Ray Bradbury and the “Tower of Babel,” or Why Great Literature is Good for Nothing
Keywords:Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, literacy, bardic tradition, narratology
The idea that sci-fi, at least good sci-fi, has a thinly veiled social message, that it is always addressing the now, naturally suggests that Fahrenheit 451 has a utilitarian message for its readers. That message seems straightforward enough: reading imaginative literature is good for us and good for society. This message, however, is negated by Bradbury’s own statements on literature: “The fact is, any literature whose function it is to teach, ceases to be literature as such; it becomes didactic literature, which is the color of another horse. When literature becomes obsessed by ideas as such, it is no longer literature.” While literature may have no utility, no social value, Bradbury speculates that without art, humans inevitably create a market-driven, media-dominated culture, a “nice blend of vanilla tapioca,” in which no one makes any great impression. Great literature nullifies and transcends the ordered and the ordinary; it is good for nothing because it negates everything.
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