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Back in 2014, I featured a student guest review of Tim Hamilton’s graphic novel take on Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, but I have yet to feature the title on my 365, so here we are in 2018, and I have yet another student review that I’d like to post for you! Here is Andrew S’s take on the tale…and it’s a good one!
Title: Fahrenheit 451
Author(s): Tim Hamilton based on Ray Bradbury’s classic
Publisher: Hill and Wang (2009)
Age Rating: 13+
Traditionally, comic books and graphic novels are thought of as colorful and bright works conceived from the most hopeful and idealistic parts of the human imagination. When we think comic books, we tend to immediately think of the Golden Age superheroes like Superman, Captain America, Wonder Woman, and similar figures and stories that shine a spotlight on the best parts of human nature. During the Depression, when these stories were first widely produced, they served as simple fantasies that people could escape to in order to better deal with the harsh realities facing them. Plain and simple, they were, and for the most part still are, a medium of entertainment built on the concept of a big, strong hero beating the bad guys and making the world a better place.
Fahrenheit 451 stands out in absolute contrast to these stories, bringing to life a dystopian future where only the worst and most shallow parts of modern American culture and entertainment survive. In this near future, war ravages the Earth and an autocratic government carefully watches its citizens for signs of dissent, yet the content masses worry little, for they can simply turn on their wall-sized televisions and simply stop thinking about the world. The very concepts of contemplation and thought are practically anathema, and literature is routinely burned by firefighters at the behest of citizens, who care for little else than the metaphorical bread and circuses the government provides them in exchange for their subservience.
This world is perhaps not quite as totalitarian or horrifying as George Orwell’s ever famous 1984, however it is much more effective at building one that manages to both be realistic and impossibly dark at the same time by playing on and exaggerating the effect of modern media on contemporary culture, much like Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.
The art style of Fahrenheit 451 reflects this greatly, painting the world through dull, industrial yellows, blues and grays, with the faces of characters hardly ever seen as anything but shadowy outlines against the quietly nightmarish realm they inhabit, their eyes often just as dark even inside the bright and comparatively welcoming interiors of American homes. The most striking and memorable aspects of this are best seen when Guy Montag, ‘firefighter’ and protagonist of the story, is sent out to burn books with the rest of the fire department. The book burnings are almost surreal thanks to their lighting, as the bright flames set by firefighters cast entire pages in blood red light accompanied by various shades of burning yellow and orange, creating scenes not unlike something that could easily be imagined in some hellish underworld. When an actual person is burned alive in these scenes, and the same embery filter applied to the torched books is applied to them, this analogy is only made stronger.
While it may sound like action packed and adventurous from such morbid descriptions, the book is at heart a quiet commentary about the state of society and how easily it can fall into meaninglessness and corruption if it allows itself to remain more focused and content with mindless drivel on a screen than intellectual pursuits and the moral lessons humanity has spent so long trying to maintain. In this way, it’s a book that requires a fair bit of thought and contemplation to be enjoyed to the fullest, but considering the setting it’s placed in, I can only find that to be perfectly fitting.
Andrew, thank you for the thoughtful take on this modern classic!
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