Thursday, December 12, 2013

Awesome Fahrenheit 451 Quotes

Today I finished reading the novel Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury.  It's a classic science fiction novel set in a dystopian future where firemen burn books for a living, and no one reads, and everyone stays indoors and watches big screens.  The novel was written in 1953, but like all good science fiction, it bears striking resemblance to our world.  When I read good novels, I like to have a pen in hand, marking passages that I find particularly beautiful or poignant.  Here are some awesome quotes from Fahrenheit 451…

"I sometimes think drivers don't know what grass is, or flowers, because they never see them slowly," she said, "If you showed a driver a green blur, Oh yes! he'd say, that's grass!  A pink blur?  That's a rose garden!  White blurs are houses.  Brown blurs are cows.  My uncle drove slowly on a highway once.  He drove forty miles an hour and they jailed him for two days.  Isn't that funny, and sad, too?"

...

"My uncle was arrested another time--did I tell you?--for being a pedestrian.  Oh, we're most peculiar."

...

"He was not happy.  He was not happy.  He said the words to himself.  He recognized this as the true state of affairs.  He wore his happiness like a mask and the girl had run off across the lawn with the mask and there was no way of going to knock on her door and ask for it back."

...

"…war may be declared any hour.  This country stands ready to defend its…"

...

"Didn't firemen prevent fires rather than stoke them up and get them going?"

...

"But what would he whisper, what would he yell?  What could he say?"

...

"There must be something in books, things we can't imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there.  You don't stay for nothing."

...

"Last night I thought about all that kerosene I've used in the past ten years.  And I thought about books.  And for the first time I realized that a man was behind each one of the books.  A man had to think them up.  A man had to take a long time to put them down on paper.  And I'd never thought of that before."

...

"We need to be really bothered once in a while.  How long is it since you were really bothered?  About something important, about something real?"

...

"With school turning out more runners, jumpers, racers, tinkerers, grabbers, snatchers, fliers, and swimmers instead of examiners, critics, knowers, and imaginative creators, the word 'intellectual,' of course, became the swear word it deserved to be."

...

"So! A book is a loaded gun in the house next door.  Burn it.  Take the shot from the weapon.  Breach man's mind.  Who knows who might be the target of the well-read man?  Me?  I won't stomach them for a minute.  And so when houses were finally fireproofed completely…there was no longer need of firemen for the old purposes.  They were given the new job, as custodians of our peace of mind…That's you, Montag, and that's me."

...

"Don't we keep them moving, don't we give them fun?  That's all we live for, isn't it?  For pleasure, for titillation?  And you must admit our culture provides plenty of these."

...

"Burn the book.  Serenity, Montag.  Peace, Montag.  Take your fight outside.  Better yet, into the incinerator."

...

"If you don't want a man unhappy politically, don't give him two sides to a question to worry him; give him one.  Better yet, give him none."

...

"The important thing for you to remember, Montag, is we're the Happiness Boys, the Dixie Duo, you and I and the others.  We stand against the small tide of those who want to make everyone unhappy with conflicting theory and thought."

...

"We've got to start somewhere here, figuring out why we're in such a mess, you and the medicine nights, and the car, and me and my work.  We're heading for the cliff, Millie.  God, I don't want to go over.  This isn't going to be easy.  We haven't anything to go on, but maybe we can piece it out and figure it and help each other."

...

"I suddenly realized I didn't like them at all, and I didn't like myself at all any more.  And I thought maybe it would be best if the firemen themselves were burnt."

...

"How in hell did those bombers get up there every single second of our lives!  Why doesn't someone want to talk about it!  We've started and won two atomic wars since 2022!  It is because we're having so much fun at home we've forgotten the world?  Is it because we're so rich and the rest of the world's so poor and we just don't care if they are?  I've heard rumors; the world is starving, but we're well fed.  Is it true, the world works hard and we play?  Is that why we're hated so much? … Maybe the books can get us half out of the cave.  They just might stop us from making the same damn insane mistakes!"

...

"The old man admitted to being a retired English professor who had been thrown out upon the world forty years ago when the last liberal arts college shut for lack of students and patronage."

...

"I often wonder if God recognizes His own son the way we've dressed him up, or is it dressed him down?  He's a regular peppermint stick now, all sugar-crystal and saccharine when he isn't making veiled references to certain commercial products that every worshiper absolutely needs."

...

"We have everything we need to be happy, but we aren't happy.  Something's missing.  I looked around.  The only thing I positively knew was gone was the books I'd burned in ten or twelve years.  So I thought books might help."

...

"Books were only one type of receptacle where we stored a lot of things we were afraid we might forget."

...

"The televisor is 'real.'  It is immediate, it has dimension.  It tells you what to think and blasts it in.  It must be right.  It seems so right.  It rushes you on so quickly to its own conclusions your mind hasn't time to protest, 'What nonsense!'"

...

"The books are to remind us what asses and fools we are.  They're Caesar's praetorian guard, whispering as the parade roars down the avenue, 'Remember, Caesar, thou art mortal.'"

