WARNING: Reading this article may give away things in the story ranging from unimportant to plot turners.
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Type: Classic, Dystopian, Science Fiction
Basic Plot: Guy Montag is a fireman that is paid by the government to set homes on fire if the occupants have committed the ultimate sin against society, owning a book. As he meets different people that do not conform to the shallow society he lives in, he starts to wonder if he has been wasting his life.
Plot: 4½/5 Amazing: The plot contained a interesting characters, a good ending, but left room for wonder. The characters were realistic and revealed the state of society. The vanity and selfishness of the entertainment is shown in the characters. The ending of the story was much more positive than the average dystopian novel. Most dystopian novels (such as Brave New World or Animal Farm) have hopeless and depressing endings, but this book had an ending with hope. The only part of the plot that could have been negative, but also could have some positive sides was that the book left a lot of room to wonder. Little is shown about the society and government other than the at least partial control of media, the shallowness of the average man, and the violence that is allowed. A lot more could have been added to the story, such as how much freedom and privacy people had or if other repressive laws existed. This is not a huge plot problem though, and all that would be necessary to the plot, including why books were eradicated, is included.
Writing Style and Setup: 4½/5 Amazing: The author used several things to make the book a pleasure to read. He used beautiful descriptions of people and places, and his similes were creative. Things were neither described in elaborate detail nor left with little detail. Concepts and ideas were clearly explained in the characters’ conversations.
The pace of the book was good, the story was almost always moving, but left time for the characters and readers to think about the ideas presented.
Moral: 4/5 A Good Main Moral with Some Bad Aspects: The overall moral of the book was a good one, and many of the ideas in the book are provoking. Despite this though, some of the morals in the book were contained errors.
The positive side of the moral includes looking at how censorship hurts society and how there is more to life than constant entertainment. Though this book was written nearly seventy years ago, many things wrong with the society in the book are problems that we have in the USA, just on a smaller level. Books are erased because they offend certain groups of people, they promote inequality, and because they make people think about unhappy things. The result of eliminating books, as well as the supposed inequality and offence they cause, is a society of unintelligent, dull people that refuse to think about anything negative, even if it means ignoring death and hurt in their own family. This plugging of your ears only leads to more hurt and uneventful lives. It also shows how living for nothing more than fluff entertainment is a sad way to live. You don’t accomplish anything for anyone except maybe yourself (and even then you don’t really), as well how this also in the end leads to eventual destruction.
The negative side of the book also has to do with censorship though, as well as the main characters personal moral issues. The author believes that censorship is wrong not just in repressing true creativity and things that a liberal may find offensive; the author also believes it is wrong to censor things others may find morally wrong. He believes that censoring of content that could be viewed as indecent is just as bad as repressing silly things for the comfort of women and minorities. There are at least two flaws with this. First, it is more crucial to think about who is censoring the content, not what is being censored. Since the government has guaranteed freedom of speech and press in our country, it would be wrong for them to make laws that would censor what we say and write. If a publisher or producer refuses to accept something because they don’t feel comfortable with it, it would not be wrong for them to do that, as they have the freedom to choose what they will publish and produce just as much as an author has the right to write what he wishes. Censorship by the government leads to tyranny and slavery, censorship by the publishers merely shows were the nation stands. Second, as Christians we know why it is different to censor something wrong in the eyes of a liberal verses censoring something in the eyes of a conservative. God does not wish for us to read or watch immoral things (Psalm 103:3 “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.“). Because of this, we are happy when someone censors things God would be displeased with us hearing or seeing. Things liberals wish to censor though are often things that are not morally wrong, but things that confirm godly views or things they believe will offend a minority group, even if this thing is true. Sad as it is, since you will always offend someone no matter what you do, it doesn’t really matter if you censor those things. Now, the author does have a point when he says “If Mormons do not like my plays, let them write their own.” (pp. 178), and if a person wishes to privately publish something vulgar, he technically has the legal right to do so. It is debatable if the government should be allowed to censor things that are morally wrong, as this could lead to censoring things that are not morally wrong. The author is partially right though, if we find something offensive, we should be able to privately boycott or censor it in our homes. As wrong as it would be for us to transgress an author’s freedom of speech, it would be just as wrong for him to transgress our freedom of privacy by demanding we view what he created in all its vulgarity.
Another negative moral aspect is that Montag tends to have a short temper, and this short temper leads him to indirect arson and murder. His friends tell him it was for a good cause, making it ok, but the Bible is against doing wrong, even if it is for the right reason. People who lie or hurt others for the “right reason” in the Bible usually are not directly punished, but sometimes are indirectly affected. God may have mercy with people who do wrong to help others, such as with Rahab, but that does not mean it is ok to do those things.
Overall, the moral is good in many ways, as censorship in the USA is at a liberal point. People are offended if you say anything against their way of viewing things, and many schools, colleges, and universities (especially government run ones) are teaching to shut up people who tell the truth because they do not like it or fund it offensive. On the other hand, a person should keep in mind that as long as it is not from the government, censorship is not necessarily wrong if it is over moral things.
