Fahrenheit 451’s predictions…influence on literature today…Part 3

So.  We started out talking about Ray Bradbury.  Then yesterday I took you through the plot of 451 and my opinion of it.  I forgot one thing during that time.  Until the last part of the novel, I LOVED Bradbury’s way of setting a pace in the story.  He could and did speed up the narrative using shorter sentences or even fragments, sometimes there was a staccato beat to the words almost.  Loved it.  Then we got to the long expositories at the end and that changed.  The tempo went just all sorts of out of whack and never got back the same feel.  Dave told me earlier today that Bradbury typed it on a pay by the hour typewriter, so possibly he was running out of money to finish it.

But separate from that was the eerieness of some of Bradbury’s qualities of his dystopian universe.  The statements I am about to share, seem more apt for society today than they did even ten years ago.  I’m going to share the ones that really hit me, discuss and then will briefly touch on the influence 451 has had on some other books I’ve read.  (I assume they did, and if not it was just a weird parallel lol).

Ok, so looking at my notes, the first thing isn’t a straight quotation from the book.  But, Montag’s wife, Mildred is addicted to wearing ear buds.  Montag describes them as having wave sounds, or sometimes people sounds.  It just made me think so much of Ipods.  Mildred wears them to block out the real world, the outside world.  So many people I see today do the same thing.  Earlier today, I was cleaning my kitchen listening to my Ipod with my ear buds in.  That’s why I keep saying, even more eerie than ten years ago as ten years ago Ipods were just coming out.

Clarisse tells Montag this about her peers; “I’m afraid of children my own age, they kill each other.  Six of my friends have been shot in the last year alone.  Ten of them died in car wrecks”.  Earlier today, I read an article that a friend reposted to facebook about another young teen, who tormented at school about being a homosexual, killed himself.  And while his death isn’t a direct murder from another peer, in a sense they contributed to his death.  Also, last week, I watched a documentary on Pruitt-Igoe, a St Louis projects area from the 60s…go here to read more.   There’s of course, the shootings, the car accidents etc, just like Clarisse says.  But I think the suicides from bullying could be added into it.

Montag’s boss, Beatty, tells him “School is shortened, discipline relaxed, philosphies, 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?”  I don’t remember the exact educational models that were running around being implemented in the fifties.  But a lot of these things _have_ happened in the last 30 years as we attempt to mold our children into more self confident, well rounded individuals (and fail miserably most of the time haha), through the “everyone’s a winner” movement, also, philosphies that say children will naturally gravitate towards learning all of that.  Some items I am a strong believer on children being able to teach themselves.  (For example:  I don’t ever tell my daughter, no it’s said like this…I just mirror the statement back at her with the correct pronunciation.  She’s smart enough to get it eventually).  I don’t know, the statement just seemed fitting for schools today.  We pretend that we are teaching them more than how to push a button etc, but in reality, in today’s world?  They can’t just get by anymore with a liberal arts college degree, now everything has to be specialized.  They’re in essence, learning how to push buttons.

This next one from Beatty (I feel like it might be Beattie, not Beatty but I wrote in my notes Beatty, so Beatty it is) is really relevant with it being election year! “…If the government is inefficient, top heavy and tax-mad, better it be all those than that people worry about it”.  Really, in today’s world, people “worry” but for the most part their “worry” is whatever a 5 minute sound bite on their news channel of choice has told them what to worry about.  Very few people actually go and read about their candidates and their government.  There’s another section where Mildred and her friends are discussing the last presidential race and how the President won, and they were glad as he was so much better looking than the other candidate.  And isn’t that true of today?  Last election, there were two strong females…Clinton and Palin.  People were RABID about Clinton’s style, her looks etc.  Some seemed to hate her based solely on her pants suits.  Palin though, now some people LIKED her merely because of her pant suits.

Those were the things that really stuck with me.

Another character from the book, Faber, a retired professor, had the following things to say about books and why Bradbury’s dystopian society grew to hate them.  I just loved the statements so much I had to share them.