...

"There are many actors alone who haven't acted Pirandello or Shaw or Shakespeare for years because their plays are too aware of the world.  We could use their anger.  And we could use the honest rage of those historians who haven't written a line in forty years.  True, we might form classes in thinking and reading."

...

"Remember, the firemen are rarely necessary.  The public itself stopped reading of its own accord…People are having fun."

...

"I remember the newspapers dying like huge moths.  No one wanted them back.  No one missed them.  And then the Government, seeing how advantageous it was to have people reading only about passionate lips and the fist in the stomach, circled the situation with your fire eaters."

...

"Then he began to read in a low, stumbling voice that grew firmer as he progressed from line to line, and his voice went out across the desert, into the whiteness, and around the three sitting women there in the great hot emptiness:

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.
Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.
--from "Dover Beach" by Matthew Arnold
...

"I made them unhappier than they have been in years, I think," said Montag.  "It shocked me to see Mrs. Phelps cry.  Maybe they're right, maybe it's best not to face things, to run, have fun.  I feel guilty--"

"No, you mustn't!  If there were no war, if there was peace in the world, I'd say fine, have fun!  But Montag, you mustn't go back to being just a fireman.  All isn't well with the world."



"I feel alive for the first time in years," said Faber.  "I feel I'm doing what I should've done a lifetime ago.  For a little while I'm not afraid.  Maybe it's because I'm doing the right thing at last."



"I've heard there are still hobo camps all across the country, here and there; walking camps they call them, and if you keep walking far enough and keep an eye peeled, they say there's lots of old Harvard degrees on the tracks between here and Los Angeles.  Most of them are wanted and hunted in the cities.  They survive, I guess.  There aren't many of them, and I guess the government's never considered them a great enough danger to go in and track them down."



"The circus must go on, even with war beginning within the hour…"



"What could he say in a single word, a few words, that would sear all their faces and wake them up?"



"He imagined thousands on thousands of faces peering into yards, into alleys, and into the sky, faces hid by curtains, pale, night-frightened faces, like gray animals peering from electric caves, faces with gray colorless eyes, gray tongues and gray thoughts looking out through the numb flesh of the face."



"He was moving from an unreality that was frightening into a reality that was unreal because it was new."



"This was all he wanted now.  Some sign that the immense world would accept him and give him the long time he needed to think all the things that must be thought.  A glass of milk, an apple, a pear."



"He stood breathing, and the more he breathed the land in, the more he was filled up with all the details of the land.  He was not empty.  There was more than enough here to fill him.  There would always be more than enough."

...

"He saw many hands held to its warmth, hands without arms, hidden in darkness.  Above the hands, motionless faces that were only moved and tossed and flickered with firelight.  He hadn't known fire could look this way.  He had never thought in his life that it could give as well as take.  Even its smell was different."



"And then the voices began and they were talking, and he could hear nothing of what the voices said, but the sound rose and fell quietly and the voices were turning the world over and looking at it; the voices knew the land and the trees and the city which lay down the track by the river.  The voices talked of everything, there was nothing they could not talk about, he knew, from the very cadence and motion and continual stir of curiosity and wonder in them."



"Granger touched Montag's arm.  'Welcome back from the dead.'  Montag nodded.  Granger went on.  "You might as well know all of us, now.  This is Fred Clement, former occupant of the Thomas Hardy Chair at Cambridge in the years before it became an Atomic Engineering School.  This other is Dr. Simmons from UCLA, a specialist in Orgega y Gasset; Professor West here did quite a bit for ethics, an ancient study now, for Columbia University quite some years ago.  Reverend Padover here gave a few lectures thirty years ago and lost his flock between one Sunday and the next for his views.  He's been bumming with us for some time now."



"All of us have photographic memories, but spend a lifetime learning how to block off the things that are really in there."



"We're the odd minority crying in the wilderness.  When the war's over, perhaps we can be of some use in the world."



"But you can't make people listen.  They have to come around in their own time, wondering what happened and why the world blew up under them."



"I hate a Roman named Status Quo!" he said to me, "Stuff your eyes with wonder," he said, "live as if you'd drop dead in ten minutes.  See the world.  It's more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.  Ask no guarantees, ask for no security, there never was such an animal.  And if there were, it would be related to the great sloth which hangs upside down in a tree all day every day, sleeping its life away.  To hell with that," he said, "shake the tree and knock the great sloth down on his ass."



"We're going to meet a lot of lonely people in the next week and the next month and the next year.  And when they ask us what we're doing, you can say, We're remembering.  That's where we'll win out in the long run.  And some day we'll remember so much that we'll build the biggest goddam steamshovel in history and dig the biggest grave of all time and shove war in and cover it up.  Come on, now, we're going to go build a mirror factory first and put out nothing but mirrors for the next year and take a long look in them."



"To everything there is a season.  Yes.  A time to break down, and a time to build up.  Yes.  A time to keep silence and a time to speak.  Yes, all that.  But what else.  What else?  Something, something…

And on either side of the river there was a tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month; And the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations."




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