Fahrenheit 451 info - Cherokee County Schools

Fahrenheit 451
A novel by Ray Bradbury
Communication Skills
• Published in 1953
• Post-World War II era
• Nazi book burnings of the 1930s
were widely published after WWII –
became a major symbol of the
repression in Nazi Germany
• Television became dominant medium for
mass communication
1946: 7,000 TV sets existed in the U.S.
1948: 148,000 sets
1950: 4.4 million sets
Television vs. books – debate over bringing
television into schools because reading level of
students was dropping
• The importance of books and the freedom
to read them was a central concern of
liberal-minded people during the 1950s.
Context (McCarthyism)
• McCarthy trials
– Senator Joseph McCarthy
– McCarthy made a public accusation that more
than two hundred “card-carrying” communists
had infiltrated the United States government.
Incited a huge “communist scare,” which
helped lead to the Korean War and the Cold
– McCarthy accused many Army officials of
espionage and communist ties.
– He also focused on writers and filmmakers,
creating a great debate on artistic freedom.
Context (McCarthyism)
• Thousands of people lost their jobs as, all across
America, state legislatures and school boards
mimicked McCarthy and his House on Un-American
Activities Committee.
• Books were even pulled from library shelves,
including Robin Hood, which was deemed
communist-like for suggesting stealing from the
rich to give to the poor.
• Above all, several messages became crystal clear to
the average American: Don’t criticize the United
States. Don’t be different. Just conform.
• By 1953, his accusations were at their height. His
hearings were held in 1954 and were the first to be
publicly broadcast (ruined his reputation and
• Fear of robots and other technology was
prevalent in the 1950s (“mad scientist” movies
compounded such fear by portraying machines
that turned on their creator).
• Mentality of hard work and following orders
to get ahead was prevalent at this time.
• Atmosphere of fear and repression left over
from WWII, development (and use) of atomic
bomb, communist scare, the Cold War, and
McCarthy made it possible for government or
any other powerful group to manipulate
public opinion.
• Mob mentality vs. individual rationalization
• Silence of those who were intimidated and
the indifference of those who didn’t can lead
to further manipulation in any time period!
• “Written five years after the end of the 2nd
World War at the advent of the Korean War,
Bradbury’s book evokes an atmosphere of
entrapment… and the unmistakable
apprehension of individuals living in fear of
an authoritarian government.”
• “the suppression of speech or deletion of
communicative material which may be
considered objectionable, harmful or
sensitive, as determined by a censor”
Censorship in History
 In 1497 the Bonfire of the Vanities,
preached by Girolamo Savonarola,
consumed pornography, lewd
pictures, pagan books, gaming
tables, cosmetics, copies of
Boccaccio's Decameron, and all the
works of Ovid which could be found
in Florence.
Censorship in History
• Burning books is often associated
with the Nazi regime. On May 10,
1933, Nazis in Berlin burned works
of Jewish authors, and the library of
the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft,
and other works considered "unGerman".
Censorship in History
 In 1948, at Binghamton, New York children
- overseen by priests, teachers, and parents publicly burned around 2000 comic books.
• In May 1981 Sinhalese police officers on
rampage burned the public library of
Jaffna, northern Sri Lanka; a huge library
collection, which was the second largest
library in Asia, was destroyed: 97,000 books
and very rare collection of ancient palm leaf
volumes were among them
 Ironically, Bradbury’s publishers,
unknown to him, “cleaned up” or
deleted some of the language that
Bradbury used in Fahrenheit 451 in
order to make the book saleable to
the high school market.
 What are some things that get
censored in today’s society?
• Guy Montag is a fireman who burns books in a futuristic
American city. In Montag’s world, firemen start fires
rather than putting them out. The people in this society do
not read books, enjoy nature, spend time by themselves,
think independently, or have meaningful conversations.
Instead, they drive very fast, watch excessive amounts of
television on wall-size sets, and listen to the radio on
“Seashell Radio” sets attached to their ears.
• Montag will meet a 17-year-old girl named Clarisse McClellan,
who will open his eyes to the emptiness of his life by enjoying
those things that her society tells her not to.
• A series of strange events will unfold for Montag, causing him to
question his life, his career, and his society. Montag will turn to
books for answers, which is strictly forbidden in his society.
• Protagonist: Guy Montag
• Antagonist: Society as a whole and,
specifically, Beatty
• Narrator: Third person limited from
Montag’s perspective
• Setting: Some time in the twenty-first
century; two atomic wars have taken
place since 1990; in and around an
unspecified American city
Themes to Consider
Themes to Consider
• Censorship, obviously…
Themes to Consider
• Ignorance/Knowledge
• Throughout the novel, the reader is
presented with a conflict between
knowledge and ignorance. What does true
happiness consist of? Is ignorance bliss, or
do knowledge and learning provide true
happiness? Montag, in his belief that
knowledge reigns, fights against a society
that embraces and celebrates ignorance.
Themes to Consider
• Animal Imagery
• In the opening paragraph, the burning
book pages are compared to birds trying
to fly away. When Millie attempts suicide,
Montag compares the tool used to save her
to a snake. The Mechanical Hound is a
dominant presence throughout the novel.
The image of the salamander is dominant
as well, as a symbol of the fireman. In
addition, the story of the Pheonix plays a
prominent role.
Themes to Consider
• Technology
• Technology in Bradbury's 24th century is
highly advanced. Television screens take up
entire parlor room walls and characters
can speak directly to the listener,
addressing him or her by name. People rely
on inventions such as the Mechanical
Hound and the snake-like tool used to save
Millie's life after her suicide attempt.
People drive cars at speeds of 150mph and
above. Technology dominates society.
Themes to Consider
• Religion
• Although it appears no character in
Fahrenheit 451 holds any religious beliefs,
Bradbury includes many religious
references in this novel. The book Montag
saves from the old woman's house is The
Bible… which is the book he says he will
memorize in order to one day, in a new
society, reprint.
Themes to Consider
• Conformity vs. Individuality
• Paradoxes
• Apathy and Passivity
• Alienation and Loneliness
• Change and Transformation
Works Consulted
• “Fahrenheit 451: The United States in
the Post-war Years.”
• “McCarthy Hearings.” http://www.u-shistory.com/pages/h1769.html
• “Fahrenheit 451 (Historical Context).”