Friday, August 12, 2022

Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451"

I enjoyed the first two-thirds of Fahrenheit 451 on our trip to CA and then finished it last week. Great stuff, alongside other dystopian classics about different aspects of statism. Here's a recent article by Peter Suderman in Reason on the irony of libraries banning the book

A few nuggets I enjoyed:

-In the afterword, Bradbury said his choice of Montag and Faber was quite providential. 

-Clarisse on being called "anti-social" (29): It reminded me of the old canard about homeschoolers not getting "enough socialization"-- when people really mean to say "the right socialization"...which is often a very mixed bag, if right at all. 

-Along the same lines, Beatty laments that heredity and environment continue to produce the occasional free-thinkers. He observes: “The home environment can undo a lot you try to do at school. That's why we've lowered the kindergarten age year after year until now we're almost snatching them from the cradle.” (60) 

-In a long passage (55-61)-- probably the crux of the book's "argument"-- Beatty spins off a few deadly lines: "'Intellectual' became the swear word it deserved to be." "She didn't want to know how a thing was done, but why. That can be embarrassing." And he parrots the popular lines about equality (criticized by Ayn Rand, in Orwell's 1984, and in Vonnegut's Harrison Bergeron.) 

But the most interesting part of his soliloquy is the argument that people chose it more than the govt forced it (what is, in essence, the difference between Brave New World and 1984).

"School is shortened, discipline relaxed, philosophies, histories, languages dropped, English and spelling gradually neglected, finally almost completely ignored. Life is immediate, the job counts, pleasure lies all about after work. Why learn anything save pressing buttons, pulling switches, fitting nuts and bolts? More sports for everyone, group spirit, fun, and you don't have to think, eh?...More pictures. The mind drinks less and less. Impatience...Cram them full of noncombustible data, chock them so full of 'facts' they feel stuffed, but absolutely 'brilliant' with information. Then they'll feel they're thinking, they'll get a sense of motion without moving. And they'll be happy...Don't give them any slippery stuff like philosophy or sociology to tie things up with. That way lies melancholy.”

Similarly, Faber tells Montag that it's not books per se that are missing (82); it's something deeper. And that's correct at some level, but can you really have the world they want-- without books and reading? Christians are people of the book, the word, and the Word. At some level, reading is believing and living. 


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