Fahrenheit 451 is the story of a man who lives imprisoned by his own ignorance. It is a story of a nonconformity that ends up becoming a story of rebellion. Montag, the main character, is a firefighter. According to the guide, firefighters were established in 1790 to burn the books of English influence on the colonies. The first firefighter was Benjamin Franklin. But now, the fire department burns houses where books are found. Men who stroll around and chat are considered suspicious. A normal citizen drives at high speed, works, spends time watching television, and hums the newest commercial jingle. That is what makes them happy. Being happy is the most important thing. Thinking is bad. People don’t need to be concerned about it. In the words of Captain Beatty, firefighters are the guardians of happiness.
Without a doubt the most interesting thing about Fahrenheit is the author’s thoughts about a future society that is actually very similar to ours. The prose is meticulous and the pace of the novel is quite agile. But what is really important is the critique or, rather, the warning he issues about the future.
The dystopia of Ray Bradbury’s society is dominated by apathy. Nobody wants to know anything. The majority has voluntarily relinquished philosophy, politics, literature. They seek comfort in the constant drone of the TV screens. The bomber airplanes that fly across the sky don’t matter to anyone. No one asks questions. Citizens have chosen the easy way. Their lives are comfortable. However, they are not happy. Suicide attempts are so common that they are attended by mere operators. Young people are looking for fun in murder. This is a sick society of banality and conformism.
Fahrenheit speaks to us of the danger of the triumph of mediocrity and uniformity. The few wise men in the book are described as an extravagant minority that cry in the wilderness. The leisure of men and women has been riddled with empty and vulgar movies, entertainment and sports broadcasts. There is no place for pain. Death is not seen. No one mourns for anyone. The only ‘family’ is the family that talks to you directly from the screen, while you’re sitting in your living room.
The most serious problem is that this life was accepted willingly by all. Beatty, the captain of the Fire Brigade, said that there was no imposition or censorship by the Government. In the book, a woman takes pride in voting for a presidential candidate because he was handsome, while the other one was ugly and seemed too unkempt.
Fire burns everything unpleasant: books, corpses. But it also warms and allows new beginnings. The fundamental question is why are books hated? Why are they a threat? What is in them that makes them fearsome?
Fahrenheit is a society without culture, without history, without memories. A society numbed and suffering amnesia. This magnificent novel by Ray Bradbury impels us to lift the veil of conformism, to think, to deviate from the majority, to avoid the mirages of the mass media and to doubt and to make us constantly ask questions.