Sixty years after its originally publication, Ray Bradbury’s internationally acclaimed novel Fahrenheit 451 stands as a classic of world literature set in a bleak, dystopian future. Today its message has grown more relevant than ever before.
Guy Montag is a fireman. His job is to destroy the most illegal of commodities, the printed book, along with the houses in which they are hidden. Montag never questions the destruction and ruin his actions produce, returning each day to his bland life and wife, Mildred, who spends all day with her television “family.” But when he meets an eccentric young neighbor, Clarisse, who introduces him to a past where people didn’t live in fear and to a present where one sees the world through the ideas in books instead of the mindless chatter of television, Montag begins to question everything he has ever known.
|Publisher:||Simon & Schuster|
|Edition description:||Media Tie-In|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.37(h) x 0.80(d)|
About the Author
Hometown:Los Angeles, California
Date of Birth:August 22, 1920
Place of Birth:Waukegan, Illinois
Education:Attended schools in Waukegan, Illinois, and Los Angeles, California
Read an Excerpt
Sometimes writers write about a world that does not yet exist. We do it for a hundred reasons. (Because it’s good to look forward, not back. Because we need to illuminate a path we hope or we fear humanity will take. Because the world of the future seems more enticing or more interesting than the world of today. Because we need to warn you. To encourage. To examine. To imagine.) The reasons for writing about the day after tomorrow, and all the tomorrows that follow it, are as many and as varied as the people writing.
This is a book of warning. It is a reminder that what we have is valuable, and that sometimes we take what we value for granted.
There are three phrases that make possible the world of writing about the world of not-yet (you can call it science fiction or speculative fiction; you can call it anything you wish) and they are simple phrases:
What if . . . ?
If only . . .
If this goes on . . .
“What if . . . ?” gives us change, a departure from our lives. (What if aliens landed tomorrow and gave us everything we wanted, but at a price?)
“If only . . .” lets us explore the glories and dangers of tomorrow. (If only dogs could talk. If only I were invisible.)
“If this goes on . . .” is the most predictive of the three, although it doesn’t try to predict an actual future with all its messy confusion. Instead, “If this goes on . . .” fiction takes an element of life today, something clear and obvious and normally something troubling, and asks what would happen if that thing, that one thing, became bigger, became all-pervasive, changed the way we thought and behaved. (If this goes on, all communication everywhere will be through text messages or computers, and direct speech between two people, without a machine, will be outlawed.)
It’s a cautionary question, and it lets us explore cautionary worlds.
People think—wrongly—that speculative fiction is about predicting the future, but it isn’t; or if it is, it tends to do a rotten job of it. Futures are huge things that come with many elements and a billion variables, and the human race has a habit of listening to predictions for what the future will bring and then doing something quite different.
What speculative fiction is really good at is not the future but the present—taking an aspect of it that troubles or is dangerous, and extending and extrapolating that aspect into something that allows the people of that time to see what they are doing from a different angle and from a different place. It’s cautionary.
Fahrenheit 451 is speculative fiction. It’s an “If this goes on . . .” story. Ray Bradbury was writing about his present, which is our past. He was warning us about things; some of those things are obvious, and some of them, half a century later, are harder to see.
If someone tells you what a story is about, they are probably right.
If they tell you that that is all the story is about, they are very definitely wrong.
Any story is about a host of things. It is about the author; it is about the world the author sees and deals with and lives in; it is about the words chosen and the way those words are deployed; it is about the story itself and what happens in the story; it is about the people in the story; it is polemic; it is opinion.
An author’s opinions of what a story is about are always valid and are always true: the author was there, after all, when the book was written. She came up with each word and knows why she used that word instead of another. But an author is a creature of her time, and even she cannot see everything that her book is about.
More than half a century has passed since 1953. In America in 1953, the comparatively recent medium of radio was already severely on the wane—its reign had lasted about thirty years, but now the exciting new medium of television had come into ascendancy, and the dramas and comedies of radio were either ending for good or reinventing themselves with a visual track on the “idiot box.”
