background information (handout)

Gebel-english 1
Background Information, Fahrenheit 451
Published in 1953 during the Cold War and McCarthy Eras, the novel reflects Bradbury's
concerns about censorship and conformity. The book burnings of the Nazi regime in Germany
during the 1930s had been widely shown after World War II. These book burnings became a
major symbol of the repression that followed in Nazi Germany. The importance of books and
the freedom to read them was a central concern of liberal minded people during the 1950s.
The novel is often compared to other dystopias—works which create societies where people
lead dehumanized and often dangerous lives—such as Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and
George Orwell's 1984.
Richness of his imagery in Fahrenheit 451: LOOK FOR THE FOLLOWING ELEMENTS WHEN
YOU READ: Imagery, Metaphors, Similes, Symbolism: Fire, blood, the Electric-Eyed Snake,
the hearth, the salamander, the phoenix, the sieve and the sand, Denham’s Dentifrice, the
dandelion, mirrors
Viewed as a science fiction work with many motifs throughout: Paradoxes, animals and nature,
religion, television and radio, fire
Themes to look for: ignorance vs. knowledge, conformity vs. individuality, censorship,
technology, entertainment/media
Point of View: The book is written in the third person ("he") with its central focus on the thoughts
and actions of Montag. Much of the excitement in the story, though, comes from the descriptive
passages of the setting, action, and characters. Through his poetic descriptions, Bradbury makes the
unreal world he describes seem real. Clearly, he has written Fahrenheit 451 in order to express this
Title: 451 degrees Fahrenheit is the temperature at which paper bursts into flame
Bradbury structured Fahrenheit 451 into 3 parts that parallel the stages of Montag's transformation.
Part One: The Hearth and the Salamander." Montag enjoys his work as a fireman in this section, but
he also begins to find his inner voice as doubts set in. Hearth (fireplace): a traditional symbol of the home
Salamander: one of the official symbols of the firemen, as well as the name they give to their fire trucks. Both of these
symbols have to do with fire, the dominant image of Montag’s life—the hearth because it contains the fire that heats a
home, and the salamander because of ancient beliefs that it lives in fire and is unaffected by flames.
Part Two: "The Sieve and the Sand." In this section Montag has taken steps away from social
conformity.. Montag's dialogues become angry and incoherent as he is torn
Part Three: "Burning Bright," Montag commits his final acts of transformation.