Fahrenheit 451 By Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451
By Ray Bradbury
451 degrees Fahrenheit
The temperature at which paper
catches fire . . .
What is F451?
• Social Criticism –dangers of suppressing thought.
• Science fiction: dangers of an oppressive government.
• “Dystopia” – Opposite of “utopia.”
• Ironically, “F451” – a message against censorship – has
often been censored.
• Since 1953: consistently ranked in top 100 works of
American Literature.
Who are
Similarities with our society
• High tech, somewhat violent, busy, fast-paced.
– Clarisse notices how fast people drive:
“If you showed a driver a green blur, he’d
say, ‘that’s grass!’ A pink blur, ‘a rose garden!’
My uncle drove slowly once. He drove 40
miles an hour and they jailed him for two
Similarities . . . continued
• Clarisse also notices how violent young people
-“Six of my friends have been shot in the
last year alone. Ten of them died in car
wrecks. I’m afraid of them and they don’t like
me because I’m afraid.”
• Clarisse’s story highlights how careless we are
of others, especially those who choose to be
Connections to Today
• Today, the FBI has a “Library Awareness
Program” that recruits librarians to
monitor suspicious library users and report
their reading habits to the FBI.
• The Patriot Act (established after
September 11, 2001) allows the FBI to
investigate “suspicious” activity.
Predictions Bradbury made
that are somewhat true today
• Live television broadcasts of police
pursuits (aided by helicopter-mounted
cameras and supplemented by voice-over
commentary by announcers)
• "Seashell radios" closely resemble
portable audio players.
• Superficial topics on TV
• “Objectionable” books have been burned (literally!)
and symbolically burned (banned or challenged) in the
United States.
• Anti-depressant pills = common and commercialized.
• Abortion becomes a form of birth control.
• Political Correctness.
• Front porches and parks are becoming less common
due to urbanization and lack of space and use.
F451 and Technology
• Dangers of technology and mass entertainment, over
ideas and independent thought.
• In F451, society has abandoned books in favor of hollow
entertainment and instant gratification.
– During the time Bradbury wrote this book, American
television was filled with cookie-cutter sitcoms,
predictable westerns and dramas, and game shows. It
was a diversion only.
• The writer T.S. Eliot said:
“Television permits millions of people to laugh at
the same joke, but everyone still feels lonely.”
• Books: represent ideas. What if we permit
books to be removed from our society?
• The Salamander: can endure fire without
burning. Symbolic of Montag.
• The Phoenix: mythological bird that can
never truly die. Symbolizes rebirth and
destruction by fire and the cyclical nature of
– Firemen wear the Phoenix on their uniforms.
Contradictions (dualism)
• Fire and books have both good
and negative meanings.
– For example: by day,
Montag burns books, but he
is guilty of secretly reading
• Fire has two conflicting
properties: it destroys
dangerous possessions but it
also preserves people (providing
heat and light)
Main Characters
• Montag: The protagonist. A “fireman.”
• Mildred: Shallow and not intellectual. Represents
what Montag now despises.
• Clarisse: Mildred’s foil.
• Captain Beatty: Antagonist.
• The Hound: Technology gone too far.
• The Old Woman: Martyr. Her final act gets Montag
What is Science Fiction?
• Impact of science on society (or individuals).
• Often plausible (seeming reasonable or probable)
• Political commentary:
– A common theme is an ultra restrictive form of
government, making people and their ideas
essentially useless.
• Post-WWII
– Fear of Atomic War
Science Fiction
• Science Fiction in the 1950s – Movies and Books
– “The Illustrated Man” by Ray Bradbury: a story of
what happens when tattoos come alive while the
host body is asleep
– “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding: a
cautionary story about civilization run amok
– “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”
Key Theme: Censorship
• Books are burned because they present ideas, which
might trigger discontent.
• In this novel, it is not the government that began
censoring, it was the people themselves. People were
discontent, so the government removed the sources of
their unhappiness. The government gave them other
things to think about.
• According to Beatty: “Remember, the firemen
are rarely necessary. The public itself stopped
reading of its own accord . . .”
Censorship of this novel
• The book was originally published in
1953, but published a special edition
in 1967 for high school students.
• The book has been frequently
challenged by school districts. A
challenge is an attempt to remove or
restrict materials.
“Censorship reflects a society’s lack
of confidence in itself.” – Justice
Potter Stewart (1970s)
Censorship Today:
Other frequently challenged books
• Beloved by Toni Morrison
• Harry Potter (the entire
• The Adventures of
Huckleberry Finn
• Moby Dick by Herman
• Catcher in the Rye by J. D.
• To Kill a Mockingbird by
Harper Lee
• Anne Frank: the diary of a
young girl by Anne Frank
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