The news channels in America warned of juvenile delinquents—teenagers in cars who drove dangerously and lived for kicks. The Cold War was going on—a war between Russia and its allies and America and its allies in which nobody dropped bombs or fired bullets because a dropped bomb could tip the world into a Third World War, a nuclear war from which it would never return. The senate was holding hearings to root out hidden Communists and taking steps to stamp out comic books. And whole families were gathering around the television in the evenings.
The joke in the 1950s went that in the old days you could tell who was home by seeing if the lights were on; now you knew who was home by seeing who had their lights off. The televisions were small and the pictures were in black and white and you needed to turn off the light to get a good picture.
“If this goes on . . .” thought Ray Bradbury, “nobody will read books anymore,” and Fahrenheit 451 began. He had written a short story once called “The Pedestrian,” about a man who is incarcerated by the police after he is stopped simply for walking. That story became part of the world he was building, and seventeen-year-old Clarisse McLellan becomes a pedestrian in a world where nobody walks.
“What if . . . firemen burned down houses instead of saving them?” Bradbury thought, and now he had his way in to the story. He had a fireman named Guy Montag, who saved a book from the flames instead of burning it.
“If only . . . books could be saved,” he thought. If you destroy all the physical books, how can you still save them?
Bradbury wrote a story called “The Fireman.” The story demanded to be longer. The world he had created demanded more.
He went to UCLA’s Powell Library. In the basement were typewriters you could rent by the hour, by putting coins into a box on the side of the typewriter. Ray Bradbury put his money into the box and typed his story. When inspiration flagged, when he needed a boost, when he wanted to stretch his legs, he would walk through the library and look at the books.
And then his story was done.
He called the Los Angeles fire department and asked them at what temperature paper burned. Fahrenheit 451, somebody told him. He had his title. It didn’t matter if it was true or not.
The book was published and acclaimed. People loved the book, and they argued about it. It was a novel about censorship, they said, about mind control, about humanity. About government control of our lives. About books.
It was filmed by Francois Truffaut, although the film’s ending seems darker than Bradbury’s, as if the remembering of books is perhaps not the safety net that Bradbury imagines, but is in itself another dead end.
I read Fahrenheit 451 as a boy: I did not understand Guy Montag, did not understand why he did what he did, but I understood the love of books that drove him. Books were the most important things in my life. The huge wall-screen televisions were as futuristic and implausible as the idea that people on the television would talk to me, that I could take part if I had a script. Fahrenheit was never a favorite book: it was too dark, too bleak for that. But when I read a story called “Usher II” in The Silver Locusts (the UK title for The Martian Chronicles), I recognized the world of outlawed authors and imagination with a fierce sort of familiar joy.
When I reread it as a teenager, Fahrenheit 451 had become a book about independence, about thinking for yourself. It was about treasuring books and the dissent inside the covers of books. It was about how we as humans begin by burning books and end by burning people.
Rereading it as an adult, I find myself marveling at the book once more. It is all of those things, yes, but it is also a period piece. The four-wall television being described is the television of the 1950s: variety shows with symphony orchestras and low-brow comedians, and soap operas. The world of fast-driving, crazy teenagers out for kicks, of an endless cold war that sometimes goes hot, of wives who appear to have no jobs or identities save for their husbands’, of bad men being chased by hounds (even mechanical hounds) is a world that feels like it has its roots firmly in the 1950s.
A young reader finding this book today, or the day after tomorrow, is going to have to imagine first a past, and then a future that belongs to that past.
But still, the heart of the book remains untouched, and the questions Bradbury raises remain as valid and important.
Why do we need the things in books? The poems, the essays, the stories? Authors disagree. Authors are human and fallible and foolish. Stories are lies after all, tales of people who never existed and the things that never actually happened to them. Why should we read them? Why should we care?
The teller and the tale are very different. We must not forget that.
Ideas—written ideas—are special. They are the way we transmit our stories and our thoughts from one generation to the next. If we lose them, we lose our shared history. We lose much of what makes us human. And fiction gives us empathy: it puts us inside the minds of other people, gives us the gift of seeing the world through their eyes. Fiction is a lie that tells us true things, over and over.
