Book Review: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (4/5)

12 Nov

It’s been a long time since I read tis book. I think it was Sophomore year of high school for my American Literature class. I remember it ‘didn’t suck’ and that was about how much I cared then. I have a copy of this book on my shelf, but when my book club picked it for our November read, I realized the audiobook would be easier and picked that up.

Cover image via Goodreads

Cover image via Goodreads

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Bradbury also wrote The Martian Chronicles

Summary from Goodreads:

Guy Montag is a fireman. His job is to burn books, which are forbidden, being the source of all discord and unhappiness. Even so, Montag is unhappy; there is discord in his marriage. Are books hidden in his house? The Mechanical Hound of the Fire Department, armed with a lethal hypodermic, escorted by helicopters, is ready to track down those dissidents who defy society to preserve and read books.

I didn’t remember this book well so I went into it with a different idea of how it would end. I was looking for something that focused more on books when the government was much more a focus of this novel. I remember Clarisse being a bigger character and forgot all about Mildred and Faber. The idea of burning books to limit idea sharing and to better control the population is frightening and close to home. We have books in America that are banned and challenged all the time. Reasons range from sexual content to ideas and it’s the latter that scares me. Why would we restrict ideas? If we do, are we getting closer to Bradbury’s world? It’s a scary road to go down.

I loved the contrast between Guy at the beginning and him at the end. Milly and Guy are very blissful at the beginning and they’ve been taught not to trust things they don’t know or understand. But Guy is worn down by Clarisse. I thought this was a very natural progression and it was well done in the book. The Guy we see at the end comes up with original ideas for evading the police and forms human attachments that are more than superficial. He is a very different ‘guy’ by the end.

Beatty was a great character. He was very smart, obviously, and smart enough to let you know what he knew without being in danger. A stupid villain is useless which made Beatty scary. In the end, he wasn’t really the bad guy. Mildred turned Guy in, not Beatty. He wanted to trust Guy, to give him the benefit of the doubt and let a slip-up be just that and nothing more. Once he was reported there was nothing else Beatty could do. He was sympathetic, which made his death all the more surprising.

I think any book lover relates to Faber on some level. You want to be the person who would keep books hidden if they were ever banned. But he’s not the one I related to most. I related to Guy because he’s learning to question the world around him the same way children learn to question things as they grow up. In Bradbury’s world, no one developed the capacity to think for themselves. Those that did were silenced. Guy’s story is frightening because we’ve all gone through the process of individualized awakening and the idea of that sense of individuality being forbidden is frightening.

Ray Bradbury Image from Wikipedia

Ray Bradbury
Image from Wikipedia

I liked the chase scene at the end. I’d forgotten it was in there and I liked the level of suspense it added to the book. The vagabonds Guy meets are very likable, too, which made me like the scene more. It showed how complete guy’s ability to think for himself had developed and it showed the group mentality of all the others very well. It was a great climax.

I can’t think of a part of this book that I didn’t enjoy. It’s very short and to the point and I liked that about it. There were no fluff scenes and there was almost no back story to slow it down. I can say I was annoyed by the beginning, but I was supposed to be. I thought it was wonderfully paced.

The audiobook I listened to was narrated by Stephen Hoye. I think I’ve listened to something he narrated before (possibly Brave New World) because his voice sounded familiar. I thought he did a good job, but nothing that blew me out of the water. His inflection is a little flat, but that’s fitting for this book and I think it was intentional to help convey the fear Guy was experiencing and the expressionlessness of the people in the society.

It’s a little overwhelming that ‘Guy’ is supposed to refer to every man and imply that this is every man’s journey as I touched on before. We all have to have an individualized awakening that helps us realize what is important and how we can have an individual identity separate from the whole. There’s also the important theme of controlling information. With no books, the governing body can control what information everyone receives from their TV families and on advertisements and in schools. It’s frightening to limit individual expression. I think Bradbury would approve of the internet and blogs because they allow people to communicate and share ideas, sometimes dangerous ideas, with very limited censorship and in a quantity that the government couldn’t silence if they tried. I think, had blogs been a medium when he was thinking of the concept for this book, the message would have needed a different story.

Writer’s Takeaway: Bradbury does an amazing job with Guy’s voice in this book. He starts the narration off in a very flat and disinterested way which is reflective of Guy’s personality and interaction with the world. As it develops into a reactionary voice, Guy learns more about himself and his ideas. I think this parallel helps emphasize the change and I really liked it as a writing tool.


A classic story that I’m glad to have revisited again. Four out of Five stars.

Until next time, write on.

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Related Posts:
Book Review: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury | Pretty Books
Review of “Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451: The Authorized Adaptation” by Tim Hamilton | Rhapsody in Books

2 Responses to “Book Review: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (4/5)”

  1. Claire | Art and Soul November 12, 2015 at 10:47 AM #

    That was pretty much how I felt when I revisited this story last year having not read it for at least ten years. I had also forgotten about the chase scene and it was a nice surprise.
    I think F451, along with Orwell, Huxley and Atwood, is a real case of “classic dystopia” because Bradbury produces ideas and images that stay with you. I read a lot of “adventure dystopia” (mostly YA) which is fun, but ultimately forgettable. But with the classics you might forget details such as the chase scene, but something always haunts you, such as Room 101 or the human books.
    Great review! 🙂


    • Sam November 12, 2015 at 11:45 AM #

      Thanks! I’ve read a good amount of dystopian in the past two years, YA and adult and I do think the adult stick with me more. The societal changes seem more believable because they spring from actual events rather than a governmental ‘what if.’ What if we take censorship too far? What if we go too far with genetics or religious government? These things scare me more than a solar flare or extreme government upheaval. Happy reading!

      Liked by 1 person

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