Ray Bradbury passed away yesterday at the age of 91. He was truly a great man and a prolific voice in literature. Among many other things, he was a strong proponent of Science Fiction as a mainstream genre in literature and film. It can be easily said that he was one of the most important writers of the twentieth century.
Perhaps one of his most famous and lasting novels is the classic Fahrenheit 451. This is considered to be his landmark book and his masterpiece. If you have not read the novel, you should. It follows Guy Montag, a futuristic fireman whose job it is to burn books and homes instead of put them out. Set in a classic dystopian future, books have been outlawed and ignorance reigns supreme. The novel itself is about censorship and the dangers of joining the masses in front of the television so that our brains can turn to soup and slide out of our heads.
The novel is still important today and stands as a modern day classic. The messages and themes of the book are as relevant today as they were when he wrote the novel. 451 even now still shapes the landscape of literature. Shades of the novel’s issues, or even archetypal and thematic points within it can be seen in works today; works such as V for Vendetta and The Watchmen.
My favorite novel by Bradbury is a novel called Something Wicked This Way Comes. It is like Tom Sawyer with cool science fiction stuff injected within. The novel follows boys Jim Nightshade and Will Halloway on an October adventure when all is at stake; life, death, friendship, love, and the boys themselves. To me, this is Bradbury’s real masterpiece. It is such a striking example of what Bradbury was capable of as a writer. The imagery used in every morsel of the novel allows it to come to life in what is truly a profound way. The way that he uses narrative and the dialogue of the core characters illuminates real truths about the human condition.
He was a great literary voice but was also a great man. He said in his novel Fahrenheit 451 that “Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.” Though Bradbury leaves us now on a final voyage, his legacy through his novels and other works will live on.