I knew Ray Bradbury for the last thirty years of his life, and I was so lucky. He was funny and gentle and always (even at the end, when he was so old he was blind and wheelchair-bound, even then) enthusiastic. He cared, completely and utterly, about things. He cared about toys and childhood and films. He cared about books. He cared about stories.
This is a book about caring for things. It’s a love letter to books, but I think, just as much, it’s a love letter to people, and a love letter to the world of Waukegan, Illinois, in the 1920s, the world in which Ray Bradbury had grown up and which he immortalized as Green Town in his book of childhood, Dandelion Wine.
As I said when we began: If someone tells you what a story is about, they are probably right. If they tell you that that is all the story is about, they are probably wrong. So any of the things I have told you about Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury’s remarkable book of warning, will be incomplete. It is about these things, yes. But it is about more than that. It is about what you find between its pages.
(As a final note, in these days when we worry and we argue about whether ebooks are real books, I love how broad Ray Bradbury’s definition of a book is at the end, when he points out that we should not judge our books by their covers, and that some books exist between covers that are perfectly people-shaped.)
Reading Group Guide
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. Is Bradbury accurate in his implication that 451 degrees Fahrenheit is the minimum temperature at which paper burns? Is it an implication, or does he state it as fact in the story? Does this matter to you?
2. Do you find Bradbury’s epigraph appropriate?
“If they give you ruled paper, write the other way.”—Juan Ramón Jiménez
Research Juan Ramón Jiménez. In your opinion, in what context is his quote being used?
3. Some stories can be set in any place at any time. How important is setting to Fahrenheit 451?
4. Montag is Bradbury’s protagonist, of course. But which character do you find more intriguing, which more compelling, Montag or Beatty? Is there another character with similar power?
5. Is Beatty the story’s antagonist? Are there other antagonistic forces?
6. Is Clarisse a credible character? In your opinion, does her character leave the story too abruptly? Should she have played a larger role in the novel?
7. Does Mildred actually forget that she took the pills, or is she pretending not to remember? Were the machines that treated her designed to erase the memory of a suicide attempt? What do you think led Mildred to attempt suicide?
8. Is it intelligence that saves us from surrender to the majority? Or another quality, or mix of qualities?
9. What examples of courage have you seen in the actual world that are as powerful as the courage Montag and the other resisters and insurgents display in the storyworld?
10. What other people, events, political/cultural conditions do you see in our world that parallel those of the storyworld?
11. What does irony mean? Identify groups or individuals in our world who burn books. Is their motivation to burn all books as the state mandates in Fahrenheit 451, or is it to burn specific books? Do you see irony in such people finding in a book their motivation to burn books? Do they, in fact, find their motivation in a book? What book might that be?
12. What is your opinion of the Mechanical Hound? Is it a symbol? Symbols do not “mean”; symbols “suggest.” What might the Hound suggest? Do you find ironic qualities in the Hound? Let’s say the Hound is a human being’s “worst friend.” What is the ironic quality there?
13. Here’s the passage where Montag kills Beatty.
And then he was a shrieking blaze, a jumping, sprawling, gibbering mannikin, no longer human or known, all writhing flame on the lawn as Montag shot one continuous pulse of liquid fire on him.
Later, Montag states the following inference.
Beatty wanted to die.
In the middle of the crying Montag knew it for the truth. Beatty had wanted to die. He had just stood there, not really trying to save himself ….
Bradbury tells the reader that Montag “knew it for the truth,” but is that possible? To infer, of course, means “to conclude from evidence.” What evidence does Montag have for the inference—or the “conclusion”—that he expresses here? What support for this idea do you find in the story?
14. How many of Bradbury’s literary allusions can you identify? Does it matter? Do the allusions engage you? Make a list of them and then look them up.
15. What effects might four-wall television have on residents of the house? Do you see irony in Mildred’s use of the word “family” to refer to the TV characters?
16. As we stand at the check-out counter of most any store, we see the covers of tabloids. Let’s say we’re drawn to the photos and text. Some people call these magazines “guilty pleasure.” Why is popular culture compelling? Is popular culture pernicious and worth fighting, or is it innocent? What is the best-known family in America? What do you make of this? Does such a thing matter?
