Today I’m comparing two books that, at first glance, might appear to have nothing in common. And I’m going to try to do it without spoilers…we’ll see how it goes.
As I wrote in an earlier post, I believe YA dystopian literature can serve as a bridge to the classics in the genre. Introducing young teen readers to books with social commentary in a YA setting better prepares them to accept and appreciate adult novels with similar themes.
Both Fahrenheit 451 and Matched illustrate how societal organization can easily become oppressive and regimented, and both focus on the evils of censorship.
The main characters in both novels live in restrictive environments, but nonetheless are expected to go through a “period of curiosity.”
Guy Montag, the protagonist in Fahrenheit 451, has been a fireman for ten years. Firemen in his society burn books, yet Montag has a secret cache of books he’s taken from various fires. When he’s discovered with the contraband, his supervisor gives him one day to read them, to satisfy his curiosity and help him see just how worthless and confusing books are.
In Matched, 17 year-old Cassia Reyes has just been assigned her ideal mate. Cassia notes that indiscretions among newly Matched teens are common, as the Officials expect the teens to experiment a bit with other partners before they settle into their assigned marriages at the age of 21.
The characters’ curiosity may be expected, but it is not tolerated. Montag’s own wife turns him in for having books in his possession, and Cassia’s Infraction is a kiss, shared with a boy who is not her Match.
The people in both societies exist under a Mask of Happiness. The oppressive societies, developed for the comfort of the people, have rules and regulations that eliminate ideas. Without ideas, everyone conforms. With conformity, everyone is equal, and therefore everyone should be happy. The governments in both novels assert that when books and new ideas are available to people, conflict and unhappiness occur.
Montag’s fire captain, Beatty, tells Montag that because each person is angered by some kind of literature, it is best to get rid of it all. He described how books were burned first by minorities, each ripping a page or paragraph from this book, then that, until the day came when the books were empty and the minds shut and the libraries closed forever.
In Cassia’s world, Selection Committees scaled down the number of books, paintings, and songs in the Society to 100 each. The remainder are forbidden and destroyed. Cassia’s father is a Restoration supervisor whose job is to oversee the incineration of the contents of libraries.
In both Fahrenheit 451 and Matched, characters memorize the written word to battle censorship and literally give life to books.
Both novels describe societies that are terrifying to imagine, but not as far-fetched as we might believe.
But there is hope because these books have been written. As I put the finishing touches on Counteract, I feel humbled to join the ranks.
Editor’s Note: This blog post was originally published at www.counteractbook.com and is used with the permission of the author.
TRACY LAWSON has wanted to be a writer ever since she learned to read. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Communication from Ohio University, and though she embarked on a career in the performing arts as a dance instructor and choreographer, never lost her desire to write, and thus far has to her credit a coming-of-age dystopian thriller and an historical nonfiction. Her interest in writing for teens is sparked by all the wonderful young people in her life, including her daughter, Keri, a college sophomore.
Tracy is also the author of Counteract.
Counteract: Book 1 of the Resistance Series (2014) is the story of a guy, a girl, the terrorist attack that brings them together, and their race to expose a conspiracy that could destroy their country from within. What Tommy and Careen learn about the true nature of the terrorist threat spurs them to take action, and their decisions lead them to run afoul of local law enforcement, team up with an underground resistance group, and ultimately take their quest for the truth to the highest reaches of the United States government. The second book in the series is slated for release in 2015.
For more about the book, check out Tracy’s website for a synopsis.
There’s even a book trailer!