The first time I read a book for school that I really, really loved was during my freshman year of high school, during the fall semester, when my English teacher assigned our class to read Fahrenheit 451.
By that point in my life, I was already a sucker for a good dystopia — in eighth grade, I met one of my favorite books, 1984 by George Orwell — and discovered that Fahrenheit 451 forced me to think in ways I hadn’t had to before.
For those of you who aren’t familiar, Fahrenheit 451 is a novel by Ray Bradbury set in a future in which books are illegal and firemen like protagonist Guy Montag don’t extinguish fires, but rather go around burning any books they find. The book begins with one of the most famous first lines in American literature: “It was a pleasure to burn.”
And there lies the most interested message in the world about destruction.
In the novel, Montag’s job is the literal destruction of property. It’s not only that he destroys things — he enjoys it, takes pleasure in the action, and his pleasure in the action is pretty indicative of human nature. Humans, for all we love our feel-good stories, also love to see things destroyed — how else could we explain the commercial success of the Transformers movie franchise? Or Man of Steel?
Tied into that pleasure we find in destruction is something more ominous: the human tendency to destroy anything and everything that could be threatening or “dangerous.” That’s not something new to humans by a long shot. As a species, we’ve got a history of genocides and xenophobia, and we even have a term for it on an individual level: hate crimes.
But Fahrenheit 451 takes the destruction of the unknown in a different direction: what the firemen are destroying in the novel aren’t people they find threatening, but ideas they find threatening, and destroying new paths of thought is one of the best ways to control a population. 62 years later, Fahrenheit 451 is a novel that still warns readers of the danger in wanting to destroy different thoughts or cultures.
This month, we’re taking a look at the different forms of destruction that appear in entertainment. Death, explosions, censorship — there are so many ways to destroy, and all of them interesting.
Feliza Casano is a fan of anime, manga, and every sort of book as well as editor in chief at Girls in Capes. She writes for all sections of the site, and she’s the one behind GiC’s Facebook and Twitter. Follow her on Twitter @FelizaCasano.