A Firestorm for the Frozen Soul

When I made #theLIST, I pulled random works of supposed genius out of a hat and made it my business to read them. As an English major and classic book junkie, I had seriously neglected the science fiction genre, with the exception of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne Classics Illustrated, read when I was 12.

Nothing in my high school or college career even mentioned Fahrenheit 451, the Ray Bradbury classic that needs no illustration whatsoever.

I have to say, first and foremost, that I was drawn in immediately by Bradbury’s rich language. It was a pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed. That is the second line. By then, I was hooked. The apocalyptic vision of a hose streaming kerosene to cause fires – burning books – draws forth a vision of a page dropped into a fire – it blackens and thins and finally collapses in a heap of ash.

Guy Montag lives in a world that has collapsed in a heap of ash. In his world, faster is better and suicide is painless. Humanity is disconnected. Walls are televisions and television is falsely interactive. Entertainment is the morphine for the emptiness of everyday life, where people are disconnected with one another on the most basic of levels. They tolerate each other but there are no deep feelings. Amusement parks offer violence at the speed of light and respect for life seems to be at a nadir. Suicide by sleeping pills is so common that there are reanimation technicians with two machines – one to pump the stomach and one to change the blood. No need for a doctor. It’s kind of like a quick lube for rusted souls.

Guy’s wife has a rusted soul.

Be that as it may, Guy becomes aware that there is an undercurrent both in his own soul and in his city – the ripple of discontent that comes from wanting human interaction, not mindless entertainment. Clarisse – the marvelously mad voice of sanity – clues him in on why houses no longer have porches – to prevent people from gathering to talk – really talk – about life and death and dandelions. Those that hoard books have their books burned. Those that gather and talk disappear.

And Guy comes alive when he witnesses a real death – reincarnation-less death. He snaps out of his denial and pushes himself off the cliff of comfort into the abyss of thirst. He is thirsty for knowledge but lacks faith in his ability to understand. Sadly, his boss and the Mechanical Hound more than understand his awakening. Between the two, the Mechanical Hound is more menacing.

I am drawn into the action as I watch in true horror and awe as Guy Montag stumbles from death to life. I have come to appreciate Ray Bradbury’s visionary roadmap that has led us, almost without deviation, to the world we live in today. With the foreshadowing of wall-to-wall entertainment, the disconnecting with nature and people through devotion to technology, and the need for faster, more violent entertainment, Bradbury shows us how easily a people can be led to ignore war and political corruption by a society that dangles high speed life-and-death entertainment on all four walls. Once the disconnect is complete, only a non-symbolic firestorm can put a stop to the freezing of our souls. However, Bradbury has not left me sad or disheartened. I have been set aflame.

10/10 hearts. I am wonderstruck. I want to run in the sunshine and see if dandelions stain my chin. That’s saying something.

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