Sunday, February 15, 2015

Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451
Ray Bradbury
Del Rey Ballentine Books 1987
(Originally published in 1953)

I don't recall ever having to read this book for school. But I do remember vaguely watching the movie. Now I have just watched the movie again, first time in at least 30 years, and I remember more from the movie than I do the book.

This is a Dystopia novel - a novel of an alternative future that runs counter to our present. It is set post 1990.

Guy Montag is a fireman. His job is to start fires and burn books.

Books have ideas and ideas are bad for people. Everyone is raised to be the same as everyone else. In the world envisioned by Bradbury, this idea is called Equality. We would call it Conformity. 

And anyone who knows me, knows that I will NEVER conform!!!  I have been a non-conformist since I was a teenager so it has now been more than 35 years ago since I stopped conforming to society's ideas.

Montag's wife Mildred does not work.  At the beginning of this novel. Montag comes home to find Mildred unconcious on the bed. She has swallowed a bottle of sleeping pills. He calls the emergency number and two men come around and pump her stomach out. That is all they do. They comment that they have pumped 7 stomachs already today.

Anyway, getting back to the burning of books. The laws say that all books and all reading material must be burnt. In place of reading, citizens will be watching TV.  Every house has several wall sized large TV screens where different channels have different programs. But all the programs are alike because they consist mostly of people talking and citizens listening. Citizens vegetate in front of the TV, listening and absorbing the ideas that the authorities are drumming into their heads. This includes Montag's wife Mildred.

On his daily walks between his home and the train, Montag meets up with a young lady named Clarisse. She starts asking questions - mostly related to what they see around them. For too long citizens have been brainwashed into staying quiet, staying alone, and being entertained by their TV's. 

While reading itself has not been banned - the act of reading books has been banned. In fact it is against the law to own and read books. Even talking about books is banned. Any book. All books. I am surprised that citizens of this dystopian world are even taught to read. What would be the point?

In the movie, there is a mail box outside the fire station where anonymous citizens can place details of anyone they think is hiding books or reading books. This is where the fire station get their callouts from. How this is done in the book, I'm sorry, but I cannot remember.

 One callout goes to a lady who refuses to leave her house which has hundreds of books hidden all over the place. She stands in the middle of the pile of books which have been splashed liberally with kerosene.  When the fire chief tells her to move, so he can light the fire,  she lights a  match and sets the whole conflagration off by her own hand. This woman chooses to die with her books.

This starts Montag off thinking and observing the world around him. Clarisse's questions and comments have slowly been influencing him. 

Some years previously, Montag has spent some time speaking to a professor named Faber. He goes to see Faber again. Montag talks about finding a printing press and running off a few copies. Montag also wants to start setting fires to the houses of firemen, after putting books in their houses. Faber tells him that he is not interested and asks Montag to leave. Montah onsys that he wants to do this, so Faber agrees to give him a small devide to listen through that goes in the ear. This is for Faber to listen and give Montag advice.

When Montag gets home, he finds that Mildred has some lady friends over to watch TV together. Montag tries to chat to the ladies but they all have the same ipinions and have no individuality. So he grabs a book of poetry and begins reading it saloud. One of the ladies starts to cry. The ladies all eventually leave, telling Mildred that it was a nice party.

Montag goes down to the firehouse to speak to his boss Beatty. Over a game of poker, Beatty talks to Montag telling him of the dangers of books. Montag gets confused. When the next fire call comes in, the fire engine stops in fromt of Montag's house.

Mildred leaves just as they arrive. Montag helps to burn his own books and his house. "When you're finished, you are under arrest" says Beatty calmly. Beatty tells Montag that Mildren did call in the alarm, but he also says that that the other ladies also called in an alarm as well. Beaty ignored the first call from the ladies but could not ignore the second call to the same address. When Beatty discover the ear wig commnunication device, Montag turns on him and kills his boss with the flamethrower. Montag then goes on the run.

Faber and Montag eventually meet up. Faber tells Montag where he can find safety.

Keep running and following the river until you hit the old rail lines and then follow the rail lines to the very end. There are lots of hobo camps between here and Los Angeles. (we just don't know where "here" is.)

Eventually Montag arrives at the hobo camp where he is welcomed and gets to watch his "arrest" on a small battery run TV.  Since the authorities were unable to find him, they shot and killed some other poor fellow who was in the street and who had blond hair. The one book Montag had been able to read and remember, is the Book of Ecclesiastes from the Old Testament.

The differences between the book and the movie.

In the book there was a mechanical hound that was used for sniffing out books and people in hiding. There was NO mention of this mechanical hound in the movie.

Clarisse had only a small part to play in the book. Faber had a bigger part. In the movie, Faber was removed altogether and his lines were given to Clarisse so that she had the much bigger part. She was the one to tell Montag how and where to find the Book People.

Also in the book, Montag's wife is named Mildred. In the movie her name is Linda.

In the Book Montag saved the Book of Ecclesiastes. In the movie, he saved the book -  "Tales of Mystery And Imagination" by Edgar Allen Poe.

In the book, Clarisse was killed in a car accident. In the movie, she survived and eventually met up with Montag at the hobo camp where the Book people live.

In some places I found the book to be boring. I preferred the movie much better. Which is not surprising to me at all. After all I am a visual learner.

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