". . . little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,

I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver . . ."

(William Shakespeare's Othello, I.iii.88-90)

Monday, May 28, 2007

Fahrenheit 451

Somehow, notwithstanding a Master's degree in English, I never got around to reading this book. (Hey, what can I say--it was never assigned!) I thought it was high time so I have been doing so over the last few days while Trevor plays chess. As a former public school teacher who has lost faith in institutional education and who teaches my children at home, I was particularly struck by the following passage. In it, the main character (a man named Montag whose job it is to burn books) is speaking with a young woman named Clarisse, whom he has recently met. She is an unusually free spirit in the controlled and censored society of the novel, and Montag's encounter with her is the catalyst which starts him questioning that society (and his occupation). He notes that she is not in school, as most people her age would be, and she responds as follows:

"Oh, they don't miss me. . . . I'm antisocial, they say. . . . But I don't think it's social to get a bunch of people together and then not let them talk, do you? An hour of TV class, an hour of basketball or baseball or running, another hour of transcription history or painting pictures and more sports, but do you know, we never ask questions, or at least most don't; they just run the answers at you, bing, bing, bing, and us sitting there for four more hours of film teacher. That's not social to me at all. It's a lot of funnels and a lot of water poured down the spout and out the bottom, and them telling us it's wine when it's not. They run us so ragged by the end of the day we can't do anything but go to bed or head for a Fun Park to bully people around, break windowpanes in the Window Smasher place or wreck cars in the Car Wrecker place. . . . I'm afraid of children my own age. They kill each other. . . . But there was a long time ago when they had things different. They believed in responsibility, my uncle says. Do you know, I'm responsible. I was spanked when I needed it, years ago. And I do all the shopping and housecleaning by hand."

Children killing children. Talk about prophetic.


elephantschild said...

Wow, between Fahrenheit 451 and Dalrymple, you're having rather a dark start to the summer, aren't you? Like I should talk - I just started Solzhenitsyn's Warning to the West.

I've always loved Bradbury. I may have to go back and re-read that one!

Jane said...

I didn't read Fahrenheit 451 until last sumer and there were several instances where just what you were talking about struck me.

Presbytera said...

I've never read the book -- perhaps I should add it to my growing list of things to accomplish this summer.

Is there a reason the character is named Monday (Montag)?

Cheryl said...

Great question! Since I'm still reading, I can't say for sure. But I will be looking for some deeper meaning and I will let you know!