Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury: Hell on Earth

Montag lives in something approaching Hell on earth, complete with a spiritual fire corresponding to the strange and otherworldly fires of Hell. He grins from the delight of burning books as a “fireman” on the very first page. This world is the product of a modern mind. Literature has great power to highlight morality or make moral claims. Ray Bradbury, in fact, “draws” a universe in which circumstances include evil actions on the part of the protagonist, Montag: he murders his boss, whose cruelty to Mrs. Bowles and Mildred, and evades legal authority with violence. These actions are made to look good, or even  necessary. You will not find this often in the literature of traditional Christians: although resistance to illegal authority may be found very easily. You should not find, either, the approval of doing evil actions so that good might come of them (the ends justify the means). The Apostle Paul denies this in an epistle. (“Shall we sin that grace might abound? Surely Not!”; doing the right thing without doing a wrong in order to accomplish it is in fact a hallmark of the Christian man in history and literature. You will find, in real life, that the “Devil’s bargain” of a choice between two evil and wicked options is never complete: there is always a “way out”, a way to avoid sin and serve God even in the nastiest moral dilemma (problem). It is in only literature and philosophical speculation that there is no moral way out. Prayer and critical thinking are hard work, however. E.G. How is one to rescue hostages without blowing them up along with the terrorists holding them captive? This is a real-life problem for good men and women in the intelligence community, but it has been solved successfully before.)

Montag, at the end of the novel, does come to a better smile on page one hundred and forty three. He, along with the author, are  still using the book of Revelation from the Bible in a rationalist way. They are looking for a rebirth of humanity and literature together after the nuclear bomb has destroyed Montag’s city without the Resurrection and Judgment prophesized by St. John. His new friends are better than the soul-less beings seemingly stripped of the image of God that Bradbury has invented, but he is still treating the passages from Holy Scriptures rationally as a fitting piece of literature to herald world being renewed. Take comfort: the world imagined by Ray Bradbury is one without the Church, the true nature of man, and Christ the  King ruling over the universe.

You will, I think, recognize the difference between the Modern (contemporary: “today’s world”) world-view (materialism: believing that the physical world is all that exists/ Progressivism: believing that everything is getting better and that humanity is progressing) and Christianity when it touches upon literature. Reading the works written by secular people might leave you feeling dirty or nauseated, even when it is easy or pleasurable. When you read works by Christian authors or the old pre-Christian pagans—especially the classics—you may feel clean and truer than steel after engaging those works even though it was difficult. You doubt this? Read The Princess and the Goblin by George Macdonald and compare it with Fahrenheit 451.


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