Thursday, September 30, 2010

Three Words Can Change the World: A Banned-Book Review

“It was a pleasure to burn.”

Although Guy Montag, the main character of
Fahrenheit 451, comes to loathe burning, I can tell you that this book, one of the first banned books I ever read, is truly a pleasure to read. In picking it up to review for... well, this review, I was struck by the beauty in the writing, in the power of the connections between characters. Since there are numerous reviews of this classic book out there, I thought I’d tell you about my connections to this book, to the clarity of purpose I found when, as a much younger person, I first met Clarisse McClellan.

“Her face was slender and milk-white, and in it was a kind of gentle hunger that touched over everything with tireless curiosity.”


Guy Montag, a fireman in the somewhat distant future, whose purpose is to burn outlawed books, has never before met someone like Clarisse, someone who talks and thinks, who questions, who truly lives every moment rather than hiding behind meaningless distractions. He is in awe of her strangeness and moved by her, but never so truly as when she dares to ask him, “Are you happy?”


Three small words that change Montag’s future in both wonderful and horrible ways, for what could be worse than seeing the hollowness in a broken reality? And yet, without seeing the broken, how could Montag wake up, how could any of us wake up?


The power in this banned book is so clear, when looking around at our world, at the ways we don’t prioritize with any good sense. The ways we allow toys and distractions to keep us from conversations and awareness. If people were to answer honestly the question, “Are you happy?” I’d bet they’d answer, “I am busy.” Three small words that prove a lifetime of running from place to place, missing so much while the sand pools beneath the glass.


Do you breathe? Do you rest? Do you see? Do you smile? Do you read? Are you awake? Are you alive? Do you regret? Are you honest? Do you wonder? Will you try?


Are
you happy?

Clarisse is the catalyst for great change, for characters and the humans who love them. Read
Fahrenheit 451, the banned book that changed my life. Maybe it can change yours, too.

Be sure to check out the other blogs reviewing banned books. The master list is at Tehereh Mafi's blog. :)

Quote for the Day from
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

“What do you do, go around trying everything once?” he asked.


“Sometimes twice.”

7 comments:

Liza said...

Ahh. A classic I haven't read since high school. I guess I better add it to the "To be Re-read" list.

Bish Denham said...

I love Ray Bradbury's poetic style of writing. And F 451 is just sooooooo good! It's hard to imagine banning a book that is about burning/banning books.

Kasie West said...

I haven't read this one yet, but you sure made me want to. Great post.

Caroline Starr Rose said...

I absolutely love this book and re-read it a few years ago when my town picked it for its Big Read. Still held all its power.

What struck me this time around is the determination of those who memorized books. The written word can never be destroyed.

Theresa Milstein said...

Today, I wrote a post through Tahereh's blog too.

How ironic a book about banning books got banned.

Melissa said...

I loved this book!

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

Beautiful review, Julie! Very lyrical in itself. It's amazing the power that just a few words can have.