it reflects some of the trends happening in the real world. With that, I do think that we will escape the worst of Bradbury’s dark vision.