Please welcome my guest Emily McGee as she helps me continue my series on dystopian literature. Emily blogs about her traveling adventures over at One Trailing Spouse; take a peak at her informative, humorous stories and pictures. I recommend her posts on how she almost got robbed and her review of Kenyan instructions for using a toilet. Take it away Emily…
Fahrenheit 451 was much more accessible than most of the other books in our curriculum. Most of my students could read it independently. It’s also quite short, which motivated some of my more reluctant readers. But best of all, it had once been banned, which gave it the extra layer of intrigue to captivate my students’ interest.
In my mind, Fahrenheit 451 is such a joy to read because it’s the quintessential banned book. It’s a banned book about book banning (and book burning). My students loved the irony.
Fahrenheit 451 takes place in a dystopian world where people no longer read books, have meaningful relationships, or think independently. It’s immediately clear that no one is happy, but no one seems to realize how truly unhappy they are.
The book follows the story of Guy Montag. Guy is a fireman in a society where firemen don’t put out fires, they start them. Guy and his team burn books.
But after a chance meeting with a girl who doesn’t fit into this society, Guy starts to rethink his career, his marriage, and his life. He begins hoarding books and reading them. He starts to question the society he lives in.
Why It’s Still Relevant Today
Even though Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 in 1953, the book is still so relevant today. For example, my students were able to make connections about people’s dependence on technology, seen both in the book and today. I really enjoyed watching discussions where students were able to use the book as a lens to examine how much time they spent listening to an iPod or sitting in front of a screen. Students were even able to talk about the consequences, both good and bad, of all this technology use.
Students also enjoyed learning about why books are banned and seeing a list of banned and challenged books. Many of their favorite books from childhood were on the list, including The Harry Potter series, the Captain Underpants series, and the Gossip Girl series.
The book also helped my classes think more critically about power, control, and the government’s role in our lives. We had great discussions about why the government in Fahrenheit 451 wanted a complacent, non-reading society. We also talked about what values are at stake when individuals and societies are in conflict.
Who Should Read It
Fahrenheit 451 is a great book for discussion. I recommend it for book clubs, classrooms, or to read and discuss with your child/teen. It’s rich with symbolism and I think almost everyone would get more from the book by talking about it with others. If you’re new to banned books, it’s accessible to read, and in my opinion, not at all scandalous or offensive. It’s also easy to find at used book stores and online.
Emily has lived in Africa, the South Pacific, and three states in four years. She pays the bills by writing for various educational companies, but she’s happiest when writing fiction. Emily and her husband live life on the go, and they just got back to the U.S. after spending five months in Nairobi, Kenya. Emily writes about travel and life as a trailing spouse at One Trailing Spouse.