It Was a Pleasure To Burn: Reading Fahrenheit 451 Today

By nature, I am a reader. Non-related but accompanying this fact, by nature, I am also as stubborn as they come. This combination led for sour results when assigned reading was bestowed upon me from grades 6 through 12. For some reason, the idea that someone was telling ME what to read did not sit right. I knew in my heart that the novels I had been tasked with were probably superb works of literature, but nonetheless, the expectation and timeline of it being a part of a curriculum led me astray. Of course there were exceptions- I loved To Kill a Mockingbird along with The Outsiders, but beyond those mentioned I cannot remember an assigned novel that drew me in to the same extent as those I was able to pick out from the library independently. 

As classic literature becomes more involved in my undergraduate studies, and as I’ve learned to understand the timelessness and historical importance of said works, I’ve begun to revisit some titles that I had previously swept under the rug. I began with Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

To say the least- I am enamored. Bradbury’s style of writing, the passionate flare to which this work is accredited to, the symbolism- it is such a brilliant book. 

With this being said I don’t think 17-year-old me would enjoy this work as thoroughly and comprehensively as I do today, so in a way (sorry Ms. Borders), I am glad that I skimmed rather than became enveloped by this classic my junior year of high school. 

After I finished Fahrenheit 451, I went back through and began to mark some of my favorite quotes and passages. I began to reflect in the way I think the author of a timeless novel would want their readers to: reflectively, introspectively, progressively. To me, a theme that spoke most clear throughout this novel was starting over. I seem to have done a lot of that in recent times, and I presume a vast majority of individuals have as well. I intend to share these passages and what they mean to me within this article, but I beg you to take from it only what you need and what speaks to you most clearly. 

open books laid out Photo by Patrick Tomasso from Unsplash

  • “But that’s the wonderful thing about man; he never gets so discouraged or disgusted that he gives up doing it all over again, because he knows very well it is important and worth the doing.” 

Though the character who said this is somewhat obsolete from the ultimate timeline, his words were spoken to Guy Montag, the antagonist turned protagonist character of the novel. In his words of insight and inspiration to Montag I find a lot of comfort. The unpredictability of the world around us has shown itself in the brightest of colors within the past year, and the external strain of change and continuous tragedy can indefinitely affect the psyche of many. I often question what our world might look like in 50 years, and the thoughts that come without forbearing always sway to be more negatively framed. 

This quote is a gentle but eloquent reminder that the good of all kind still remains in the hands of those that pursue it. It reminds me that being an elemental part of the good is a sacrifice that far exceeds the guilt of standing stagnant beside the bad. It also reminds me of a certain equilibrium that always seems to be restored by the overall goodness of people in due time. With these words, I take the message that starting over to remold toxic ways of the past is always worth doing.

aesthetic library Photo by Polina Zimmerman from Pexels

  • “Look at the world out there, my God, my God, look at it out there, outside me, outside there beyond my face and the only way to really touch it is to put it where it’s finally me, where it’s in the blood, where it pumps around a thousand times ten thousand a day. I get hold of it so it’ll never run off. I’ll hold onto the world tight someday. I've got one finger on it now; that's a beginning.” 

I have little to say about this quote in a sense of context. It is such a raw and transparent passage that depicts this internal monologue of realization in our main character, Montag towards the end of the novel . This epiphany of this quotation reminds me of passion, and the flame that can be lit beneath all of us. The last sentence inspires the idea of- you’ve got to start somewhere. This surreal realization of the power within to simply begin- to just start- and to keep going, and the vastness of the world around us makes me feel vulnerable in particularly good ways.

pile of books Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

  • “He felt as if he had left a stage behind and many actors. He felt as if he had left the great seance and all the murmuring ghosts. He was moving from an unreality that was frightening into a reality that was unreal because it was new.”

This quote depicts such a resonant feeling of fear of the unknown, but also the fear of the unknown even when the unknown is said to be beneficial to you. We are all venturing into unrealties of our own as we enter new stages in our growth, and their ambiguity is always startling. Leaving behind bits and pieces of old parts of you to create a new normal can be intimidating, but it is imperative to be able to reflect and acknowledge certain mishaps and errors in our ways. This quote reflects both the beauty of turning over a new leaf parallel to the fear that comes with it.

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I know good and well that many won’t return to books they were supposed to read in their teens and actually that it’s probably pretty odd of me, but I hold this conviction to be true that classics are just that- classic. Their application is ever expanding and within them contains a million capacities waiting to be understood by every individual to read them. The strength and conviction of literature and the freedom and power to our unlimited access to that of, should not be neglected. We can learn a lot about ourselves, others, and the world around us by letting a little dust get on our fingers from touching the spines of books that have been left dormant on our shelves.