The Fire Man

My, do I wish I would’ve paid much closer attention in school when we read Fahrenheit 451. The short novel is prophetic and wise beyond its years, hence why it’s still around today and will always be one of the best and most alarming stories out there.

I just completed a reread of Ray Bradbury’s most famous and widely-taught story and I was blown away the second time. When I first read the book in school, I didn’t like it because I was being forced to read something and, at the time, the words didn’t jump off the page for me. I stumbled through it, falling asleep as I read hoping to retain enough information to pass the next morning’s quiz. However, this second time through, I couldn’t turn my brain off. I devoured the book and was able to see the story of fireman, Guy Montag, unfold in front of my very eyes and it reminded me of something: reading is the key that unlocks the world.

In the afterword, Bradbury mentions how his characters still spoke to him after he’d completed and published the book. He specifically mentioned Captain Beatty, the Fire Captain, who Bradbury reveals had a vast library in his own home, the irony being that anyone caught with books in their home in Bradbury’s dystopian world would have their homes burned by the firemen and would be swiftly arrested thereafter. Captain Beatty had collected and stored hundreds of books in his personal library and when Montag asks how he’s allowed to have them, seeing as books were made illegal, Beatty responds by saying that books weren’t illegal, reading them was.

I have a number of books on my shelves and on my kindle and not enough time, but I’ve made it a goal while on vacation to turn off the boob tube and read. I noticed recently that when I do read, I have trouble envisioning the story like I used to. I don’t see the images as well in my head as I see the words that create them. Due to lack of practice and letting the blade get dull with obsolescence, I struggle to picture things as I read them. With the TV doing it for me, I have little need for my own imagination, for my own thoughts. In The End of the Tour, a very interesting movie about writer David Foster Wallace, he refers to his television addiction and how if he had a TV in his house he’d watch it all the time and how he believes society’s reliance on TV and the constant commercial bombardment and instant gratification renders the mind a dull blade. I’ve determined that I’ve fallen victim to this awful ailment but there is hope. I have become conscious of my ailment and I know how to treat it. By reading more, my creative well will fill back up and my life will change for the better, that is certain. I’ve always envied and idolized well-read people and I intend to become one of them. Starting out with a meager half hour per day, I can tackle a few books per month, possibly numerous per year, sharpening my skills and my brain. The most dangerous people in the world are those that read.

Yes, having books is nice but you don’t get much value from them unless you read them. I have plenty of books on my shelves that I have yet to read and I need to get crackin’, but Fahrenheit 451 was a book I had been meaning to reread, given our current time in which few people read and how similar our society has become to that in the book, overloaded and pumped with TV, quick bombardments of fancy, and instant gratification. I must say, I was far from disappointed. I saw a lot of similarities in the culture we’re living in and cultivating compared with that in the story and it’s rather daunting. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I fear for future generations as less and less people are reading and even fewer are questioning things they are seeing on TV and buzzing in their ears.

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