Ray Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 in 1953. Much like Animal Farm or 1984, it discusses a future world where books are considered evil and keeping books in your house is a crime against the State.
The lead character of the novel is a fireman called Guy Montag. Unlike the work of firemen in the current era, the firemen now do not prevent fire but spray jet of kerosene on libraries, public or private, and burn down the books to ashes. There comes a time when Guy Montag starts developing an inquisitive mind. He looks around at his house, where his wife like all other people of the city have been fed day in and day out with information from television. What is shown in television is all that the people know and feel to be real. The people no more blow dandelions, students no more ask “Why” but always “How”. Montag one day steals a book from a library that he was to burn. And there starts the urge to know what is behind these pages that is so unlawful that it is to be burnt down.
When Montag asks his senior Beatty on why do firemen burn books, Beatty replies “You always dread the unfamiliar. Surely you remember the boy in your own school class who was exceptionally “bright”, did most of the reciting and answering while the others sat like so many leaden idols, hating him. And wasn’t it this bright boy you selected for beatings and tortures after hours? Of course it was. 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“.
The book is a stunning work of beautiful writing, philosophy, and intellect. I also thought it to be a prophecy of the world we live in today. When we see the decline in number of book lovers and readers even around us, one can realise that you don’t have to burn books to eradicate them from our memory. If the world starts to fill up with non-readers, non-learners, non-knowers, isn’t it equivalent to burning the books to ashes? If the television screens with howling anchors, crass jokes and outrageous daily soaps will keep drowning our intellect, no Montags or Beattys are needed to ignite the kerosene or hunt the reader.
A must read for sure. Grab your copy or let the prophecy become true.