The hero of our story is a fireman named Montag. I do not use the gender neutral term fire fighter because a) this dystopian future still seems to have pretty clearly defined gender roles, and b) firemen do not fight fires, they start them. An alarm goes off at the station, and the firemen take their accelerants and lighters and go off to burn the books that were found. At home, Montag's wife Mildred spends her time watching TV shows that seem specialized to her life. Montag is pretty complacent about his job and his life, not knowing anything different, until he meets a smart and spirited teenager named Clarisse. She gets him thinking by asking him questions, like "are you happy?" When Montag gets his hands on some books, his world is turned upside down, and he seeks out Clarisse's professor grandfather to help him make sense of things. In case you, like me, have never read the book or seen the 1966 movie, I won't spoil the ending for you. But suffice it to say that Montag has an existential crisis as he searches for truth and meaning greater than the life he had been living.
|Bill Williamson as Montag
Despite being based on a book written in 1953, Fahrenheit 451 is surprisingly timely as it explores ideas of censorship, power, and the importance of the freedom to tell our stories. One thing that does seem dated is the idea that it's minorities who started the censorship, because they didn't like what was being said about them in some books. But minorities don't have that kind of power, only the establishment does, and they censor things that might threaten their power. Still, it'll give you something to think about, and also make you want to go home and read more books! (Continuing through January 31.)