Classics: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Hi, friends. Here’s my second post about a classic work. Some of my book showings have included classics, but these posts focus more on the novel’s impact than my physical copy. Thanks for reading!

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

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Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, published in 1953, is a sci-fi, dystopian novel. Montag, the protagonist, works for the fire department, but we learn quickly that the firemen in this world don’t extinguish flames–they ignite them. Montag and his team burn down the homes of citizens who are accused of possessing books (and 451 degrees Fahrenheit is the temperature at which paper burns). The characters are constantly plugged into technology via earpieces, and rather than having T.V.’s in the house, the citizens have whole rooms where the walls broadcast programs. Montag is a cynical government agent and his wife is a looney tune who’s practically enslaved by the T.V. room (treating show characters as real-life friends), but Montag’s encounters with a girl who seems “different” from the zombies around him starts to awaken him to how effed-up society has become. Her sudden disappearance provokes a journey for Montag of realization, danger, and discovery. The premise of Fahrenheit 451 feels like a blend of 1984 by George Orwell, “the blue pill” from The Matrix, and an episode of Black Mirror, though the novel is a slow burner (ha…but seriously).

Historical/Political Influence

According to the introduction by Neil Gaiman in my edition, the joke in the 1950’s was that you couldn’t tell if people were home due to the lights being on in the house anymore; the small T.V.’s that aired programs in black and white required turning out the lights for optimal viewing. Bradbury asked himself if people would read anymore if technology escalated, and his science-fiction novel was born. Apparently, Bradbury called the fire department and explicitly asked at what temperature paper burns; whether the answer was correct was irrelevant because he had his title. With this story, Bradbury wasn’t predicting the future; rather, he was exploiting/amplifying aspects of society to examine it from a different perspective and caution people. The novel was successful with readers at the time who felt that the story addressed censorship, the government, and human nature. According to this in-depth analysis, movements and events like Nazism, the atomic bombs, Stalin’s Great Purge, and even McCarthyism influence the novel.

Have you read this classic? If not, I hope you will now. 

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