Internationally acclaimed with more than 5 million copies in print, Fahrenheit 451 is Ray Bradbury’s classic novel of censorship and defiance, as resonant today as it was when it was first published nearly 50 years ago.
Guy Montag was a fireman whose job it was to start fires…
The system was simple. Everyone understood it. Books were for burning … along with the houses in which they were hidden.
Guy Montag enjoyed his job. He had been a fireman for ten years, and he had never questioned the pleasure of the midnight runs nor the joy of watching pages consumed by flames… never questioned anything until he met a seventeen-year-old girl who told him of a past when people were not afraid.
Then he met a professor who told him of a future in which people could think… and Guy Montag suddenly realized what he had to do!
So obviously Mr. Bradbury was having a bit of a brain freeze when deciding the name of his major character, so he went for the cop-out: Guy. Since this is “Internationally Acclaimed”, I’m going to assume he gave the rest of his characters better names.
Guy had a complicated childhood. He came from a broken home, and after spending most of his life with no father figure to speak of he quickly started hanging out with the wrong crowd and soon found himself serving under mob boss Ale Capmone.
In Guy’s city of Metropolis, the mob didn’t get its income from the usual drugs and booze. Instead they traded information and ideas (the intro has to be something discussion worthy to sell 5 million copies), making anything that held them a liability. At first newspapers across the nation were forcibly closed, then they turned to books. The libraries had been burnt down years before, and the citizen’s private collections were methodically being destroyed as well. In the beginning, people could simply turn over their books but as the more rabid literary enthusiasts had refused to surrender their treasures, the mob had resorted to new measures: burning the whole house to ensure every book was destroyed.
By now the mob had completely taken over the governing of Metropolis, so the local departments decided that it was best to do whatever they asked, and Boss Capmone had just a firm enough grasp on irony to utilize the fire department to better carry out his burning orders.
Guy’s only toy throughout his miserable childhood had been a tiny red fire truck, so he requested to join the newly rethought fire department, and thus became a fireman.
Ten golden years of completely incognizant book and bookkeeper burning commence, and Guy finally begins to feel like he has a purpose in life.
Then one night as a house begins to blossom into flames Guy sees a tiny shape dart out of a side window, and take off running. Suspecting it to be one of the book horders, Guy pursues the figure, and a few twists and turns the last thing Guy sees is The Complete Works of Jane Austen being hurled straight at his face.
Guy wakes up chained up in a well-lit room with a bespeckled teenage girl sitting across from him. Her name is Lily, and yes she was in the process of rescuing books, a feat she has gotten quite good at considering the large piles of print heaped throughout the room. Lily is apologetic about having to take him captive, but saw it as her only choice. She has now determined that the only course of action is to persuade Guy that books are in fact wonderful resources that helped inspire mankind through the ages.
The montage-like chapter than follows includes Lily reading aloud the entire Harry Potter series, teaching Guy to read, and helping him to find self worth through his new talent. She told him stories of years ago when people had access to all the information they could want free of charge. Their city had once been like those before Boss Capmone barricaded their it.
Eventually Lily trusts Guy enough to take him out to meet the person who told her all of these glorious newsfeeds. He was her older brother’s ancient world literatures professor. Once the mob took over, he had organized many of his students into the groups that saved the books. Unfortunately a few years ago her brother hadn’t escaped from a burning building on time (awkward pause) so Lily took his place.
Wizened Professor tells Lily and Guy rumors of places outside of their city where the mob has been overthrown. He dreams of leaving, but as long as the mob continues to capitalize Metropolis, there is no hope for any of the citizens. The only exit allows only official city vehicles through…and then Guy gets a Bright Idea.
After much persuasion, Guy is allowed to return to his firehouse, explaining his month long absence was due to the fact that his long lost cousin Earnest had become terribly ill and he needed to care for him until he recovered. Later that night, Guy begins his secret alterations on the largest of the fire trucks. It had been years since the water containers had been used, so it was easy for Guy to cut in trap doors that people can fit into.
Then Guy called on Boss Capmone. He asks him what it is about books that means that they must be burned. Capmone instantly becomes suspicious as Guy continues to question his commands, and follows Guy as he drives away in the fire truck.
Guy drives straight to the hideout, where the rebels are waiting with all of the books they have been able to save. As they are loading everything into the truck, Boss Capmone comes out with a gun, and because she is the most innocent character in the novel, shoots Lily dead before several rebel fighter students bash him to oblivion.
The two bodies are left side by side for who knows how many obscure symbolic reasons, and Guy drives the books and remaining rebels out of the city and into a new life.