Thursday, March 28, 2013

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

The Big Read is a program to encourage reading and discussion of the same book in a geographical area. This year’s Big Read title is Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

In Fahrenheit 451, firemen no longer put out fires, they start them. The reading of books is forbidden, and any home containing books is burned to the ground. One fireman, Guy Montag, begins to question his life and his job before rebelling against the society he lives in.

First published in 1953 and set in a future U.S., this classic dystopian novel rings true today. Bradbury successfully predicted some aspects of 2013 America. For example, when Guy returns home from work, he finds his wife stretched out on the bed: “And in her ears the little Seashells, the thimble radios tamped tight, and an electronic ocean of sound, of music and talk and music and talk coming in, coming in on the shore of her unsleeping mind.”

This passage brought to mind the many people I see walking around today who are so focused on the music coming out their Ipods that they pay no attention to their surroundings and are almost incapable of interacting with others. Some people don’t seem capable of existing in silence for even a short period of time.

One of the key themes of Fahrenheit 451 is how television (which Bradbury calls the televisor), not even widely found in homes in 1953, keeps people from enjoying the natural world and conversation with others. Bradbury certainly had that right!  He writes, “The televisor is ‘real.’ It is immediate, it has dimension. It tells you what to think and blasts it in. It must be right. It seems so right. It rushes you on so quickly to its own conclusions your mind hasn’t time to protest, ‘What nonsense!’” Bradbury was certainly a visionary when it came to imagining the addiction some Americans have to electronic devices and how we buy in to the opinions we hear through the media rather than thinking for ourselves.

If you like a book that challenges you to think about your own life and society, I recommend Fahrenheit 451. Free copies of the book are available at the Galesburg Public Library while supplies last.

In April you are invited to join one of the discussions of Fahrenheit 451 sponsored by the Galesburg Public Library:

Tuesday, April 9, 1:00 pm upstairs at the library
Thursday, April 11, 6:30 pm at Knox College’s Kresge Hall
Friday, April 19, 6:00 pm at Alternate Realities.

The Big Read is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest.

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