As some of you know, this week has been dubbed as Banned Books Week. During this time bloggers and other social media presences have given appreciation to books that challenge the conventions of storytelling. Curiously enough, just before Banned Book Week had began I sank my teeth into Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.
I bring Fahrenheit 451 to your attention as I believe it ties in closely to the spirit of Banned Book Week. Within his novel we follow closely in the footsteps of Guy Montag, the protagonist of the novel. His occopuation of choice is a fireman, but not the conventional extinguisher of fires as you might imagine. His job is much more sinister. In the dystopian world he lives in, books are completely outlawed, and his job as a fireman is to not only find any books that may be lurking around in his world, but to burn them.
I feel like one of the turning points of the novel, however, is when he meets Clarisse McClellan. A young girl of 17, she is constantly observing, and asking questions to how things work, and why. Much to the dislike of her teachers and peers, but an interest to Guy as she holds such an astute focus to the world around her and the aesthetic pleasure, rather than having a stiff, utilitarian approach and seeing how the world around her would benefit from her simply being subservient to society.
One of the things I particularly enjoyed about Fahrenheit 451 was the subversion of conflict between the protagonist, and the “unjust” society that towers above Montag and his quest for understanding. Rather than attempting to tear down the system, Montag simply strives to understand and survive. This is exemplified when he is forced to flee from his own city, an outlaw and isolated. Only when he meets like-minded outcasts who have protected the sanctity of books by memorising them does Montag find his place in the world.
I believe that Fahrenheit 451 wholeheartedly fits into the theme of Banned Book Week, purely because it deals with the idea of censorship and explores the concept of personal freedom to understand and learn from any form of knowledge available. It was a very good read, after I got over the initial shock of imagining a world where books were completely outlawed.
What books have you read that would bring more attention to challenging and banned books? Let me know!