Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.
My senior year in high school I took a class called 20th Century History. It was awesome. The teacher, Mr. Bradshaw, was so cool. He was one of those teachers that makes you want to come to class every day. We did all kinds of fun stuff in his class like holding mock U.N. Council meetings. I like that he had us read this and I can’t remember his explanation as to why, but I assume he wanted us to think about how history affects the present and the future. And I also think he wanted us to consider a world without books, where history seems to have been erased. We did not just read this book, we also made a movie of the book! We divided into groups and each group chose a couple of scenes to video. I still remember filming . . . it was a scene where someone died, I think, or was hurt, because we used ketchup for fake blood.
If you haven’t read this book, it’s basically about a future society in which books are banned, and if found, are burned. (Books burn at the temperature of 451 degrees Fahrenheit – thus the title.) Society began embracing new kinds of media and their attention spans shortened and they became obsessed with entertainment (sound familiar?), so books often were shortened or abridged, and then they were done away with altogether. It is uncanny how well Bradbury predicted what we would become! Thankfully, we are a society that still has books – though many of them are digital now – and still has book lovers. Anyway, the main character is a fireman and he burns books for a living, but he starts to question the policy on books and starts to be curious about information inside of books. And he acts on that curiosity, and it gets him in trouble. Read the book to find out what happens to him!
This seems to be the typical pattern of dystopian novels – character exists in a highly controlled world, character begins to doubt the ways of that world, character fights against authority, character begins to change society.
Even though they all have this same basic plot, I still love dystopian novels. I like to see the creativity of authors as they create unreal worlds. It also makes me thankful that we have so much freedom in the US. But I do see these books as warnings, in a way. Look how close we are to Bradbury’s fictional world. It makes me wonder what our culture will be like in 20, 50, 100 years. What will life for my great-grandchildren be like? Do I shudder or rejoice at that thought? I’m not sure. I hope and pray that it will be a life of goodness and faith and loving relationships. I hope we will still have books.
What’s your favorite book from school days?
Here’s Karla’s favorite book she read in school.