“The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us”

“So now do you see why books are hated and feared?  They show the pores in the face of life.”

“the books are to remind us what asses and fools we are”.

Just liked those!

So, unless you’ve lived under a rock or maybe in a third world country, you’ve probably heard of The Hunger Games, our latest dystopian wonder of a trilogy (and it is amazingly good, trust me).  I’m not going to talk about The Hunger Games, as I don’t see as much of a connection between it and a different Young Adult series I picked up last year and began.  Ally Condie (oddly, another person in Salt Lake City, Utah…maybe I should move there and then write a YA series…something in the water.  I am of course referring to this famous author) began a trilogy in 2010.  The first one, called Matched, begins a trilogy about a society where at 17, the government matches you with another person, very rarely from the same community, for marriage.  Everything like this is decided for you.  Now, the thing that struck me as the same, the thing that was completely influenced by Bradbury…in this society only 100 songs, 100 poems etc were chosen as okay for people to read…they were ones that kept dissension down.  The main character finds two poems that her grandfather passes to her.  She shares them with a boy.  One is a Dylan poem.  There’s a scene, where her father, who archives prior caches of this type of stuff is at a site, and she goes and they’re burning books.  Then, later, they come across people living outside of the society, and she is absolutely amazed at all the books.  Books and literary information is on black market trade in this trilogy.  It’s what I kept thinking about reading 451.

I’ve always been a huge reader.  And maybe Dave can address this in a future post, but for me personally, books have always provided a touchstone to my life.  They’re a stability and sometimes a way for me to process an emotion or an event in my life.  Reading books provides me with a depth of understanding on the human condition.  I have never been able to understand people that don’t read at all.  I feel like your view on the world has to be a bit limited if you’re not willing to pick up a book.  TV and movies and the internet can take you so far…but books can take you all the way.  Books give you a peace inside that other media has never done for me.  And that’s I think one of the major things Fahrenheit 451 says to me, that if we lose that…then our society crumbles.

Happy Reading!

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Fahrenheit 451–Review–Part 2

So, today, I am actually going to be talking about 451, not Bradbury himself or my backstory on how I came to read 451 etc etc.  I don’t think I gave away any ruining plot points below, but if I did, you can feel free to kick me in the virtual shins.

451:

The only thing, literally, that I went into knowing about 451 was that it was a dystopian novel.  Which, also led me to give myself an internal wtf look, as most people that know me know, I love me a good dystopian tale.  And 451 really was the father of dystopian literature that has come since (see my next section of this post for further information on this opinion).  So, everything could hit me fresh.  It did.  Hit me.

I read this on my kindle, so if I misquote something or anything, it’s because I either wrote it down wrong or am relying on a faulty memory.

451 is divided into three sections.  They’re numbered.  They’re also titled.  The Hearth and the Salamander=Part 1, The Sieve and the Sand=Part 2 and Burning Bright=Part 3.  I am going to generalize a lot here, as I don’t want to spoil the plot too much.  The main character is Guy Montag, and the book centers around him.

