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The Lost Art of Reading

Essay on the Modern Viewpoint on Literature

Bright digital light shines from all corners, projections of images filling the room like an endless flood. A once happy place filled with laughter and joy and hope now holds loneliness, disconnect and distrust. Four walls, four screens, one box with lovers who have turned to strangers. These are what Ray Bradbury called parlor walls. Television screens the size of a living room wall. Imagine living in the 1950s and welcoming this into your home. Thinking about it as a millennial in 2017 is absurd. We all know of the television and we all own one or two or maybe even three of them. Having a t.v that size is like a dream right? Having a whole room with images coming at you from every corner. News, entertainment, pop culture all presented to you whether you like it or not. No escape no way out. That is something I’m sure is not too hard to imagine. That would be because we already living like like that. That is the world we have created. This almost magical screen is what makes it possible for us to have all the gadgets in our pockets. This makes it very hard to fathom what life was like before we had all this technology. To think that instead of mindlessly keeping our eyes glued to a screen we had the power to know every wonder there ever was just by picking up a book.

Three years into this brand-new decade of change, Ray Bradbury published his epic novel Fahrenheit 451. This whistleblowing piece of art would shine a light on the road the human race would be led down if we were not careful. One what would bring us to a society that kept its people on a short leash. Keeping us under control and away from biggest form of freedom and knowledge; books. Books would not only be illegal but burned, erased from the world and kept hidden from those not yet old enough to learn what they really are. People have no escape from the reality built around them. They forced to stare mindlessly at screens until they believe that what are told is the truth and the only truth. There is no other life and if you search for one you too will be erased. No longer a part of the world, just like those precious books. This society that Bradbury created was intended to show the public what happens when we are not in control when we give up our freedom and our voices to have shiny new toys. It was meant to be fiction not a premonition.

Andrew Perrin wrote an article in 2016 entitled "Who Doesn’t Read Books in America," which discussed a decline in reading books amongst American adults. Perrin states in his article that “men, Hispanics, older adults, those living in households earning less than $30,000 and those who have no more than a high school diploma or did not graduate from high school are the most likely to report they have never been to a public library.” His feelings show how those who are uneducated are the ones who aren’t exposed to the power of books. These Americans never had the chance to learn how to even read and understand the messages hidden within literature. Their freedom to explore and think on a large scale was taken from them due to their lack of resources. This is just a stepping stone that leads to the “fictional” society that Bradbury created 63 years prior to the due of Perrin’s article.

Christopher Ingraham’s article from The Washington Post entitled "The Long, Steady Decline of Literary Reading" focuses on how the number of people who read for pleasure has dropped drastically over the course of three decades. “Video games have exploded in popularity and movies have transformed from something you did at the theater to something you do at home. Perhaps most important, the Internet, with its infinite distractions, did not exist 30 years ago.” Ingraham clearly points out the significant amount of technology that has replaced literature as a pleasurable pastime over the course of thirty years. Ingraham puts in a very thought out and well written perspective. “If changing reading habits are indeed making us less able to see things from other people’s points of view that could have drastic consequences across the board.”

The digital age has turned the cultural necessity of reading into a dying art form. One day a book will become an artifact that will be found in the archives of human existence. Proving that the very culture that literacy helped build and create is now looked down upon, as if it is worthless. This depressing fact leads the human race further and further down that road Bradbury warned us about. Books are not just pieces of paper that are band together; with every stitch a story is created. New worlds are built which are laying the foundation for your imagination. All aspects of the human condition are shown in characters like Guy Montag and Clarisse, that can relate to each and every person to ever walk this Earth. They feed us knowledge of the world that we live in and the world we have yet to create. This is the aspect that scares society to its very core. The clear and simple fact that books give us a voice. One that will roar louder than the African lions. One that can not be silence. One that will be carried in the wind and will tickle the eardrums of everyone willing to listen. A voice that will stand the test of time.

Shakespeare, Austen, Twain, Woolf, Hemingway, Orwell. These were not just any old voices; these men and women were just some to unleash Pandora’s Box. Their stories released the complications of love, pride, jealousy, control, acceptance, defeat, ect. The world was able to feel and heal because of them. They gave us comfort in times of tragedy and despair. Our souls were lit on fire and able to realize the thoughts we were forced to keep buried deep inside us. There is no other form of freedom that gives us the ability to grow wings like birds and soar through the sky. Having that taken from you is like ripping air from your lungs. Never having it at all leaves you empty with no mind, no heart, no soul and worst of all no life.