It was a pleasure to burn.

                        Ray Bradbury, page 1, Simon & Schuster 60th Anniversary Edition

In the desolate, conformist landscape of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, it is a criminal offence to possess or read a book. A tip from an informer will lead to a prompt visit from the firemen. The firemen will take great pleasure in tearing apart your residence in their search for literary contraband. Their punishment is swift. Your books, your residence, and you, should you resist, will be doused in kerosene and set alight.

One fireman, Guy Montag, experiences an awakening. He is drawn to social outcasts who lead contemplative and examined lives. He starts to question the purpose of his existence. He pilfers and conceals the books that he is supposed to burn. He is consumed by their dangerous ideas. And soon, the firemen are called upon to hunt down one of their own.

Bradbury compels us to recognize the dangerous allure of simplistic narratives in trying to make sense of a complicated world. He sensitizes us to our tendency, in our passionate outrage, to drown out and intimidate others from expressing ideas and perspectives contrary to our own.

Bradbury also reminds us of our need for silence and time to reflect, and our need to disconnect from a never-ending series of electronic distractions.

His story is a tribute to the importance of fiction. He reminds us of the critical role novels play in our understanding of what it means to be human.

 

 

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