“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.