Hello, and welcome to Book Club – I’m Joonyoung! Using this platform, I’ll be sharing with you the books that I’m currently reading. After I finish each one, I will update this page with an original summary and leave a rating out of ten. (You can find past reviews in the archive.) Be sure to rate the book below with the poll and leave me some book recommendations, I love to hear from you!
Sunday, February 7th, 2021: Fahrenheit 451
INTRODUCTION Fahrenheit 451 is a well-known and well-loved classic from the twentieth century, written by American author Ray Bradbury. It has received the National Book Award, the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award in 1984, and the Retro Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2004. A movie adaptation was released in 2018 (rated PG-13), starring Michael B. Jordan as Guy Montag and Michael Shannon as Captain Beatty.
SUMMARY Fahrenheit 451 begins on a rather ominous note: Guy Montag, fireman in this dystopian future, relishing in the pleasure of burning literature. In this world, having books is illegal, a crime punishable by imprisonment and death. Its people spend their time watching TV with their “families”––those who exist only on the big screen and those on whom the majority relies. Guy’s wife, Mildred, is one of such people. While she is his wife, she barely acknowledges it, spending her days with her “family” on the couch. But Guy doesn’t mind: that’s how things are supposed to be, after all.
Then he meets Claire, a lively sixteen-year-old girl of great enthusiasm, high intelligence, and scorn for the current way of life. Talking to her makes Guy realize, despite everything he has been telling himself, despite everything he has even genuinely believed, that he is not happy. And, when Mildred subconsciously attempts suicide on the same night, his expectations are subverted and his world flipped upside down. He realizes that he wants more in life, something with meaning, something with some stirrings of purpose. In his search, he pockets a book on the job, thinking that they might be the answer, and calls in sick.
Captain Beatty, however, his boss at his place of work, is not fooled. He comes by and explains things to Guy. Every fireman has a natural curiosity, he says, and they would not be at fault for stealing a book. But he is expected to burn it within twenty-four hours, or the other firemen will do it for him. Then Beatty tells Guy that this world came about not as a result of oppression from a book-loathing tyrant or dictatorship, but rather of the people themselves. Books are confusing; books argue with each other; books take too much time and effort to read. So, the people, some tired of the endless stream of conflicting ideologies with no end in sight, others of being outsmarted by those who read literature, came to a decisive conclusion: books must go.
But straight after Captain Beatty leaves, Guy picks up his book and begins to read, dissatisfied as he is of the world and hopeful that literature might offer some answers. But he cannot understand it, so difficult to understand as it is––and, of course, he isn’t exactly an educated man. So he seeks help from an old man named Faber, whom he met one day at the park and talked about books with. Faber says he will help him; but first, he must go to Captain Beatty and return the book, to throw off suspicion. Guy can use other books to learn.
But things don’t go to plan. When he arrives at the station to find Beatty, the captain begins to twist around everything Guy has believed about books, using other books. It’s a devious but extremely effective strategy; it nearly completely undermines Guy’s newfound faith in literature. But it doesn’t go on for long, because they receive a call: a new person has been reported for harboring books in his home. The firemen jump into action, and they drive on over to the house, and––it’s Guy’s house. Mildred had reported him. Captain Beatty puts him under arrest, but Guy has had enough. He kills Beatty with a flamethrower, along with two other firemen, and runs for it. He runs all the way through the city and swims down the river, throwing off his scent.
On the outskirts of the city, he finds a group of outcasts: well-read people like scientists and authors and such. He learns what literature means from them, and together they make plans to travel west. The next day, an atom bomb vaporizes the city, destroying Guy’s old home and killing Mildred, but he does not feel any pain or sorrow. He turns away and, with his new friends, starts anew.
REVIEW I would give this book an 9/10. Great book––it says a lot about society today and, like all other dystopian novels, warns us of what the future might hold if we go down a certain path-–but there are few dystopian novels better than this one. There is a reason why this book is known all around the world. The story, the symbolism, all of that comes together to make one coherent work of art.