Reading Fahrenheit 451 After Bradbury

Posted on: July 14, 2012


“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”

“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?”

–Ray Bradbury

First of all, sorry I haven’t written more yet: I’ve been enjoying the best of summer, and some wonderful new people.

There is a book, A Brief History of The Dead by Kevin Brockmeier, that has essentially shaped how I think about the living and the dead.  I believe that the best way to remember the dead is to remember their vision and what they stood for, and try to see the world as they did.  So I read Fahrenheit 451, for the third time in my life, and it made me want to reread every book I own.

Think about it.  In Ray Bradbury’s time, these technologies and concepts – which we all take for granted today — were nothing more than ideas of the distant future:

-TV screens large enough to cover an entire wall.

-ATM machines.

-“Seashells” that play music into people’s ears, as an escape from everyday life.

-The endless barrage of commercials and advertising.

-Censorship.  In a world where books are banned under the control of one overly offended parent, is it so hard to imagine them burned to ashes?

Sound familiar?

It all sounds much too familiar to me.  Fahrenheit 451 is so affecting today because it provided a haunting vision of the future – not the cheesy science-fiction-special-effects type where robots dominate humankind, but a very real, understated vision of what the world might become.  Reality is not stranger than fiction, it is just more chilling because of its realness.

I’ve always said that I am an old soul, and I sometimes feel like I was born into the wrong century.  Now I feel it more than ever as I prefer solid paper-bound books to online reproductions, and pen and paper to a hollow computer screen.  (Does that make me a hypocrite because I write blog posts now?)

Forgive me if I start sounding preachy, but these are ideas so important to me.  I see the book as a kind of handbook for Finding Some Meaning In Today’s World, and so this is what we need to take away from it.

“We have everything we need to be happy, but we aren’t happy. Something’s missing.”  This is what I fear about my generation: we have instant access to all the technology, art, and music we could ever want, but will that be enough?  What is missing?  It’s something I can’t put a finger on, but its absence is there, and it’s up to our generation to fill that void.  No one can tell us not to think for ourselves, or to stop reading and questioning truths, without our surrender.

I see two paths in life: to either question and actively look for meaning in life, or to ignore the nagging questions and silence yourself with the mundane.  It’s up to us to think critically and clearly see not only what our world is, but what it could be – the worst outcome, but also the best – and how we could change it.


1 Response to "Reading Fahrenheit 451 After Bradbury"

“ATM machines”. Expand that acronym mentally, and then say it to yourself.

All right, I’m a pedantic jerk. It’s all in fun, though; I never mean it personally.

Pejorative remarks aside, I’m commenting because I very much agree with what you’ve written here. I may not share your preference for paper books (either is fine with me, and I prefer the electronic version in many situations), but Fahrenheit 451 is more relevant than ever now.

I should read it again before school starts.

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