Fahrenheit 451

Continuing with my list of books that probably aren’t all that important to the Lost storyline, but that I have already read, comes Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. Another one of my favorites in high school, Fahrenheit 451 is about a futuristic American society in which firemen burn books.

Thinking back on high school with this Literature of Lost series, I have come to believe that satires and futuristic societies play well for high schoolers. I plan on writing one of these at some point and living on in junior year English for at least the next 100 years.

Lost viewers that still have their season 4 DVDs (don’t let your friends borrow DVDs!) went back through and looked at all the books on Ben’s bookshelf in his house. One of these is Fahrenheit 451. The book is probably not all that important, given that it was hidden on a bookshelf, but it still provides valuable lessons on Ben’s leadership (or lack thereof).

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The details of the book do not seem to be that important, so I will just give a brief synopsis of the story here.

Guy Montag is a fireman at an unspecified date in the future in America. America lives in a state of lawlessness. The state has many of the trademarks of anarchy, with one major exception: political correctness has gone overboard, and all books are forbidden.

The work of firemen has taken a 180 degree turn from their current work. Instead of putting out fires, they set books on fire every time somebody is found in the possession of books. They are quite literally book burners.

Anyway, the rest of the book plays out about like you’d expect it to, although it is certainly worth a read. Montag begins to wonder about books and starts to hoard them himself. He makes a dramatic escape from the firehouse when they find out about it, killing both the scary mechanical dog and his own superior.

The leadership of America slowly begins to break down. They control all the media, so they are able to bury the news of an impending war. Eventually war does hit and much of America is destroyed, giving the reader a valuable lesson on the power of free speech.

By the time the war hits, Montag has joined a ragtag group of vagabonds that live off the grid as much as possible and preserve works of literature. The book ends with the hope that these survivors will build a new society from scratch and the books that they preserve will live on after all.

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Ben Linus was a smart guy. I’m sure he saw the irony in his leadership style. It could very well have been the reason this book was on his shelf.

Ben ran a pretty tight operation while in charge of the Others. Books were allowed, as we saw with the book club that Juliet hosted. But free speech was verboten. Juliet was upset with how Ben ran things, but the only way she could protest was by selecting Carrie for the book club. When she finally did speak out, she paid the price by getting branded by the Others.

In season two, we thought that the Others were a smoothly functioning band of natives to the Island. In season three, we start to see cracks in the regime that Ben runs. There have been rumblings among the Others that they wanted to see Ben overthrown. Many felt that he had strayed from the purposes of the Others and started to focus on tangential issues, namely, the pregnancy problem.

Yet no one dared to speak aloud. That sounds an awful lot like the futuristic America in the book. And just like future America, the hierarchal structure of the Others eventually broke down. Ben was not up front with the Others about the threats that faced them.

First, there was the Kahana. Ben always pretended to be in control and didn’t get Alex and Karl to the Temple in time. It resulted in Alex’s death. Then he was powerless to stop the Smoke Monster as it crashed through the Temple and killed the Others that remained there.

In both cases, the lesson is simple: open democracies might have their issues, but dictatorships that censor their citizens are far worse. Surprising that Ben didn’t get this from Fahrenheit 451, but I think it is just an example of the old maxim: power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

For more of my book reviews, return to the Literature of Lost series.

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