Overall: 4½/5 Amazing: This book was beautiful in style and had a thought provoking moral. I definitely recommend it concerning quality. I believe adults and teenagers would both appreciate this book, though I believe adults may enjoy it more.
Sexual and Inappropriate Content: 1/5 Brief Mention: Sex magazines and sex are both briefly mentioned in conversation. “Rape” and “naked” are used figuratively for descriptive purposes. A man changes his clothes in a river.
Violence: 2½/5 Non-Descriptive and Mildly Descriptive Violence: Violence and death are used in descriptions. A woman says her children would like to “kick her” and that she “can kick back;” this was probably not meant literally. A woman tells her husband to kick a dog; he doesn’t. A man wonders if he will do “more violent things,” when he talks to someone else. A man mentions he slapped another man. A different man slaps a woman and later hits a man. A woman scratches a man when she tried to get away from him. A man slaps and shakes a woman and knocks two men out. A woman sets her own house on fire while she is in it. She dies as a result. A man mentions that intelligent children are often beat up by other children, and later says intelligent people will do a variety of violent things. A man burns another man to death with a flamethrower. It is mentioned that a girl was killed in a car accident. A man is nearly hit by a twice car, and his finger is barely run over once. A girl talks about her friends dying in numerous ways, though not very descriptively, and discuss how they children “kill each other” even though they didn’t used to. An entire city is destroyed in a bombing.
Swearing and Using the Lord’s Name in Vain: 3½/5 A Lot of Moderate Language: God’s name is taken in vain forty-six times. “Lord” is misused three times, and forms of Jesus Christ’s name are misused four times. “Damn” is misused forty-one times. “Hell” is misused sixteen times. “Ass” is misused twice. “Bastard” is misused once. There is a mention of a person swearing, though it does not say what he said. A mans says that “the word ‘intellectual” should be a “swear word.”
Emotional, Intense, and Disturbing Content: Deaths occur, usually by fire. The one concerning a woman was not very descriptive, but the death of a man is more descriptive. A woman nearly dies from taking to many pills. She doesn’t, and it never says if it was suicide or an accident, although it is often assumed to be attempted suicide. Suicide and murder are both mentioned to be common, especially suicide as it mentions several different ways people have killed themselves. Men are mentioned to fight and die in a war. A “mechanical” dog is trained to kill people and animals by injecting them with chemicals. A man is actually killed this way, and a few times a different man is almost killed this way. It is mentioned that men have competitions about the dog killing animals. A man burns one up with a flamethrower. Some people watch violent and disturbing content on TV that includes people being cut up, cars crashing, and people being thrown by the cars. A man is almost run over by a car. A girl is mentioned to have died in a car accident, and a man wonders a little bit about her death’s circumstances. A man imagines his wife’s death. Characters are mentioned to cry or scream, though no one does anything excessively emotional. People get nosebleeds. It mentions a woman got abortions and c-sections. A woman suggest that her husband run animals over with their car if he feels upset and says that she likes to do it. A man thinks of is friend being dead even when he isn’t. Fighting “armies” are mentioned in a poem. Blood is used for descriptive purposes.
Religious Issues: 2/5 Slight Mention and Sacrilegious Content: A man pressures another man to help him by tearing a few pages out of the Bible. Mormons and Unitarians are mentioned. Christians are one of the groups of people that are accused of censoring entertainment. “Idol” is used for a description. Buddha and Charles Darwin are briefly mentioned in list of people. Incense, saints are mentioned. A man is mentioned to be a Reverend. A man says “You can play God to” books. A myth including “Hercules and Antaeus” is mentioned. Séances and ghosts are used for descriptive purposes.
Magic: ½/5 Slight Mention: “Magic,” “magical,” and “hypnotic” are used as descriptions. Magical things like dragons, giants, ghosts, and magicians are mentioned in descriptions. Fairy tales are briefly mentioned. No magic is done in the book.
Others: A certain woman is mentioned to have gotten a divorce. Whiskey and margaritas are drunk. People smoke cigarettes and pipes throughout the book, and there is mention of tobacco. Men gamble at work by playing poker. Wine, chain smoking, alcohol, and drunkenness are used in descriptions. Alcohol and whisky are used for purposes other than drinking. Clubs and heroin are briefly mentioned in conversation when listing the pleasures people can indulge in. A woman asks if her husband is drunk; he isn’t. Dancing, partying, and getting a hangover are all briefly mentioned.
Overall: 3½/5 Almost Teenager Appropriate: The worst aspect of this book is the swearing. I was very disappointed with the misuse of God’s name, and I would recommend crossing out the language. With language, I would recommend the book for teenagers fifteen to sixteen and older. Without the language, I believe fourteen and older would be appropriate, because of violence, disturbing content, and the brief mention of sex.
This review does not include commentary, forwards, or afterwords any version may have. It does not include the review, the prologue, or epilogue that a version may have.