For ages, I remembered the first line of Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love.
It’s one of the best opening lines, in my opinion. It stays true to its story. After having read Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, its first line seems to be the greatest now.
It was a pleasure to burn.
Fahrenheit 451, set in an unknown dystopian era, follows a fireman, Guy Montag. Firemen start fire in his time; they burn banned books. As the first line goes, they set fire to books without a trace of regret. If the owners protest, they face the fate of their books too.
Montag meets an interesting teenager: Clarisse McClellan. In a world, where people watch TV for endless hours, engage in pointless conversations, and allow the Government to make decisions for them, McClellan is a thinker. She walks alone in the wee hours, taking time to enjoy nature’s gifts, genuinely trying to make friends. She wakes Montag up from a comfortable dream. She makes him think. She makes him question. And life becomes a bed of thorns for Montag, for he begins to read.
Fahrenheit 451 explores censorship, totalitarianism, and the shadow that electronic media can cast on human race. Beyond all the important themes, what looked more appealing to me was Bradbury’s narration and his imagination of a world where books have no place.
I haven’t read many books. But of all the writers whom I have read, not many used fragments as brilliantly as Bradbury. Each line gives a fantastic visual. The clutter in Montag’s mind travel to mine seamlessly. The dialogues between Montag and McClellan are classic examples of his language mastery. I wanted them to walk more, talk longer. But Bradbury disappointed me there. 😦
He felt she was walking in a circle about him, turning him end for end, shaking him quietly, and emptying his pockets, without once moving herself.
Perhaps, just to bask in the beauty of his prose, I would want to read Fahrenheit 451 again. The story might not be layered. I might not remember the plot five years from now. Also, I might not rave about the book and arm-twist my friends into reading it. To me, as a reader, as a sucker for English, Fahrenheit 451 worked to a great degree, only because of the fantastic writing. The story came next. Maybe, on a random day, I would pull out this little book from the shelf, to read only the conversation between Montag and McClellan. Their words keep ringing in my ears.
Her face, turned to him now, was fragile milk crystal with a soft and constant light in it. It was not the hysterical light of electricity but — what? But the strangely comfortable and rare and gently flattering light of the candle.
In a way, Fahrenheit 451 is a tribute to readers, who seek solace in the parallel worlds of books. It reinstates our love for papers and printed words. Fahrenheit 451 is also a fair warning to book-lovers: Devour books! Hog them! Read! Keep reading! Read till the sun stops burning!
Most of us can’t rush around, talk to everyone, know all the cities of the world, we haven’t time, money or that many friends. The things you’re looking for, Montag, are in the world, but the only way the average chap will ever see ninety-nine per cent of them is in a book.