Guy Montag is a fireman. His job is to destroy the most illegal of commodities, the printed book, along with the houses in which they are hidden. Montag never questions the destruction and ruin his actions produce, returning each day to his bland life and wife, Mildred, who spends all day with her television “family.” But when he meets an eccentric young neighbor, Clarisse, who introduces him to a past where people didn’t live in fear and to a present where one sees the world through the ideas in books instead of the mindless chatter of television, Montag begins to question everything he has ever known.
“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.”
Fahrenheit 451 is an interesting book and even now, after reading it, I still can’t figure out if I enjoyed it or not.
For the most part, I enjoyed the core message of the book: that because humans have given up on reading and having any kind of intellectual sustenance, they are completely unaware of the fact that they’re oppressed and living under a totalitarian regime. Interesting how this parallels certain countries in 2022.
However, Montag was an uninteresting main character, and the world building was non-existent. We get hints of a possible atomic war, but aside from that, it’s never really explained why books are banned and why this autocratic society exists.
What I also really disliked is this novel’s, and the main character’s, severe dislike of women. Aside from Clarissa who Montag lusts over (despite her being 16), none of the writers of the books Montag becomes obsessed with are women; none of the old intellectuals he comes across are women; and the women he does come across are treated with contempt by Montag’s narration.
That being said, I am glad I read Fahrenheit 451. It is surprisingly timely, for a novel that was published in the 1950s. It’s a short book, if you’re looking for something quick!