17. Sometimes we say that an event or feeling is not expressible in words. We say, “You have to go through it yourself to understand.” But this isn’t so, at least not for a writer of Bradbury’s skill. Expressing the inexpressible is the storyteller’s job. Read aloud a passage that seems to you an example of Bradbury expressing the inexpressible.
18. What are your emotional and intellectual responses to Fahrenheit 451? How do you judge its value? The novel was written in the early 1950s but describes a futuristic society in which, for example, newspapers are a thing of the past, movies and photographs have displaced literary culture, etc. Find additional examples in the novel that you could argue predict what life is like in today’s society. Do you feel the novel’s vision has come true?
19. Explain how novels with a political theme can succeed both aesthetically and psychologically? Give examples from the Fahrenheit 451 to support your answer.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I enjoyed Fahrenheit 451. True, it's hard to understand sometimes. I think what really made this book stand out to me was not the plot, but the motifs and symbolism. If you read this book just for plot, I will tell you that you will be confused and disappointed. The glory of this book is in how Ray Bradbury uses symbolism and motif. When I say motif, I mean like a theme. Like fire and water. Bradbury often uses fire to represent ignorance in the book, and water to represent knowledge. Or masks and mirrors. Bradbury will talk about some of the characters (usually the ones who are following the crowd, like the Montags) having "masks," while other characters (those who are different like Clarisse and Faber) are described as with mirrors. If you want to really read this book, I recommend getting one of those literature guides to read along with Fahrenheit. If you know the symbolism behind the book, you will enjoy it much more.
God bless you Ray. You gave us a vision of what might happen and so much of what you said did. Traffic cameras, the death of real conversation, the creation of an electronic family and social media. You will be greatly missed.
Written 50 years ago but still rings true in describing today's culture if you look at the themes metaphors,symbols and the message he's trying to tell. I think people who label it boring are just reading it literally and expecting a science fiction thriller.
I feel bad for all of the people who said this book was stupid. Not to offend anyone, but if you really get it and understand what it's saying then it has a really deep message. I get how its hard to understand because there are so many metaphors but if you think about it it is so much like our world today and this guy wrote it like 50 years ago. Just the fact that i am writing this review on an ereader and not actually having a conversation depicts what he wrote.
A little bit of a hard read, but if you liked 1984 or other dystopian novels, this will be great for you! Powerful, thoughtful, and amazing. My only point is that the ending wasn't as conclusive as I would've liked but still great.
I am in 7th grade but i still found this book very interestinh
First, I would like to state that I really like this book, but also fear that what was written as fiction predicting reality is coming true in more ways than one. I would also like to state that I want to write about the book and then off the book, if you can say that. The main character, Guy Montag, is a fireman, but instead of putting fires out, he starts them for one purpose, to burn those objects that are feared to cause negative emotion, books. While the books are not really disallowed by the government, they are objects that deemed dangerous and those who harbor them. At first it seems that it is another despotic novel where the characters are fearful by what government or as we have seen, "Big Brother" in 1984, is enforcing as a rule of law, but it is even more than that. As we find out, the books can be burned in more ways then one and that is where the object off the book, the topic and how it came to live even more interesting than even the novel itself, which I will touch in a little bit. What we also see, what Ray Bradbury talks about is in house parlors. The shows where the viewer interacts with the show, so as per what we have seen recently, reality shows, but with interactive aspect to them. The viewer is not just watching the shows, but also being fed information that they want them to think, feel and live by. Then of course the sleeping "brainwashing" and so it goes on and on, on the daily 24 hour basis. It is interesting that while reading this book, we find out more about what our society is doing now, while reading something that was written a few decades before. The books didn't just disappear and did not get outlawed, but the viewer became abscessed with the "family" in the parlor shows. The books started to be less and less paid attention to, hence the opportune moment for the government to step in and put the viewer in front of the screen and away from the books. Government seized the moment when people distanced themselves from reading and educating themselves, therefore fallen prey to whatever they were being fed via TV shows. Then of course as we find out everything else follows. I like an interesting point and concept what made this book possible and grow to its fruition. In this version of the novel, we have "Fahrenheit 451", but also explanations, praises and positive critique by various writers. We also have explanation by the author himself. Why the book is called "Fahrenheit 451", what and when it gained such clever title and why the author decided to write about this topic. One of the very interesting points here is that there is more than one way to "burn" the books. One is the physically burn them in the fire, as Stalin, Hitler and many other tyrants have done. There is also another way to do it, as Ray Bradbury points out. If you are not reading the books, changing their content, taking out words and even characters to "please" the general public or as Ray points out, suit the needs to minorities, who want something changed, therefore killing and burning the very meaning of the book itself, literary burning it. The concept, the title, the meaning behind this novel, is absolutely genius. It is in the same genre and level of well written novels, as "We", "Brave New World", "1984" and another one, which I have not yet read, but what actually ignited (no punt intended) the idea for Mr Bradbury to write this novel, "Darkness at Noon".
