Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Burning Books and Remembering
There are two passages in the novel that, not surprisingly, reminded me of the issues of the English Reformation. One is very obvious: Mrs. Hudson, immolating herself among her books, quoting the famous statement of Bishop Latimer to Bishop Ridley: "Be of good comfort, and play the man, Master Ridley; we shall this day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out." (Our source for this is Foxe's Acts and Monuments, in a later edition, after the first edition indicated that no one knew about either man's last words before being burned to death in Oxford on October 16, 1555).[Timing, eh?]
The other is more indirect: the situation of the men in the woods who describe to Montag how they have memorized books and are holding on to the memory of primarily western culture to pass it on to their children. This underground memory culture reminds me of Catholic recusants, passing on memories of their English Catholic heritage: "We'll pass the books on to our children, by word of mouth, and let our children wait, in turn, on the other people. . . ." Those underground Catholics of the 16th and 17th and 18th centuries prepared for the revival of Catholicism in England during the 19th and 20th, maintaining their knowledge and practice of the Faith the best they could, even with some losses, until public worship, and buildings, and schools and colleges, the structures of education and culture could be restored and rebuilt.
I suppose a rather troublesome sequel to Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 would come with the restoration of libraries, schools, and institutions of higher learning--then the dispersed unity of those who have memorized the books would have to come together. They would have to organize and accept their places in a hierarchy and a system to rebuild and restore. Perhaps a little like the Catholic community in England during the 19th century?