We're reading Fahrenheit 451 in my junior English class, (side note: it's taken me like 5 years to finally spell Fahrenheit right without a squiggly misspelled indicator under it. Same thing with onomatopoeia) and as I started reading it, learning about how the government has firemen to burn books, I wondered how the devil the government decided it would be a good idea to burn literature. What happened to America that it's problems resulted in the incineration of literature. So, naturally, I had my students discuss and write on it.
I wrote about it too. Here's what I came up with during the Scribble:
Any government with plans to keep their people in line could come to the conclusion of burning books. Controlling which histories are made public and stifling literature that expresses free thought are not new concepts. It's been done for years. Fascists. Nazis. Communist Russia, and for goodness sake the whole Israeli/ Palestinian conflict is the he said-she said argument. So the idea of this happening doesn't surprise me. But I am shocked that it happened in America (Bradbury's fictional dystopian America, that is.)
Would Americans fall for that garbage? That book burning is acceptable and the best solution to a national problem? Would they reject literature and history because some ruler suggested it?! I don't think so.
However, I'm thinking what would really happen is Americans would be lured into giving up higher-level thinking in exchange for the brain-fodder that is reality TV or other mindless sources of entertainment. It's like that old frog story. You can't cook a frog by throwing it into a pot of boiling water, b/c it will jump out. But if you put it in tepid water and start boiling it, the frog will stay there and boil to death before realizing what happened. This is how it would happen in the US.
So how would this evil government do it? They start with the kids.
Convincing the children or new generations that burning books is a worthwhile undertaking would be easy if the government started brainwashing the kids at an early age. Infancy perhaps. They would simply need to endoctrinate them with the billboards of persuasive (pathos-based) arguments. I can picture a PSA that showed students reading books and some minor-chord angry guitar playing as a soundtrack. Then later those "free-thinking" rebel readers are seen kicking an old woman on dialysis. They'd have to go for the heart, and leave out the logic with ads like that. Down with books!, they'd chant. And somehow link reading to cancer and the hunger problems in America.
If you've never read Fahrenheit 451, I highly recommend it. Also, for the younger audience, try Ally Condie's Matched. It explores a similar concept in a similar world.
In Matched, Cassia lives in a world where everything is decided for her because of statistical probabilities researched by the Society. The Society chooses what clothes she wears, which foods are in her diet, and how much she eats, what recreational activities she may participate in, and even who she marries. But when a strange mix up occurs on the day of her Matching, Cassia begins to wonder if maybe the Society got some predictions wrong. It's brilliantly plotted and fast fun twist on a world like Bradbury's in Fahrenheit 451. I give it 4 stars.
|Ally Condie just before signing a copy of Matched|
Plus, her sequel Crossed is now available too.