Ray Bradbury opens the world of reading to the reader in a world that leaves it undiscovered. When reading it for the first time, in eighth grade, I was astonished and allured by the premise of the book, that being books. A book about books! At the age of 13 and 14, some scenes were hard to picture reading it, but that's the great thing about reading; if you don't understand it the first time, you go back and read it again. Since then, I've currently have read the book for the third time and clearly understand what happened to Montag's wife during the night. Looking back I loved it then and love it even more now because I went back to see the changes and stagnant feelings that socially encompass our world. Fahrenheit 451 reflects our reality like a mirror, just like Clarisse does to Montag, and we have Ray to thank for that. I'll never read an e-book because I know, and I see it my classmates disdain, that I will soon be desensitized towards books in print. What's more personal, warm and inviting than a nice, old and wrinkly book?
I never read Fahrenheit 451 during the 60' or 70's but I'd heard of the book. As I read it now as a senior citizen, I saw a lot of similarities in issues that are current nowadays. As the featured book of the Big Read, the book sparked very spirited and book discussions and aevery discussion took a different path on varied topics brought up.
This book is great for reports or even just casual reading. Total Must Read!
6 words. It was a pleasure to burn. (And read over and over again)
A truly ageless masterpiece!! The writing is engaging. The plot is very compelling, and how it still relates to our own society evrn today is quite amazing. Bradbury created something incredible!
Loved it, though the beginning was really slow.
This book is a wake up call to life as we know it. Taking place in the future it not only exploits the endless possibilities of what would happen in the future if we choose to neglect our: opinions and emotions but it also shines light on the endless fight, that man refuses to give up on in order, to resurrect from it's mistakes. Truly honoring one of the best scientific writer's of all time. Bradbury simply tells the story of Montag a firefighter who unlike the rest questions his very sanity after meeting a young girl Clarrisse unlike the rest. With the countless allusions, this book adopts broad time periods from authors from the victorian era and even ancient myths back in egyptian times. In the future where books are banned and roaring tv's take there place, people just stand in line and do as they are told the regular robots and people who aren't so adhesive to the rules are frowned upon and might even turn up dead. Teens kill each other in intentional car acciendents, people overdose on pills only to have their stomachs vaccumed out leaving them to do it over and over again, women who have constant abortions and husbands, and a war that seems to take place throughout the world and within the soceity.
Glen beck agenda 21 similiar gret read. Easy to understand
The book “Fahrenheit 451” is based around a man named Guy Montag who is the protagonist of this story .This book is written from the point of view of third person limited. He basically lives in a dystopian society which means it is a fiction book where they live in an imaginary place where life is extremely bad.Some important characters in this book are Clarisse a seventeen year old girl, Mildred who is Montag’s wife,Captain Beatty, and Faber who is an old english professor.In their world they are limited to the things they have freedom to. For example they can’t think for themself, walk outside or own /read a book. Since they are not allowed to read or own books what their fireman do is if they find any book in a person’s house they will burn it. The title “Fahrenheit 451” relates to the book because at that degree is when paper begins to burn which is basically the main idea of the book which is burning books. If a police or fireman are seen with a book they have only a few hours to return it into the fire department. I honestly do not think this is my favorite book but i do encourage others to read it because i feel like it teaches us a possibility of what the world can eventually come to. I think it kind of made me realize that our world has many negative things that can be easily fixed although if we don’t fix them our world can fall apart and somewhat become the book “Fahrenheit 451”.
