Tles LMA Literature


LMA LELE Session 1 Wednesday, September 10th.

Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury

You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”

  • React! How important are books for you?

Extract from TheBigRead

Josephine Reed: Welcome to The Big Read, a program created by the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

The largest reading program in American history, The Big Read is designed to unite communities through great literature, and encourage Americans to discover the transformative joys of reading. As fans of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 know, it just takes a spark.

Hector Elizondo reads Fahrenheit 451...

IT WAS A PLEASURE TO BURN.

“It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed. With the brass nozzle in his fists, with this great python spitting its venomous kerosene upon the world, the blood pounded in his head, and his hands were the hands of some amazing conductor playing all the symphonies of blazing and burning to bring down the tatters and charcoal ruins of history. With his symbolic helmet numbered 451 on his stolid head, and his eyes all orange flame with the thought of what came next, he flicked the igniter and the house jumped up in a gorging fire that burned the evening sky red and yellow and black. He strolled in a swarm of fireflies. He wanted above all, like the old joke, to shove a marshmallow on a stick in the furnace, while the flapping pigeon-winged books died on the porch and lawn of the house. While the books went up in sparkling whirls and blew away on a wind turned dark with burning.”

  • The novel begins: “It was a pleasure to burn.” Why does Bradbury start the novel in this way? Why might it be more pleasurable to burn books rather than read them?
  • What does this great python refer to? In which symbolic story can we find a snake? Why do you think Bradbury chose this image?
  • Who feels like some amazing conductor ? What is the image? How do you feel about this character? What other reference in the text suggests that he doesn’t care about books? Why do you think Bradbury chose to describe him like this in the incipit of his novel?
  • What is referred to as ‘ruins of history’? Why?
  • a gorging fire that burned the evening sky red and yellow and black.’ What do you think ‘Fahrenheit 451’ refers to?
  • Can the sky burn? What is Bradbury describing here? What is the effect?

  • ‘the flapping pigeon-winged books died’ : what are books compared to? Why? What other metaphor is there? Whose point of view is it?

Watch the video extract:

– How is Montag portrayed? Is he different from the book?

– Imagine he changes his mind and tries to stop his boss. Write the dialogue.

The man is burning books with a flame thrower that is compared to a ‘great python’. We are witnessing the burning of knowledge and the biblical metaphor indicates that this is a symbolic scene. The flames and snake refer to the downfall of mankind. the atmosphere is hellish and the hero seems to be intransed and extatic from the intense fire he delights in.

This book opening is quite shocking as we feel like we are reading something bound to disappear, or even something forbidden. The book as an object becomes precious and illicit.

This passage is full of metaphors. The hero is identified with a music conductor and he feels like eating marshmallows so he appears cruel and indifferent, self-oriented and powerful.

In the end the sky is burning and books are endowed with human life, they are personnified. The burning sky is a hyperbolic image setting the scene for ominous disaster or chaos, as if the sun was setting on humanity.

Contrary to this scene in the film adaptation Montag, the hero, starts by burning the symbols of a comfortable way of life ( TV and bed), he gets told off by his boss who is convinced books are useless. But we can sense his hesitation and dual personality. Maybe he’ll change his mind and ignore the orders later in the story.

We are clearly reading a dystopian story where a totalitarian regime rules the society and book are burnt as a clear reminder of World War II autodafés.

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