Fahrenheit 451

I recently had occasion to read Ray Bradbury’s classic Fahrenheit 451, and the thing simply astonished me with its prescience. Written in 1953, before any of the technological gee-whizzery we all take for granted today, the novel constructed a frighteningly plausible dystopia in which entertainment became the defining mark of the good life, virtual-reality “relationships” the defining mark of love and family, insipid sameness the mark of personal and societal greatness, and education the defining mark of anti-social snobbery aiming to take everyone else’s happiness away.

It is simply amazing to me that over 50 years ago Bradbury foresaw the time of the wall-sized, high-definition TV with fully interactive electronic connections to anonymous people whom one comes to think of as friends, and with whom one lives a literally thoughtless pseudo-life of inane intellectual and emotional fragmentation whose deception consists precisely in its existence in full color, total immersion, surround sound enabled mimicry of the real thing.

The last time I read anything by a Modern author that was so prescient was C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy. If you’re at all concerned about education, the good life, and true freedom, and you haven’t read Fahrenheit 451, go get it now and don’t do anything else till you’re done with it. You won’t regret it.

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3 Responses to Fahrenheit 451

  1. Frederick Tucker says:

    An excellent book. My only problem with it was that with entirely thoughtless lives, someone must think something, or else they could not have the lives they have, and if you think that through it becomes a phoenix. Or a circle.

  2. Jeff S. says:

    I had not read F451 since high school and if someone had asked me what the book was about, I would have said something along the lines of censorship, or book burning. I then recently re-read it as an adult and had the same reaction as you yourself in terms of his prophetic theme. Brave New World</i<? 1984? Nope. F451 nails it. We are being numbingly entertained into a state of catatonic passivity.

  3. Tim Enloe says:

    Jeff, I haven’t read Brave New World yet, but I recently read 1984. It’s easy to see how in 1949 Orwell’s generation could have really and truly feared the establishment of a physical totalitarianism, but yeah, I think Bradbury’s mental totalitarianism is far closer to what we actually have now. I have had members of my own family basically call me an idiot for spending so much time reading ancient books and pretending they have any relevance to modern life, while all the while they themselves eagerly huddle around their Playstation 3, their Blu-Ray DVD player, their 52″ HDTV with Bose surround sound system, and think the definition of good conversation is knowing who’s currently competing on “So You Think You Can Dance?” It’s a short step from that to F451′s vision of a society that thinks the ultimate antisocial behavior is to read a book, and the ultimate crime against society to then think about what you’ve read.

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