I read two brilliant books in the last 24 hours, the first being a wonderfully simple and heartfelt book (which I will review later, it has become my favorite book of all time and hence deserves a second, third, fourth, or dozens of reads before I can review it objectively), and the latter being the worldly famous and disturbingly perturbing dystopian novel of Farenheit 451.
To be fair I knew this book would be brilliant before I turned the first page. Even though I haven’t read much by Ray Bradbury (besides There Will Come Soft Rains– a short excerpt from The Martian Chronicles that was featured as a short story piece in our IGCSE syllabus), I knew his work had to be an invigorating read. Why? Because he was friends with Aldous Huxley. If that wasn’t justification enough, top it with the delightful intrigue of science fiction, the dark mystery of dystopian fiction, and the grim satisfaction of reading about societal problems.
It is easy to draw certain parallels between Farenheit 451 and Brave New World, both being dystopian novels with touches of science fiction. I think key differences lie in the style of writing; Huxley’s writing has more of a mark of a thinker, a profound muser- not to say Bradbury isn’t- but Bradbury’s writing is more straightforward and less elaborate. Brave New World was incredibly simple compared to Huxley’s other books, however.
When you think about it, there’s no surprise that they were friends. A lot of distinguished dystopian writers come from this age, perhaps it was a trend that followed after the initial worry of the rise of technology and the aftermath of the World War(s).
I’m not going to analyse this book quote by quote, I’m just going to give you the overall feel of it.
Much like Brave New World, Bradbury’s world is a place where there is no individual, but only a community that works together to function but has no uniqueness- no individuality. Perhaps this was the sort of world Bradbury, Huxley, and even Rand foresaw. A world where things are mechanical, people do without thought. (Reminds you of ‘When the individual feels, the community reels’?)
I never really understood Rand’s complete abhorrence of altruism, but perhaps this was what she meant. A world where people just do things for others, take orders from others, without thinking. A world where individualism is a crime. I suppose it’s a justifiable worry; but I don’t think it’s reason to denounce all altruism. A world without people who care for each other and help each other out would be a terrifying one indeed.
The people of the society in Farenheit 451 think they are happy. No, they don’t even think. They just assume they are happy. They don’t care. They like the way they live. It works.
But they’re not free, they’re not happy, we argue. Montag broke out of that steel mold as with others that still appreciate literature, still yearn for freedom, still know the notion of true happiness. But what is true happiness?
Is freedom necessary?
We take it for granted, or the lack of it for granted. I think we can establish that without a reasonable amount of freedom, creative pursuits and academic advancements would be restricted. But can’t people be happy without freedom? It would be a delusion without free choice, but with all delusions you have to be unkowing. So that delusion would come at a cost of freedom. But who’s choice is it to enslave everyone to this delusion? Just like with Brave New World, people are enslaved.
In Brave New World, men are enslaved by drugs called soma and by inner desires and sex. In Farenheit 451, men are enslaved by the TV, by technology, by simulated ‘families’, and by the lack of lierature or any other subversive medium that would lead to thought.
Reminds me of a quote from Brave New World:
I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.
The world that Bradbury depicts is startlingly similar to our world. No, we don’t burn books. We do wallow in technology, however. We speak out for freedom, yet we lack it. We face rising suicide rates especially of the young because they feel restricted.
And yet we still have poetry, danger, freedom, goodness, sin. We still have thought and we’re advancing into a knowledge based society. Knowledge.
So we’re not so devoid of hope after all.
But it’s an intriguing read. I loved it.