great book! Take a Barnes $10 Off coupons code from bookscoupons.com
Ok so I am in honors english and on our must read summers reading list it says that I must read this book but i'm not sure if the book is in english or not and I need to know if i'd just be better off going to the public library an checking it out instead. Please can someone help me
I normally give books I read 5 stars, because I chose them because I knew beforehand that I would like them. But this is an odd book. I did enjoy the fact that it was deeper than what the writing said, but I also found it slightly irritating when the book ended and the rest was reviews. I have to do a book report on this, so I hope I'm able to!
I really enjoyed Fahrenheit 451, it was hard to read at the beginning of the book, I wont lie, but as I read along and along, and got into the plot, I began to understand what was happening and the themes Bradbury was trying to point out to us. The book itself was not made to understand the plot, but was to understand the symbolism Bradbury used, which was really impure ssive. This book is definitely for you if your into the science fiction type of literature as Bradbury makes incredi ble references and predictions to things we use today, while writing this in the early 50's... But, as a firefighter who lights things (books) up instead of putting them out, you might want a literature guide to help you out along the way, since it gets a little fuzzy at times. The characters in the story, Guy Montag and Clarrise, lead the way for all the rebels to come out of their shells and prove the government of their wrong-doing. Mildred Montag, the “wife” of Guy is an ordinary person in the emotionless world, not caring about anything that happens to herself or anyone for that matter. Many other characters will come up in this book with strange or unforeseeable identities. The entire country, which is depicted as the near future of America, lives in a dystopian society that is surprisingly and mysteriously cut off from the rest of the earth. In this world, no one shows love, or any emotion at that, in the meaningless time. Books are forbidden in the country, allowing the government to have more control over more uneducated people who stare at giant screens with colorful images for most of the day. To those who do not abide by the strict laws laid down by the government, will be hunted down by a hound ready to kill. This isn't the average hound, as this creature is a robotic dog. The mechanical hound has a “four inch hollow steel needle” coming from its snout ready to inject any person holding books with morphine. The depressed world has people constantly attempting or considering suicide regularly. This was my first ever science fiction novel and has set the bar high for the rest of them, with the amazing storytelling of Ray Bradbury leading the way, this is honestly a must read to anyone who enjoys a novel in their hands.
It was a good read. Wished the ending was better though.
I personally enjoyed this book, although I thought it had some more boring parts. I thought some parts had to much going on and made me confused. I was disappointed when Clarisse never returned. It never specifically clarified that Clarisse even died, it was more of a possibility or suggestion. I thought Fahrenheit 451 expressed the importance of knowledge very well. I think that Ray Bradbury is an extremely creative person to have come up with an excellent novel like this with such an out of the box idea. I loved the ending and how mysterious it is. Clarisse could have found Montag, Montag could have fallen in love for real, he and the book people could have changed the laws and taught the people how important books really are. It left lots of room for creativity at the end, so that you as the reader could made conclusions for yourself. It doesn't tell you if Faber was ok or if Mildred died set in her old ways. Fahrenheit 451 was an excellent book, and had no imperfections what soever, I personally thought the book was not my type. I enjoy books with a little more love and happiness. I overall thought this book was okay.
Loved this book.
This book is about a firefighter who burns books and houses, instead of putting them out. Ray Bardbury has a very different style of writing. This book was slightly confusing for me, some of the descriptions I did not understand until my English teacher explained them to the class. Overall, the book had a good message, and I liked how it ended with the Hobos being able to start over in the city.
This book is about books being banned. People are not allowed to read books and if they have books then their house will be burned down. No one really has feelings for anything and do not communicate well. Montag gets a different perspective and tries to change the city.