The Real Academia Española defines dystopia as the fictional representation of a future society with negative characteristics that cause human alienation. This term is the opposite of utopia. The latter refers to the projection of an idyllic society whose main features are justice, equality and peace, among others. Literature, as almost always, has echoed these dystopias to show totalitarian societies, governed by fear and subjected to the annulment of the will and free thought of its members. Perhaps the best-known dystopian novels are Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, George Orwell’s 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 the novel written by Ray Bradbury and published in 1953, which we will discuss in this article.
Novel, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
451 degrees fahrenheit is what paper needs to ignite and burn. Fire, and rather the use that is made of it, is the indisputable protagonist of this novel. Ray Bradbury transports us to a bleak and discouraging future in which books have completely disappeared from society. Indeed, reading is forbidden. Firemen are no longer in charge of putting out fires, but of starting them.
Guy Montage belongs to a strange brigade of firemen whose main task is to burn books. Because in the society in which the protagonist lives, reading is forbidden. It is forbidden to think. Burning books is a social task that the firemen carry out because reading can fill us with bad thoughts that can generate anguish and suffering. And in the world in which Montage lives, it is obligatory to be happy. In this way, by encouraging ignorance, the leaders who govern can better control what the population should and should not learn.
Fahrenheit 451 is a novel of easy, direct and blunt prose but with a terrifying message. History, unfortunately, has left us with some examples of “book burnings”, usually promoted by political or religious authorities. It is not, therefore, such an impossible fiction. Precisely therein lies the terror, in the possibility. Is the society that the author shows us so different from our own? Bradbury invites us to reflect and describes in Fahrenheit 451 a civilisation enslaved by the media, tranquillising drugs and conformism. The most absolute conformism: not thinking or questioning anything. The most stupid happiness.
Fahrenheit 451 is an excellent social critique and eulogy to memory. It shows us a society in which great technological advances have made the population stupid and insubstantial and, therefore, more easily manipulated by the ruling elites. Particularly recommended for all minds concerned and worried about the ever-increasing technology and information to which human beings are exposed.
Farenheit 451: A World Without Literature
It is impossible to think of a society in which books do not exist. And, more than that, a society in which reading is forbidden. What would such a society be like? Books are the guardians of our knowledge. Ray Bradbury plunges us into a world of totalitarianism and gives us a wonderful message about the importance of reading and the power of censorship. A life without reading would be a life in which the faculties that make us purely human would disappear. Everything agreed, signed, written in words, would disappear and we would be faced with an alienated, uncritical and utterly opaque society. A dehumanised society that would turn human beings into individualists, apathetic and with a devalued vision of life.
Literature allows for the promotion of intellect and knowledge. It allows society to be more cultured, less manipulable and capable of remembering the past so as not to repeat all the mistakes already made. Reading enables the advancement of research and social development. And, most importantly, reading favours transparency, information that endows human beings with the ability to think and develop critical thinking. In other words, reading enables society to move forward. There can be no future without literature.
The author Ray Bradbury
RayBradbury (1920-2012). His first published story, The Hollerbochen Dilemma, appeared in a magazine for amateur writers in 1938. Due to financial problems he had to study as a self-taught writer, and in 1943 he became a professional writer. His works include Martian Chronicles (1950), The Golden Apples of the Sun (1953), Fahrenheit 451 (1953) and The Wine of Summer ( 1957). He also wrote essays, poetry and screenplays. Bradbury was one of the great American masters of science and fantasy fiction.
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