By Ray Bradbury
At least once in his career, every fireman gets an itch. What do the books say, he wonders. Oh, to scratch that itch, eh?
Guy Montag is a fireman. In his world, where television rules and literature is on the brink of extinction, firemen start fires rather than put them out. His job is to destroy the most illegal of commodities, the printed book, along with the houses in which they are hidden.
Montag never questions the destruction and ruin his actions produce, returning each day to his bland life and wife, Mildred, who spends all day with her television “family.” But then he meets an eccentric young neighbor, Clarisse, who introduces him to a past where people didn’t live in fear and to a present where one sees the world through the ideas in books instead of the mindless chatter of television.
When Mildred attempts suicide and Clarisse suddenly disappears, Montag begins to question everything he has ever known. He starts hiding books in his home, and when his pilfering is discovered, the fireman has to run for his life.
Why it was challenged/banned: Perceived anti-government ideals, perceived anti-religion/Christianity ideals, language/profanity.
Why it is important: This is an ironic one to be sure. Bradbury’s novel is a book that not only laments the world’s growing reliance on technology but it lambastes the censorship of society and cautions against a future where books are banned and burned. To prevent people from getting the “wrong idea” (among other things) Fahrenheit 451 was, itself, banned.
When Fahrenheit 451 was first published in the midst of the Cold War, it was held first and foremost as a rebellion against censorship and conformity. According to a few news sources, however, it seems that Bradbury made a statement in 2007 stating that his novel was actually about technological addiction and withdrawal from a community life to sustain that addiction. Like most literary theories, however, the anti-censorship theme is still corroborated as a prevailing motif whether or not it was an intended one. To read more on this, read this article on The Dallas Morning News.
I think Fahrenheit 451 is an extremely important novel, one that resonates true still today with all of the technological advances (the irony that I am posting this on the internet using a laptop, a phone, and a tablet is not lost on me) and the still burgeoning levels of conformity and censorship. I feel that Bradbury accurately predicted the direction toward which we were heading and will continue to head if things are not monitored.
To have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever.
Harry Potter has never played a sport while flying on a broomstick. He’s never worn a cloak of invisibility, befriended a giant, or helped hatch a dragon. All Harry knows is a miserable life with the Dursleys, his horrible aunt and uncle, and their abominable son, Dudley. Harry’s room is a tiny closet at the foot of the stairs, and he hasn’t had a birthday party in eleven years.
But all that is about to change when a mysterious letter arrives by owl messenger: a letter with an invitation to a wonderful place he never dreamed existed. There he finds not only friends, aerial sports, and magic around every corner, but a great destiny that’s been waiting for him…if Harry can survive the encounter.
Why it was challenged/banned: Anti/family, occult/satanism, religious viewpoint, violence.
Why it is important: I know you have seen me throw the word “favorite” around quite a bit so far, but I want to say, without any hesitation, that Harry Potter is my absolute favorite book/series, and J. K. Rowling is my absolute favorite author. I was first introduced to Harry and Hogwarts in 1998, when the first book was published in America. I fell almost instantly in love. Harry Potter became the yardstick with which I would measure every other book. It was a beautiful world that I could visit any day and know that I was at home. As I grew older, I witnessed Harry, Ron, and Hermione go through many trials and tribulations and felt “well, if they could get past Fluffy/basilisk/acromantulas/Voldemort and survive, then middle/high school/college/life will be a breeze.” While I know that isn’t exactly a comparable set of situations, I knew that, if anything were to go wrong, I would still be welcome at Hogwarts.
I have always been a major supporter of the concept that capital “L” Love is the supreme emotion, a power in itself. “All you need is Love,” (I like The Beatles too, FYI). The Harry Potter series shows that Love, perseverance, friendship, and justice are all-powerful tools to vanquish the darkness within ourselves and within others.
In recent years, Harry Potter has come to mean something else to me: In the last eight years I have lost many family members including both my parents. Even at the age of twenty-five, I can relate to Harry on profound levels. He helped me cope with those losses in ways that I will never be able to express. Without Harry, Hermione, the Weasley’s, Hogwarts, and so many others…I would be lost.
When others ask me why I love Harry Potter so much and why I feel that it is okay to read (coming from the Deep South, there is a certain stigma for fantasy novels) I have once simple answer: J. K. Rowling, through Harry Potter, helped me become a good person. I will always be grateful for that.
Harry helped me to love reading. Harry helped me to love me. Harry helped me to love.