Rummanah Aasi
  While looking at the list of books that have either been banned or challenged and deciding which books to read to celebrate Banned Books 2010, I came to realize how many books that I've either read already or have on my bookshelves have been questioned by others. My first book for the Banned Books Reading Challenge is Ray Bradbury's classic Fahrenheit 451 which centers around the issue of censorship itself. Isn't it ironic that a book fighting against censorship gets banned itself? Unlike my younger brother, I didn't have to read Fahrenheit 451 for school but I'm glad that I read it now.

Description: In Bradbury's classic, the future America is very frightening. Firemen don't extinguish the fires, but start them in order to burn books. In the future happiness is the ultimate and highest goal. It is a place where  trivial information is good, and knowledge and ideas are bad.
   Guy Montag is a book-burning fireman who seemed to have a very happy life until he ran into a teenage girl named Clarisse who turned his world upside down by asking him a simple question: "Are you happy?" Quickly, Montag goes through a crisis of faith and questions his actions. Why are books being burned in the first place? And why are the citizens forbidden to read?

Why it was banned/challenged: In 2006, Fahrenheit 451 was challenged at Independent School District at Conroe, Texas because of the following: "discussion of being drunk, smoking cigarettes, violence, 'dirty talk', references to the Bible, and using God's name in vain". The novel went against the complainant's "religious beliefs". Source: ALA

Review: Fahrenheit 451 is a frightening book to read. I can't imagine a world where books don't exist and reading them is a crime. The novel not only demonstrates a society where the norm is accepted blindly, but also how censorship prevails by closing the minds of its citizens. In Montag's world, no one questions. No one is allowed to think because thinking leads to disputes and disputes lead to a world of chaos. And who needs a world of chaos?
   Although the novel was originally written in 1953, it is very creepy to see that our current world isn't all that different from the world that Bradbury created. With technology increasing and being omnipresent in our daily lives, we seemed to almost behave mechanically. Books are still being banned and challenged because they don't match our own personal views.
  Bradbury's writing is superb. His descriptive paragraphs are a pleasure to read. I could easily see the layers of Montag's confusion and frustration unfold right before my eyes. Besides censorship, there are a lot themes that could be discussed in the book such as: knowledge vs. ignorance, freedom of speech/expression. My minor complaint with the book is the notion of a mechanical dog is just plain silly.
   While there are certainly references to the Bible in the novel such as turning water into wine, these are used by Montag to refute the current status quo and to change himself from being a mindless robot to a person who upholds Christian values and who can think for himself. It's ironic that the challenger is twisting the passages out of context just like the antagonist Fire Captain Beatty has done throughout the novel. The novel is also rich with symbolism and metaphors. Overall, Fahrenheit 451 is a thought provoking classic that urges people to think critically. It's unfortunate that some are not willing to do so.

Curriculum Connection: Social Studies and English

Rating: 4.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is mild language in the book. I'd recommend it to 8th graders and up.

If you like this book try: Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451: The Authorized Adaptation by Ray Bradbury and Tim Hamilton
2 Responses
  1. Jules Says:

    I was raised on Bradbury. At this point 451 is largely considered a classic and I'm surprised to hear it had such a recent challenge. I personally felt the book was quite dark with routine drug over-dose by all the "happy people", on the depressing side in fact, but the imagery is vivid and thought provoking. I know I was thinking about the wall-sized view screens when my husband wanted the largest flat screen TV he could afford. I thought of the way Bradbury's characters spend time with "the family" when every teenager on my block talked of nothing but 90210. In more recent years the whole country was absorbed by LOST. Beatty is frightening eloquent with his advocacy for censorship.

    I have to disagree with you about the dog. No one has to clean up after them, they don't have to be walked and there are no allergy issues. Look what happned with pet rocks and Tomagotchi's. I could be persuaded to buy a mechanical dog.

  2. Nat Says:

    This is one of the books I read in childhood and never forgot. I loved it!

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