I feel that Part 1 could really be called “Montag’s Awakening”.  Montag is a fireman, and in this future, firemen burn books.  All houses have a fireproof covering so there is no fear of a house burning anymore.  Firemen have been converted into book burners.  He meets a neighbor girl one day who is different than others.  She’s 17, her name is Clarisse, and she doesn’t race about getting the newest thrill.  She wanders.  She strolls.  She observes leaves in the wind, holds dandelions under chins to see if someone’s in love, and really looks at people.  Her uncle tells her a lot about the past, a time when people had front porches, that they’d sit on, that they have stopped making front porches because it might encourage people to slow down a moment and actually reflect on stuff.  The tendrils she places in Montag slowly expand and creep past his awesome love for the flame on the books, for his feeling of excitement.  The tendrils light up and Montag is able to fully see just how dark and ashy and gray his life really is.  He’s married to a woman named Mildred, and I think his life could be summed up by the fact that he asks her one night how they met.  Neither of them can remember.  He feels that if she died, he wouldn’t even mourn.  Mildred always is in the parlor, watching a 3 walled tv, and calls the people on it “family”.  She is pestering Montag to get the 4th wall put in, even though they just put in the 3rd 2 months prior.  Basically, Montag starts to see in himself what Clarisse tells him “It’s a lot of funnels and a lot of water poured down the spout and out the bottom, and them telling us it’s wine when it’s not”.  During this time, he has to burn a house down and the woman refuses to leave her books.  She even pulls out a match to do the job herself when Montag hesitates and attempts to get her to leave.  He begins to wonder.  And he steals a book while there.  During this section, two things are hinted at but not revealed.  Montag looks up at his vent a few times with vague thoughts of what’s up there, and he also thinks occasionally of an incident involving a conversation with a gentleman at a park the prior year.  Bradbury never tells us though during this section what is behind the vent and what was the conversation all about.

Part 2, The Sieve and the Sand, is titled because Montag eventually begins attempting to stuff information from books into his brain in the hopes that something might stick but feels it’s like pouring sand into a sieve and hoping some stays.  And here’s where discussing might get a little tricky as this is where the spoiling might happen if I don’t walk the fine line.  This part could be called “Montag’s Transformation”.  This is where we discover that maybe Clarisse didn’t _cause_ the explosions beginning to happen in Montag’s mind and his life, but might have just teased out something that was already slowly formenting in Montag.  In the first section, towards the beginning of the book, Montag comes home to discover that Mildred has taken all her sleeping pills.  There are men that come out to clean out her stomach and then pump new blood into her.  They basically tell Montag they get a lot of these calls, and it’s not worth it to send real doctors out on them anymore.  Montag ends up thinking that his wife is two people.  There is the happy, watch the parlor walls all day Mildred, and the nighttime Mildred who is depressed and suicidal.  Mildred also likes to take out the “beetle” (their mode of transportation in 451) and drive reallllyy fast.  I felt like Bradbury might have used the discussion of Mildred’s dichotomous self to highlight that Montag himself had a dichotomy hidden until Clarisse.  There was the have fun, find it exciting fireman, and the confused, apathetic, depressed other Montag.  Montag’s boss comes and talks to him and tells him that they basically know he’s stolen the book and that every fireman eventually does something similiar.  Beatty (boss) tells him that they allow the fireman 24 hours to turn it in before coming to burn it.  Beatty says that it’s good for them to take a look to understand further why they’re doing it.  The plot furthers from here, brilliantly carrying it towards Montag’s complete rebirth through flame.

Part 3, Burning Bright, is basically the conclusion.  My choice to say Montag is reborn through the flame, also came because one of the characters at the end talks about the phoenix.  It ends up that between the cities, old retired professors and educated people have been memorizing books and figuring out how to recall even something they’ve read once so that eventually all the books can be written back down.  They all have specific ones memorized and all know which ones others know.  I didn’t like Part 3.  I felt that the dialogue became way too expository.  I didn’t feel that a person would talk the way one of the end characters does, or at that length.  It was probably the only part of the book that I didn’t like the writing on.  I also did not like the speedy way Bradbury tied everything up.  It was like this beautiful book, beautiful story of a man’s self awakening amidst a world that no longer allowed slow thought and reading was suddenly just finished.  I felt like a publisher told Bradbury “Hey Ray, you got 2 days to finish that book before we’re not gonna take it anymore” and Bradbury slapped the ending all together quick.

I am a person that sometimes rereads books.  As I think I said in my blog about Wuthering Heights.  I honestly don’t think I’d read 451 again, or if I did, I’d probably just read the first 2 sections and skip the last.  I loved it, and will be buying an actual bound copy to keep on my shelf (so that it can be burned one day if necessary I guess), but can’t see myself yearning to pick it up again and re read it.  However, I would recommend it to most anyone, as we will discuss tomorrow, just for the eerie “predictions” in the book.  It makes me wonder what Bradbury thought in the last 20 years of his life about technology advancements, since the book was written in 1953.  Which makes it the same age as my parents.  Weird.

