One day I hope to have a library like The Beast gives Belle in Beauty and The Beast, but until then, my cheapo Ikea bookshelf (which I half-painted until I ran out of paint) it will just have to suffice. In any case, my small comparative collection is one of my favorite things about my home.
From the moment I was young, my parents would read me books. (The Berenstein Bears and later, Amelia Bedilia were definite favorites!) Later, when I learned to read on my own, I poured over novels of all kinds. Reading became my favorite escape and, due to my youth, books had become a symbol of home and love for me. I have laughed, cried, shouted, and felt my heart torn to pieces by these literary figures whom only exist in imagination – and the beauty of that make-believe world is that each person can create their own version of characters and events. Isn’t that a wonderful thought?
As I have grown up a bit more, I’ve taken an interest in more of the traditional classic novels. I’m not talking Shakespeare here (I could only get halfway through King Lear before I couldn’t handle it anymore), but more of books like To Kill a Mockingbird and Fahrenheit 451. These two books are of particular interest to me because they are perhaps more relevant today than they were at the time they were published. Simply – the messages that they respectively contain are priceless. However, that is a sad truth. Let me explain.
To Kill a Mockingbird is fraught with racism and injustice toward people who were never given a chance, a black man standing trial for a crime he did not commit and was not allowed a chance to properly defend himself. Why is this relevant? You see, discrimination is still very much alive, although it has changed forms. It has morphed into more of an underhanded and disguised set of ideas and actions. While there are still offensive names used by ignorant and cruel people, the new normal for intolerance manifests more through easily hidden means. Did you know that here in Utah, women earn 67 cents on the dollar for doing the same job as a man? Did you know that The Bureau of Justice reported that one in three young black males is expected to go to jail or prison during his lifetime? Did you know that more than one-fourth of Hispanic adults in the United States have less than a ninth-grade education? More than likely, you didn’t. Why would you, unless this issue affects you personally? And I would imagine that if you read To Kill a Mockingbird today, you would be just as outraged as I was at reading of the bigotry and hate. But it’s still under our noses! That is why this is so relevant.
Fahrenheit 451 starts off with a man, a fireman, walking home one night. On his way home he ends up walking with his neighbor who is this young, peculiar girl. She asks a lot of seemingly strange questions, and talked a lot about how she loves to think. She asks him if he is happy, in an off-the-cuff manner before leaving to go home. Guy, the fireman, is left feeling put off, and yet intrigued by this seemingly strange girl. Things get heavy fast when Guy arrives home to find his wife had taken an entire bottle of sleeping pills, and he frantically and successfully is able to call help to revive her. This is a defining moment in his life because he realizes that he is indeed unhappy. The next day when is wife is barely fazed by this near death experience, he realizes what a sham his life is. Could any of this be how life is really supposed to be? Now, Guy is a fireman, but in this future existence firemen burn books. They are illegal. Any and all information, entertainment, etc., is given to the people by the powers at hand. I know that this may sound like every other dystopian novel out there (read: The Hunger Games or Matched) but isn’t that sort of the point? I mean, if there are all of these authors writing about these worlds where free thinking is only done by the peculiar, and is strongly discouraged and forbidden, shouldn’t these be seen as a warning at this point? Writers draw from bits and pieces of the real world and this common theme is actually around us, we need only open our eyes. So, is Fahrenheit 451 relevant? Definitely.
Books are pretty. Their presence in our home is a symbol of status – both economic and educational. But they are some of the most functional decorations we can own. There are so many important lessons and ideas to be learned and so many worlds to be created and explored through our minds. Invest in yourself – buy a book.