Review of the Event :
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Presented by: Annika Maduraperuma
Review by: Sheena Shahani
If there is magic in numbers, then the annual calendar of The Book Club Pune got off to a magical start. It was the 86th online session of the Book Club in the Time of Corona (since March 2020), the first presentation on the first Sunday of the new year 2022, by its youngest presenter ever – a 14-year-old schoolgirl residing in New York, Annika Maduraperuma.
Annika took us through Bradbury’s dystopian novel with her indepth analysis, explanatory slides, lucid visualisations, thematic emphasis and incisive questions. Annika pointed out that Bradbury foreshadowed events that came only after its publication in 1953, such as the McCarthyism and communist witch-hunt of the 50s, the phenomenal growth of TV sets in the US from 1949 to 1969, and the Kennedy-Nixon debate of 1960, very impressive for someone who was born just before Obama became President.
The novel’s plot she summed up as follows:
Guy Montag, your man next door, is a fireman by profession in a futuristic US state. But the firemen of Fahrenheit 451 do the opposite of what you would expect to be their JD – instead of extinguishing fires and saving lives, they start conflagrations and burn books, entire homes and incinerate everything inside them, even humans.
This is a world in which the powers that be do not want their citizens to think, to speculate, to question, to have conflicting opinions.Therefore books have been outlawed, and people are encouraged to spy on and report their neighbours’ ‘wrongful’ activity. Books are destroyed and their possessors are jailed. Instead, the people are fed propaganda through “ interactive parlour walls” of television which they install at great expense in their homes. Suicide is the order of the day and emergency teams visit homes to pump out and cleanse the stomachs of people, such as Montag’s wife, who routinely overdose on sleeping pills.
Montag, believing himself satisfied in his job, would have probably carried on burning books forever, if not for a chance encounter with his next-door teen neighbour, Clarisse. She up-ends his existence by questioning everything happening around her and offers him a different window to the world around him. Montag starts to think, and he has a change of heart, and mind, when he finds out that the authorities have eliminated Clarisse in a staged auto accident, and after he witnesses the self-immolation of an old woman along with her library. This makes Montag “mentally sick”. He starts questioning his life’s work and what he has been doing to people.
Montag then teams up with an ex-professor of English who has gone underground, and becomes a rebel. Montag has privately amassed a small collection of stolen books in his home, and his wife tips off the fire station. Overnight, from someone who is upholding the law, Montag becomes a fugitive, America’s most-wanted man and the object of a massive, televised manhunt.
Meanwhile, war breaks out and and montag’s wife is a casualty. The war begins and ends almost in an instant. The city is reduced to powder. The book ends with hope, as Montag and a group of survivors decide to rebuild from the ashes.
Besides being an avid reader, Annika, an eight-grade student, is a debater, dramatist and doglover. She is the grand-daughter of The Book Club Pune’s co-founders Mohini and Satish Khot, and the daughter of Sonal Khot. All three generations of Khots have now given us excellent talks on books. Looking forward to many more from this illustrious family.