Ray Bradbury. Fahrenheit 451.

I originally had picked Middlemarch by George Eliot to use for this entry.  I was about 1/5 of the way through it on June 6th, when I happened to see that Ray Bradbury, at the age of 91 had passed away.

Instead of calling, texting, or emailing Dave, I did what any self respecting 2012 friend does.  I posted on my fb wall (timeline? what are we supposed to call it now?) about it, and that I’d be reading 451 for this entry instead.  Dave and I, being good 2012 friends, proceeded to have the entire conversation in regards to the entry right there on the wall/timeline.  Writing about this now, I find it oddly fitting that we did do that for Fahrenheit 451.

451 was listed by Alice Hoffman as her #2 book in The Top Ten.  On a weird note, I actually began listening to one of Hoffman’s books tonight while doing the dishes.

Once again, 451 (I am shortening it to this from here on, as I can sometimes get a little lazy about words like Fahrenheit), was a book I had never read.  Again, when people brought it up as a book they had read or that it was one of the greats etc, I would paste that “Oh of course I’m literate, I always have a book in my hand” look on my face while inside I would berate myself for not reading it yet.  As Dave has already read 451, I would have gotten to it, probably fairly soon to push off reading books that I don’t feel quite like I do about My Antonia (see here for a full explanation of the Willa Cather Impasse from Dave’s point of view) but don’t particularly feel like reading.

By the way, I apologize for giving all this backstory, but I find for me, the experience behind the reading interesting, so I include it all for you to enjoy (suffer) through.  Also, unlike Dave, I don’t have a personal blog at this moment so maybe I’m secretly trying to pretend I do.  Okay, back to our program.

I am going to be breaking Bradbury and Fahrenheit up into 3 blog posts, as I have become quite wordy on the whole thing, and I feel that to do Bradbury justice I _need_ to be lengthy for a memorial and also because of the comparisons between Bradbury’s “predictions” in 451 and the reality of today, to do them justice, I need three blog posts.  (sorry Dave for not discussing this with you previously).  Today’s post will be about Bradbury himself.  Tomorrow’s post will be about the plot line and my thoughts on said plot line.  Saturday’s post will be about the influence I can see of 451 on current literature today (especially in YA literature) and items Bradbury talked about in 451 that have probably an even stronger eerie resonance than they did even ten years ago.  I also will put in quotations where these things are described.

For information on Bradbury, I went straight to raybradbury.com, as that seemed the most likely place to receive information.  Bradbury, as mentioned above, was 91.  The staggering thing for me, isn’t necessarily his age, as I come from a family of long lifers and married a man from a family of long lifers, but that he was writing FOR SEVENTY YEARS.  It’s weird to see publication dates for him from the forties.  I’m not entirely sure why that bent my mind out of shape, other than maybe because it shows someone that figured out early on what made them tick, started doing it and NEVER STOPPED.  Quoting straight from raybradbury.com;

“In 2005, Bradbury published a book of essays titled Bradbury Speaks, in which he wrote: In my later years I have looked in the mirror each day and found a happy person staring back. Occasionally I wonder why I can be so happy. The answer is that every day of my life I’ve worked only for myself and for the joy that comes from writing and creating. The image in my mirror is not optimistic, but the result of optimal behavior. ”

I just think that holds so true for anyone that finds the one thing that does it for them and figures out a way to live that way.  Bradbury has won numerous awards, published over fifty books, and multitudes of short stories, but for me, the thing that makes me….proud?  happy? that a man like him lived on this earth is what he said above.

It’s sad when someone who has worked their way into our heads, into our culture and through that into our hearts dies.  I find this death more impacting to me than Michael Jackson.  Call me odd.

Coming up tomorrow! Discussion of 451’s plot and my opinions on it.