Heinrich Heine: Book Burning


In today’s society, individualism is something to strive for. We want to break the barriers of society, listen to music that nobody listens to or start a trend that no one has ever thought of. Individualism is also freethinking, and that is all we want, to be able to express our own thoughts and ideas, and still be accepted within our community. We have never had a society in which freethinking is completely accepted and encouraged, and according to Ray Bradbury in his novel Fahrenheit 451, it never will. Austin Cline, in his article, connects the Holocaust and book burning with the similar “desire to eliminate ideas that are a threat to the some group or ideology which is in power.”

Nazi Germany, through and after the war, became known for two practices; the burning of books and the burning of people. Both of which happened because of the fear that the Nazi Party had when they came into power, of ideas and messages that might threaten the Germany that the Nazi’s aimed for. This included books, which documented ideas were either by Jews, communists, socialists and other “degenerates”, or expressed ideas that undermined Nazi beliefs, and people that these ideas originated from that must be destroyed in order to make sure these messages don’t spread. This is why millions of people had to die in the Holocaust, under the power of the Nazi’s so that their ideas would be maintained, and others would be extinguished.

In the novel, Clarisse is the only character with true individuality and freedom, which is why her community shuns her, and anyone like her, because individuality is strongly prohibited, i.e the burning of books that contains individualistic ideas. She seems to know so much more than anyone else in the novel or in the society, which poses as a threat to the government that she will be smart enough to somehow start a revolution. Maybe she is truly the only one that has true knowledge of the world in this dystopian society, which makes he even more an individual and a maverick. Is this why she had to die? “She’s better off dead” as Beatty states in the novel…

Books, like any other form of art such as music, are a person’s physical expression of their inner emotions, ideas, and beliefs.  We make connections with these things we create or relate to because they reflect the person we are. Because of this, people will do anything to hold onto them. That is why in the book Fahrenheit 451, the little old lady dies with her books that she is so infatuated with and passionate about. The burning of a book destroys the paper, the words, and any person that connects to it in some way.