Civic Imagination

Guy Montag from Ray Bradbury's novel "Fahrenheit 451"

In a dystopian future, books (and reading them) are outlawed and it is the job of new firemen to find and burn any ones remaining. The purpose of this law is to prevent citizens from learning different ideas and potentially challenging the government. Guy Montag, the protagonist of the story, is a fireman in charge of burning the possessions of those who read outlawed books and have since been arrested for doing so. He meets a free-thinking and imaginative girl named Clarisse who challenges him to reconsider his life. As the story continues and Guy questions the law, he reveals that he has been hiding and reading certain books instead of burning them. The story ends after a dramatic police chase and a nuclear war on the city. Guy has escaped with his fellow book-readers who plan to memorize the books and rewrite them for the new civilization they must build. Granger, a woman with whom Guy has escaped with, describes the human race as a phoenix, constantly being destroyed but inevitably rising from the ashes.

Reading the story has inspired me to have original thoughts and to question the box that I have been put in for the sake of living an imaginative life.

Fahrenheit 451 was a recommended summer reading book at my high school a fews years back, and since my family already owned the book, I decided to give it a read. The Hunger Games franchise had just come out with it's second movie, and the theme of a dystopian future became an interesting point of conversation in books and movies. This book, however, was written over 60 years ago in 1953 by Ray Bradbury. Reading always seems harder when it's for work instead of pleasure, but after getting past the first few chapters, I found myself entirely invested in the character of Guy Montag. He evolves from a rule-follower to a rebel, eager to find meaning in a society where it is practically a crime to have a free thought. I discussed the novel extensively with my teacher, and we were able to draw allusions to historic book burnings during certain revolutions. This story continues to resonate with me because as a writer, I feel as though I have an obligation as an active member of society to share my unique story and experience; However, it is a balancing act between my desire to be a journalist and an unbiased mediator of the news. Just like Guy, I want to do my job and be an aid to my fellow citizens, but I do not want to be a cog. Despite the seemingly dichotomous situation, I believe that I can be a successful writer and share my view of the world, while also allowing others to facilitate their own beliefs from unbiased information and transparency in the media. I highly recommend this award-winning book, not only to young writers, but to people who strive to question what has been put in front of them. 

Ironically, certain organizations and schools have banned or censored parts of the novel due to obscenities and intense themes. The controversy of banning the book has only inspired more people to read and learn from it.

fiction, novel, Ray Bradbury, dystopian society, writer, literature, journalism

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