Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Burning the Dust Jacket

"We're nothing more than dust jackets for books, of no significance otherwise"

As Wikipedia puts it, "Fahrenheit 451 is a dystopian speculative fiction novel authored by Ray Bradbury and first published in 1953.
The novel presents a future American society in which the masses are hedonistic, and critical thought through reading is outlawed."

Guy Montag is a fireman--one who starts fires. Actually, that's the role of all firemen ever since houses became fireproof. So, what do they burn? The source of free thought, that which births sadness, depression, anger, rage, and ultimately war. They burn books.
TV rooms now contain a full four wall panorama of full-sized screens. People constantly have earbuds, or "seashells" in their ears, and because of this are fed a never ending tidalwave of of the government-controlled media's perspective. They connect with their "family" via the TV's and because of this have little interaction with people face to face. Their world has turned into one of control and stability, and because of this, a facade of laughter, fun, and a care-free lifestyle.
This is the setting of Fahrenheit 451, a book that critically plunges into the depths of a changing society bent on satisfying their need for hapiness.

When I started reading this book, I really wasn't sure what to think. A friend gave me this 165 page paperback novel, and with it a note saying this was his favorite book, and that he had deemed me worthy of reading it. Because I have a great deal of respect for this friend, I decided to push through its thin pages no matter the cost, and no matter how hard it may be. Long story short, it took me about half of the book to get into it. That being said, once I got it, I GOT it. I simply couldn't put it down! The pages flipped effortlesly as I wrestled with the concepts presented.

It was like wrestling with giants.

The book's main concept is easily understood and easily presented as a simple math equation:

Society - critical thinking + total media = mindless, thoughtless, numb creatures.

This, although intriguing in and of itself, is but one of the concepts introduced. The concept that really pulled at me- really got my gears turning, is that of being a dust jacket.
There come a point in the book where Guy is running from the government and happens upon a band of would-be-scholars who now live as hobos due to the current situation. Up to this point Guy has been dealing with books that have been burned and how their contents will never, ever be recovered. The cast-off scholars, however, introduce the concept to Guy that the book itself is of little importance. Rather, it's the ideas, concepts, and emotions inside these books that make the difference. These hobos hold onto the belief that if you read something once, it's inside your head.
"All of us have photographic memories, but spend a lifetime learning how to block off the things that are really there."

I believe this same concept can be applied to my relationship with Jesus. Once I get to know Him, there's no getting rid of that. I've asked him to become a part of me, I've asked him to make my heart his throne room. The amazing part about this phenomonon is that when this happens, I merely become a dust cover for Jesus. My attitude, appearance, speech, manerisms- these are all the first things anyone sees. Within this dusty shell, however, lies that which really matters. To extend the metaphor, the more you destroy the dustcover, the more the contents are revealed.
I'm not sure this metaphor is complete or 100% there, but the concept makes sense to me.

Fahrenheit 451 is a book I know I'll read many times through my life. Intriguing, thought provoking, and beautifully crafted, this book pulls no punches in the issues it deals with. If you like censorship, you'll hate this book.

What about you? What are your thoughts?


-- Posted from my iPhone --


  1. Holy cow, nicely said! I don't know how I actually found your blog - possibly through my bro-in-law who works at West Point. Anyway, great thoughts about an amazing book - and I like how you related it to your relationship with Christ, that's seriously profound. I really like reading books that deal with...books :)

  2. Which edition do you have? The even more scary 50th anniversary edition has an interview at the back of the book about how some schools and libraries want to edit 451 to make it less offensive.

    But taking the analogy further many people wan to edit Christianity or even Jesus himself to make him less offensive; put him into an intellectual box or just label him as a 'good teacher'. I think everyone is guilty of that... even me.