Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Reading: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Things Fall Apart is another book that I heard about a lot in my high school years but never had to read until I entered college.  I took a seminar course this past summer that focused on African Folktales and Literature.  Things Fall Apart was an assigned reading.
This book focuses on a man named Okonkwo who lives with a tribe in Africa with his three wives and children.  His father was a very gentle, lazy man and Okonkwo has been embarrassed by him since his childhood.  He believes that to be a man he must be forceful strong and daring.  Because of these two things, Okonkwo earns himself a huge character flaw - fear of being weak.  This flaw haunts him throughout the entire novel.  He becomes violent and angry a lot of the time, bringing shame upon him and his family and the purpose of this is to say that we must not let fear of something drive us because things will fall apart. 
This book was a big surprise for me because I didn't expect to like it.  The writing was superb and the story itself was engaging.  As a Christian though, I wanted to comment on the men that came from Europe to colonize in the book.  I personally don't agree with organized religion at all for the reason that religion is political and can be hateful at times.  Reading about colonization just shows the faults religion holds.  Christians sometimes believe that because they are Christian, they are superior to people who aren't Christian.  What they fail to see is that God created each and every one of us equally.  These men were spreading hate, not God's love.  They had the right intentions in a sense but in the end, it was their choices that show that they are not true followers of God.  I wanted to make this point because I think it is important for other Christians to be aware of the difference between religion and being a follower of Jesus Christ.  While this is not a focus in the book, it is something that I found interesting and it can teach us all something.
I give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Reading: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury was a sort of hidden author for me growing up.  I knew he was there yet I never read any of his work.  Then one day, in my senior year of high school, my teacher had us read a short science fiction story he wrote.  I don't remember the title but I remember I loved the story.  The descriptions and writing was incredible.  I wanted to read more of Bradbury's work but unfortunately I got caught up in other things.  I knew nothing about this book, Fahrenheit 451, when I sat down to read it.  All I knew was that there was a time in my life when I read a story by Ray Bradbury and it touched my life in a small way.  I hoped to recapture that moment by reading this novel. 
Since I knew nothing about the novel, I found it hard to understand in the beginning.  Fahrenheit 451 centers around a man named Guy Montag who's job is to burn books.  He is a fireman but not the type of fireman we know.  The firemen we know save houses from burning down.  The firemen in this book burn houses to the ground.  It is there job to do this if a citizen is found in possession of a book.  This story takes place sometime in the distant future when politicians and people in power realize that books give people too many ideas.  They ban books to make society more "peaceful".  They ban books to water down life so that people will obey without questions.  One day, Montag meets Clarisse - a wise 17 year old girl who opens Montag's eyes to the world's potential.  From then on, Montag seeks to understand why books are banned and wants one for himself.  He becomes wrapped up in a war between being mindless or having a mind of his own.
I hate to say this but for a lot of the novel I was extremely confused.  It took me a while to catch on to the world that Bradbury had created that so much mirrors our own.  It's scary to think about a world where books are banned and yet the idea of it seems realistic.  The concept that Bradbury writes about is one that is hugely original.  I can't imagine a world without books!  And yet here are characters who haven't read books but have been subjected to mindless TV programs and constant noise.  In today's world much of the same things happen.  We are always surrounded by noise.  Has anyone ever thought about that?  When we go to restaurants, there is music playing and big screen TV's playing about three different stations at once.  People can't walk to class without putting headphones on.  I have a friend who can't do her homework in silence.  She has to have music or TV on to help her concentrate.  The world Bradbury has created is so strikingly similar to our own at this current moment that it is almost frightening.  I think this book is a plea to us as readers.  It urges us to not let mindless things like the media and the internet distract us from what is important - whether it be books or something else.  Overall, I think the book covered a great topic and it is, and will be, an important book for people to read!  I will give it 4 out of 5 stars.