Ray Bradbury’s seminal novel served as a warning of a dystopian future in its time, but we may now be drawing close to that future he dreamt up. The story follows Guy Montag who is working as a Fireman which in this world means he sets the fires. In Bradbury’s future books are banned and if any are found or reported it is the job of the Firemen to douse them in kerosene (as well as the people owning the books from time to time) and light a match to extinguish the knowledge held in them. He is content in this purpose until he comes across the neighbor girl Clarisse. She starts talking to him on his walks home from work and she asks him questions that begin to spark something within him and make him start questioning things himself. Eventually this leads to him stealing a book from one of the houses they burn and he lets his curiosity get the best of him as he wants to find out what is inside of these outlawed items. The story really picks up from here as begins having run-ins with the Fire Chief, his own wife, and just about everyone around him as he realizes the importance of books and their knowledge.
I’ll leave the story summary there so as not to spoil any more of it. I know almost everyone has read this book by now but if you are like me and are coming to the story fresh in 2020 the story kept me turning the pages to the very end to see what came of Montag. Bradbury saw a future where we as a society were fixated on screens and videos rather than reading or being in the moment. The parallels that can be drawn between his vision of the future and the way things are in our society currently are frightening. We obviously aren’t yet at the point where books are outlawed but we are a society focused on screens and it is rare to see someone reading a book or just sitting and thinking without being buried in a phone or laptop. He also mentions seashell earphones that play sound directly into the wearers head, AirPods anyone? It’s crazy to think about how similarly technology has mirrored Bradbury’s vision and how reading and deep thought have been largely pushed aside in favor of media consumption and immediate gratification.
Everyone should read this book and think hard about the way we are using and relying on technology. I love technology and I am not saying we need to avoid it all together but we need to re-examine the way we let it control our life. We chase likes and clear notifications but at the end of the day these actions largely amount to nothing. I’m someone who loves technology and having the newest devices but forcing myself to disconnect more often and settle in with nothing more than a book and my thoughts has tremendously improved my mindset and productivity. I think Bradbury is on to something.