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Fahrenheit 451 (book)

A novel by Ray Bradbury

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Fahrenheit 451: A Powerful and Thought-Provoking Novel

  • Apr 26, 2010
  • by
Rating:
+4

In 1966, Ray Bradbury wrote: "I find now, after the fact, chances are Fahrenheit 451 might be around for a few years."

At that time the short novel, originally published in book form in 1953, had "been around" for 13 years. In 2003 it celebrated its 50th year in print, and now, in 2010, it is still as popular as ever.

Why has this story had such longevity?

Is it because Bradbury reversed a widely accepted premise--instead of putting out fires, future firemen start them? Is it because people are horrified at the idea of censorship? Is it because of the passion with which Bradbury tells his story of rogue fireman Guy Montag?

Perhaps. But I believe the main reason Fahrenheit 451 has become a classic is because of its powerful, three-dimensional, multi-layered storytelling.

On the surface, Fahrenheit 451 appears to be about a Fireman's new-found love of books and his rebellion against burning them. Dig a little deeper and you'll find that Bradbury is painting a picture of a world that has become desensitized, a recurring theme in much of Bradbury's early work.

In Bradbury's future, life goes on in the parlors, where the walls are giant, interactive television screens. People plug their ears with seashell radios, even while they're asleep, and they often OD on sleeping pills in order to get to sleep. They drive more than a hundred miles per hour to have fun. They avoid thoughts of death or anything else that makes them unhappy; five minutes after a person dies, his or her body is dumped into a giant incinerator and reduced to ashes. Even in his descriptions of Montag's wife Bradbury symbolizes the drab artificiality of the society:

"Mildred stood over his bed, curiously. He felt her there, he saw her without opening his eyes, her hair burnt by chemicals to a brittle straw, her eyes with a kind of cataract unseen but suspect far behind the pupils, the reddened pouting lips, the body as thin as a praying mantis from dieting, and her flesh like white bacon. He could remember her no other way."

And:

"She ran past with her body stiff, her face floured with powder, her mouth gone, without lipstick."

Bradbury also gives us a credible villain in Captain Beatty. Although Montag is a mouthpiece for the author, Beatty makes a good argument that books cause unhappiness and should be eliminated--because the focus of this society is on happiness and not on thinking too much.

But Montag suspects that people are not happy. The television walls, the driving at super high speeds--and hitting things that wander unaware into their paths--the seashell radios, and the giant flues where dead bodies are reduced to ashes in a second anesthetize them, numb their pain. If they don't think, they can't be unhappy. And books make them think.

Bradbury suggests through Montag and Faber--a retired English professor who, after initially being frightened to openly oppose the status quo, helps Montag with his rebellion against conformity--that only when one thinks and feels, is one truly alive; stop thinking and feeling, and you become a zombie.

Although for the most part the technology is a bit dated--Bradbury missed the Internet entirely, and communications are still snail-mailed--his prediction that television would play a major role in the mind-numbing of future generations appears to have been right on. That was a pretty astute speculation for 1950 (when Bradbury wrote his original novella, The Fireman, which was published in Galaxy Science Fiction) when many folks did not realize the powerful force that television would become.

I would have to agree with Bradbury's other prediction in 1966; I think Fahrenheit 451 will be around for a few more years. Although it gets a little preachy at times, is a powerful story and encourages us to think. I highly recommend it.

Fahrenheit 451: A Powerful and Thought-Provoting Novel Fahrenheit 451: A Powerful and Thought-Provoting Novel

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April 27, 2010
A great book deserves a great review and you delivered. Nice breakdown on the philosophy behind Bradbury's story. Like Devora, I need to re-read this dystopic classic.
 
April 26, 2010
Great review, David!  You should really add this to @Adrianna's reading community -- it would be in good company there!  Farenheit 451 was one of my favorite books in high school.  I'm going to have to read it again.  Thanks for sharing! :)
 
April 26, 2010
Nice review. It's a sci-fi classic, that's for sure.
 
April 26, 2010
Great review on Bradbury's book! I love Fahrenheit 451! I sent you an invite to my reading community "Cafe Libri." I hope you join. I look forward to more of your writing. :)
 
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More Fahrenheit 451 reviews
review by . June 24, 2010
"We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?" cries Montag in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. Montag, a fireman, is upset after having witnessed a woman who had chosen to die with her collection of books rather than leave them behind. In his world, however, firemen do not fight fires; they start them.      Bradbury’s 1953 science …
review by . May 21, 2010
I first read this book in middle school as part of an assigned reading course. I found it frightening and intense then in the same way 1984 is. Reading it again as an adult shines a whole new light on how this work has disturbingly captured the issues of American society that transformed from possibly relevant in 1953 to truly pertinent in today's world.
Quick Tip by . August 14, 2010
Read this in High school. A classic that should be read by all. As a Freemason I have had to memorize all the ritual by hear by having another brother mason recite it to me and I repeated it back, just like in 451. I like that connection allot.
review by . April 11, 2010
Fahrenheit 451 is one of the most famous works of science fiction, and with "Brave New World" and "1984" represents one of the most memorable and haunting dystopias. In a future world, books are banned and firemen actually set fires instead of extinguishing them. The state exercises a form of social control through controlling what sort of information people have access to. It turns out that not all books are banned, only those that we would today consider "great works" - Plato, Shakespeare, The …
Quick Tip by . July 29, 2010
One of the greatest books about why books matter. An easy read, but sticks with you.
Quick Tip by . July 15, 2010
Better you read it while you can. Nice story. You can also check out the movie. This is an amazing "what if" novel.
Quick Tip by . July 13, 2010
Ray Bradbury has a unique style of writing. Pick up this book and take some time to note his distinctive voice.
Quick Tip by . July 12, 2010
Oh my which book would I be? Is it best for me to choose or someone else? The honor! The responsibility! The Gift!
Quick Tip by . July 11, 2010
Interesting message from a prolific, renowned author but descriptive writing style not particular engaging.
Quick Tip by . July 06, 2010
I had to read this for my English class once and however, I found it to be boring and not so entertaining. It actually is a good story. Other people seem to enjoy it.
About the reviewer
David Kubicek ()
Ranked #389
I'm a writer living in Lincoln, Nebraska. I've published several short stories, countless articles, two books (3 if you include the Cliffs Notes on Cather's My Antonia. I am currently writing novels. … more
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Wiki

Fahrenheit 451 is a dystopian novel by Ray Bradbury which was first published in 1953.

The novel presents a future American society in which the masses are hedonistic and critical thought through reading is outlawed. The central character, Guy Montag, is employed as a "fireman" (which, in this future, means "bookburner"). The number "451" refers to the temperature at which book paper combusts. Although sources contemporary with the novel's writing gave the temperature as 450 °C (842 °F), Bradbury is believed to have thought "Fahrenheit" made for a better title; however, in an introduction to the 40th anniversary edition of the novel, Bradbury states that a person he spoke with at the local fire department said "Book-paper catches fire at 451 degrees Fahrenheit". The "firemen" burn them "for the good of humanity". Written in the early years of the Cold War, the novel is a critique of what Bradbury saw as issues in American society of the era.
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Details

ISBN-10: 0345342968
ISBN-13: 978-0345342966
Author: Ray Bradbury
Genre: Intelligent Science Fiction, Political and Social Satire
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Date Published: 1966
Polls with this book
1984 (British first edition)

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