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Why Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is the perfect book for Independence Day
With the Fourth of July just around the corner, you may find yourself looking for a good patriotic read for the holiday. As offbeat as my suggestion may seem, I would recommend one of the most pro-American novels of the twentieth century. Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.
The terms “freedom” and “independence” are at the very core of our American identity. Our founding document is the Declaration of Independence, and every July 4, we commemorate the anniversary of its signing: Independence Day.
Yet while celebrating these tenets, it is important that we not take our freedom and independence for granted—namely, the freedom of speech, expression and press. Science fiction authors like Bradbury, through the speculative nature of the genre, often give their readers a deeper understanding of what these words actually mean, and Fahrenheit 451 is no exception.
The novel’s name cleverly refers to the temperature at which paper burns, and in true science fiction fashion, the story is set in a futuristic world where the reading of books is forbidden by an oppressive government. Advances in fireproof technology have rendered the role of firemen as we know them in our world useless. Instead, fire departments have a new mission to set these outlawed texts ablaze.
To my point, by creating a world that lacks the liberties we enjoy in the present day, Bradbury’s novel calls us to respect and safely guard those freedoms—the freedom to have an opinion, to speak your opinion, and to question or object to someone else’s. While those who inhabit this fictional world appear content on the surface, a closer glance reveals just how robotic and cold humanity would surely become if we were to lose our freedom to read, to think and to scrutinize.
Indeed, Bradbury’s imagined community of non-readers serves as a warning to his audience. He cautions us of the over reliance on our personal comfort zones: those external elements in society that are most comfortable and familiar to us, yet fail to provide us with the same internal fulfillment we get from not only reading, but also thinking about what we read, questioning it and applying it to our own day-to-day lives. In addition to recognizing the value in these rights as spelled out by the first amendment of our constitution, it is crucial that we actively exercise and defend them regularly—for others as well as ourselves.
All hope is not lost for the people of Bradbury’s fictional world. As a page here and there is smuggled and leaked throughout the plot, the reader will easily feel the energy and power those newly enlightened citizens receive from the gift of reading. Luckily, this gift is one we can share with Montag and Faber—a gift I hope this column inspires you to unwrap this Independence Day.
(Graham Duncan is a graduate of Clinton High and Lander University. He works as a staff writer at Lander, and is pursuing a master’s at Converse College. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)