Bradbury’s novel was first published in 1953, but its themes are prescient and resonate even more in today’s society. Director Ramin Bahrani had always been a fan of the prophetic novel, but said that “two years ago, as I looked at the world around me, it seemed like the ideal time to do a modern interpretation.”
Indeed, dystopian novels and movies are so powerful and important in society because they demonstrate the potential future we are heading towards if we do not curtail certain harmful behaviors and beliefs. Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is another example that examines the importance of equal rights for a healthy society, and whose message is even more applicable now than when it was first published in 1985.
In Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, the role of firemen has been reversed: they now start fires with the purpose of burning books, the possession of which is illegal. This widespread censorship began when the objections of special interest groups to things published in books that offended them became more important than free speech. Books were also banned in the name of “equality”, so that no one would possess more knowledge or information than someone else. While respectful and inoffensive prose and equality are valuable goals, Bradbury shows that total and mindless adherence to these goals can have drastically negative effects. In fact, many of the books considered great literary classics today were originally banned when they were first published because they were considered offensive. This is important to remember in a time where being offended is often equated to being right.
In Bradbury’s futuristic world, books and inner contemplation have been replaced with obnoxious superficiality; endless TV and radio entertainment, fast cars, loud music, and all-encompassing advertisements create a environment with constant stimulation where no one can concentrate, connect deeply with others, or get lost in nature. However, the protagonist Guy Montag, a fireman, becomes disillusioned with his job and curious about what these charred books might have to offer. This leads him on precarious journey in search of truth, wisdom, and independent thought.
The Fahrenheit 451 film adaptation will be released on May 20th via HBO, and stars Michael B. Jordan and Michael Shannon. The novel is available at Coles bookstore in the Cornwall Square and the Cornwall Public Library.