What is Fahrenheit 451 about
Ray Bradbury's science fiction novel "Fahrenheit 451" was published in 1953. Its title refers to the inflammation temperature of paper. According to Bradbury's assumption at the time, it was 451 degrees Fahrenheit. This corresponds to 232 degrees Celsius. The dystopian work depicts a state in which the possession of books is forbidden and is brutally punished. The protagonist is the fireman Guy Montag. At first he burned books on behalf of the state, later he developed into a book lover. The events are set in the USA, in an unspecified future.
The domestic stove and the salamander
Guy Monday routinely does his job at the fire department. His employer's logo is a red salamander. The fire engines are therefore also called "salamanders". Montag burns books on his missions and feels deeply satisfied. One evening he met his young neighbor on the way home Clarisse McLellan know. He is touched by her undisguised, lively nature and her unusual thoughts.
Montag finds his wife at home Mildred passed unconscious. She overdosed on sleeping pills. The emergency services called up pumps her stomach out. After waking up, Mildred doesn't remember anything. She immediately turns back to her favorite pastime: on floor-to-ceiling screens, she follows contentless family series. In a kind of interactive program game, she also takes on a role herself.
In the course of the next few days, Monday runs into Clarisse again and again. The seventeen year old is interested in books. He learns that she and her family share thoughts at meals together. There is no such thing in everyday life on Mondays. For the first time in a long time, someone is interested in him. Clarisse asks him questions about his job that worry him. He begins to think about the meaning of what he is doing.
His changed posture does not go unnoticed at the fire station. Monday supervisor Captain Beatty becomes suspicious when Montag shows fear of the "mechanical dog", a surveillance and killing robot. From now on, Beatty will be watching Monday closely. During one of the missions, an old woman's library is burned. Monday does not succeed in stopping the desperate woman from suicide. The experience shakes him deeply.
The more Monday he talks to Clarisse, the more he wants a real, lively relationship with Mildred. But all attempts to approach his wife in new ways fail. One evening Mildred casually tells him that Clarisse was killed in an accident. Monday falls ill and is visited by Captain Beatty at home. In a long conversation, his supervisor explains to him how books have gradually become superfluous for society since the 20th century. He wants to convince him of the point of the book burnings. But Monday is irrevocably changed. After Beatty's farewell, he takes some books out of hiding.
The sieve and the sand
Montag leafed through his secretly hoarded books with Mildred. The "mechanical dog" scratches her front door, but disappears again. Mildred wants to discourage Monday from illegal reading, but he is fascinated by the texts. He visits the former literature professor Faber. Faber leads a withdrawn life apart from social recognition. On the way to see him, Montag remembers a scene from his childhood: he wanted to fill a sieve with sand. The futility of what he was doing had once made him cry.
Monday reveals to the professor that he wants to get out of the fire department. He needs his support for this. The men are talking about a government-led war of aggression. After initial mistrust, Faber worked with Montag to develop a kind of guerrilla strategy in which the chaos of the war should be of use to them. Monday will smuggle books into the houses of firefighters, then denounce the men and have their houses set on fire. Faber wants to monitor the action from his apartment. A tiny transmitter he developed himself is supposed to transmit his instructions to Monday's ear.
When Mildred comes home on Monday, friends are visiting Mildred. The women pass the time with cocktails and TV series. At first, Monday participates in the usual small talk, but then he provokes Mildred's guests with questions about the war. Despite Faber's warnings, he becomes more and more careless and finally blows up the evening. He reads Matthew Arnold's poem Dover Beach. One of the women is crying. The guests get angry and leave.
Back at the fire station, on Monday Faber's voice in his ear admonishes caution. His conversation with Beatty is seemingly harmless. The supervisor greets Monday after surviving illness like a prodigal son who has found his way back on the right path. He surprisingly proves to be a literary connoisseur of immense knowledge. Suddenly the siren sounds and the men leave for the next mission. On the drive, Montag realizes that they are on their way to his own house.
In 1966, a good ten years after the novel was published, "Fahrenheit 451" was made into a film for the first time. It was directed by François Truffaut. Oskar Werner took over the role of Monday, Clarisse was played by Julie Christie.
Just like the 2018 remake by director Ramin Bahrani, the 1966 movie already deviated from the plot of the novel. Only the initial situation is identical: a firefighter who burns books in a surveillance state gets into conflict. In Bahrani's version, Michael B. Jordan plays the lead role of Guy Montag; Michael Shannon can be seen as Captain Beatty.
The bright fire
The fire engines stop in front of Monday's house, from which Mildred runs out with packed suitcases. Montag realizes that she betrayed him. She gets into a taxi and drives away. Captain Beatty tries to force Montag to set fire to his own house. He puts the flamethrower in his hand. However, Montag points the device at Beatty and kills him. The other firefighters are also overwhelmed by Monday. The mechanical dog attacks him with a hypodermic needle. But it only injures his leg and then burns up. Monday flees. Helicopters are circling overhead; all over the country wanted for him. The chase is shown live on television.
Monday breaks into a firefighter's house and deposits books there. He keeps walking and a little later hears sirens wailing. Fire trucks make their way to the house. Meanwhile, Montag is hiding in Faber's apartment. The professor gives him a route for the further escape route, along disused railway tracks.
After a dangerous hunt, Montag can finally shake off his pursuers and reach the tracks. He knows that an innocent victim will die on his behalf. The state has to present a result to the television viewers. Nevertheless, he becomes calmer. As he follows the tracks, he realizes that Clarisse must also have walked this path once.
He meets a group of men warming themselves by a campfire. They are like-minded people who lead a hidden life away from society. You have memorized entire books and keep them in your mind. While Montag speaks to them, bombs are dropped on the nearby city. A huge detonation shakes the landscape. The men survive the devastating attack. When Montag gets up and starts moving again, the others join him without a word.
Along with George Orwell's “1984” and Aldous Huxley's “Brave New World”, “Fahrenheit 451” is one of the great classics of the dystopian novel of the 20th century. Some of his statements about the development of mass media, leisure and consumer behavior have an almost prophetic effect. A large newspaper death is predicted as well as the penetration of advertising into almost every area of life.
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