Fahrenheit 451



AUTHOR:                                Ray Bradbury

TITLE:                                    Fahrenheit 451

GENRE:                                  Science Fiction

PUBLICATION DATE:                1953

NUMBER OF PAGES:                 165


TIME PERIOD:                         Indeterminate future

SERIES:                                  N/A

Plot Summary:   Guy Montag is a fireman who lives in a futuristic totalitarian America, where thinking is dangerous and one trusts only the state.  As a fireman, Guy’s job is to burn homes containing books, as all books are forbidden by law.  He begins unlikely friendships with a teen named Clarisse and a retired professor named Faber, who are both clandestine book readers and book collectors. Their relationships cause Guy to question his own life and society’s hedonism, and to help him realize the significance of books. However, fire chief Beatty correctly suspects Montag of being a secret book collector and wants him apprehended and imprisoned.

Although it was published over 50 years ago, Fahrenheit 451 remains a thought-provoking and chilling novel, providing suspense while at the same time probing serious topics such as censorship, loss of individuality and American values.

Subject Headings:      Books, Censorship, Conformity, Education, Fire, Future, Literature, Oppression, Social issues, Technology, Totalitarianism, Dystopian future, Science fiction

Appeal:      Compelling, issue-oriented, thought-provoking, stark, urban, uneasy, bleak, chilling, dark, haunting, menacing, suspenseful

Three Words or Phrases Best Describing this Book:  Censorship, Books, Dystopian future

Relevant Nonfiction Works and Authors:

Those who liked Bradbury’s take on censorship may want to try John Milton’s Areopagitica. It is considered by many to be a classic discourse on censorship and the licensing of books.

The Oak and the Calf is a compelling memoir by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Like Fahrenheit 451, it addresses the subject of censorship. In addition, this memoir details the frustrations Mr. Solzhenitsyn encountered while attempting to get his books published in totalitarian Russia.

Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism by Sheldon S. Wolin is a critical analysis of modern-day urban America. Mr. Wolin, like Ray Bradbury, depicts a bleak outlook when citizens are politically uninterested and submissive.

Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Ben Peek’s Black Sheep: a Dystopian Novel reveals a society that is divided among three supposedly pure race factions and where multiculturalism is a crime. Like Fahrenheit 451, Black Sheep is set in the future and contains Orwellian elements such as control by propaganda, surveillance, and the denial of truth.

In Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies, everyone is declared “ugly” at birth and, on their 16th birthday, must submit to an operation which makes them “beautiful.” Like Fahrenheit 451, Uglies contains thought-provoking and chilling elements of a society where invasive technology is the norm, and conformity is championed.

Allen Ginsberg’s America is a book of free verse and poetry dealing with similar stark themes that were found in Fahrenheit 451. These include war, making money, conformity, and America’s literary standards.

Jane Bessette

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