Book Banning Madness feat. Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451”
Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” George Orwell’s “1984,” Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple” and Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451”. What do all of these books have in common? At one point or another, they, along with so many other classic works of literature, were banned and challenged. Let’s talk about the madness of banning books.
Throughout history, the most effective way of avoiding uncomfortable topics and conversations has been to suppress information, particularly sensitive information. We see this trend in propaganda campaigns and the manipulation news sources, but have you ever stopped to think how the books you read can sway your way of thinking? Furthermore, think about your first instinct after reading a REALLY good book: you more than likely want to immediately share it with your friends and probably seek out someone that has also read it. As humans, who are prone to the urge to share and gather information, we instinctively want to discuss and converse about the topic in question. But sometimes, larger and more powerful forces might want to censor these discussions.
Take “Fahrenheit 451,” which your beloved Page Turners read in February, for example. Writing in 1953, Ray Bradbury was largely inspired by the political and social climate following World War II, when nationalism was particularly huge in the United States. Set in roughly 2049, the story follows “Guy Montag[,]… a fireman. His job is to destroy the most illegal of commodities, the printed book, along with the houses in which they are hidden. Montag never questions the destruction and ruin his actions produce, returning each day to his bland life and wife, Mildred, who spends all day with her television “family.” But when he meets an eccentric young neighbor, Clarisse, who introduces him to a past where people didn’t live in fear and to a present where one sees the world through the ideas in books instead of the mindless chatter of television, Montag begins to question everything he has ever known” (Goodreads).
Bradbury wrote his novel in criticism of the world’s reliance on technology, specifically the growing influence of television, and the Era of McCarthyism, a term that refers to the practices of US Senator Joseph McCarthy, who was known for his allegations of subversion and treason, especially in relation to communism and socialism.
This novel, which examines the censorship of American citizens’ news intake as the government sanctions the burning of all books and thus, any information that was not edited to fit the government’s narrative, has been banned, altered and censored over the years. Let us all take a moment to observe the sheer madness of this irony… Moving on, while Bradbury imagined his novel to remain one set in a dystopian climate, elements of “Fahrenheit 451” have partially become reality as certain leaders have sought to censor some forms of journalism to better suit their agenda. Interestingly, just as characters in the novel genuinely feel happier and safer in the comfort of the fictional world that the government created, groups of individuals in the 21st century also chose to ignore reason and factual evidence in favor of brief happiness while they remain aloof from harsh reality.
Among other issues that this fantasy creates, one that Bradbury also illustrates is the subtle danger of blindly following and believing in false information. “Fahrenheit 451” draws attention to people’s fear of truth and the lengths that they will go to in hopes of escaping actuality. This discomfort with reality is again materialized as book after book has been banned for one reason or another, but ultimately because they drew attention to topics that large groups of generally misguided people found troubling. Most recently, a school in Texas moved to ban “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You” by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi from the middle school’s reading list (NBC News). Books have long been considered a work of artistic creativity and stimulating sources of critical thinking since their creation. So, instead of stifling and depriving generations of classic and satirical literature, let us see the value of providing free expression and giving society the ability to think freely and without censorship.