Title: Fahrenheit 451
Author: Ray Bradbury
Genre: Dystopian Fiction
Publication Date: 1953
Fahrenheit 451, written by Ray Bradbury, is a dystopian novel that narrates the story of the destruction of books, which in the novel are considered threatening for humans. It reflects a scary aspect of contemporary life where forbidding books for radical content seems less frightening than the numbing of consciousness that television brings about. It depicts the growing popularity of factoids and other simplistic representations as factors that can not only reduce people’s attention spans but also divert their attention from critical issues. numbing of consciousness that television brings about. It depicts the growing popularity of factoids and other simplistic representations as factors that can not only reduce people’s attention spans but also divert their attention from critical issues.
Ray Bradbury introduces this “new world” through the character Guy Montag, the protagonist. The Seashell, representative of the present-day iPod, and the television he mentions are gadgets that now play an increasingly important role in our daily life. Robots and artificial intelligence have been replacing humans in many areas. Montag’s comment on physicians treating Mildred rings a bell:
There are too many of us, he thought. There are billions of us, and that’s too many. Nobody knows anyone. Strangers come and violate you. Strangers come and cut your heart out. Strangers come and take your blood (p.16).
The contemporary world is characterized by a predominance of technology and entertainment, marginalizing disciplines such as philosophy, social sciences. Life, in general, is bereft of leisure, and the advent of the internet has rendered the mind, more or less, idle. Among the inescapable facts of modern life are cruelty and war, along with gadgets, high-speed vehicles, and so on.
The metaphor of the phoenix is used to describe irrationality in humans in The Bright Phoenix. Ostensibly, this short story influences Fahrenheit 451, as highlighted by the following lines:
There was a silly damn bird called a Phoenix back before Christ: every few hundred years he built a pyre and burned himself up. He must have been first cousin to man. But every time he burnt himself up he sprang out of the ashes, he got himself born all over again. And it looks like we’re doing the same thing, over and over (Fahrenheit 451, p.163).
Fahrenheit 451 deals with the irrational streak in humans that is perpetuated generation after generation, since they do not seem to learn from their past mistakes. Humans allow themselves to be irrational. Civilization after civilization burns itself in flames, not allowing itself to correct its mistakes. Fahrenheit 451 is Bradbury’s epistle to his own times:
We’ve got one damn thing the Phoenix never had. We know the damn silly thing we just did. We know all the damn silly things we’ve done for a thousand years, and as long as we know that and always have it around where we can see it, someday we’ll stop making the goddam funeral pyres and jumping into the middle of them (ibid.).
The Bright Phoenix led to the publication of the novella The Fireman (February 1951), which later evolved into Fahrenheit 451. Notably, 451 F is the temperature at which paper catches fire. The manuscript was typed on a rented typewriter, and the novel was serialized in three issues of Playboy.
In 1982, BBC Radio produced a one-off dramatization of Fahrenheit 451 starring Michael Pennington. The Off-Broadway American Place theatre staged it as part of its 2008–2009 Literature to Life season. It was adapted into a computer text adventure game in 1986.
Since many of the technological innovations envisioned by Bradbury, such as Bluetooth devices, ATMs, and earbuds have come to fruition, Fahrenheit 451 strikes a chord with present-day readers.
Fahrenheit 451 Biography
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Fahrenheit 451 Summary and Analysis
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Fahrenheit 451 Discussion Questions