In 1953, Ray Bradbury published his famous dystopian novel ”Fahrenheit 451”. Since its publication, the novel has been the subject of much praise but also much controversy. Learn why ”Fahrenheit 451” has burned so bright and test yourself with a quiz in this article.
Intro to Fahrenheit 451
By 1953, World War II had been over for a few years, and the world was sort of returning to normalcy. For famed author Ray Bradbury, this offered more questions than it did answers and led him to create perhaps his most famous work: his 1953 novel Fahrenheit 451.The world Bradbury creates in Fahrenheit 451 is an authoritarian, dystopian one. An authoritarian society is where individuality is discouraged, even punished, and complete obedience is heartily encouraged. A dystopian society is a fictional, futuristic, otherworldly society that paints a picture of an awful reality nobody would want to live in. The dystopian world painted by Bradbury for his novel is a society in which citizens are literally surrounded by television in their homes, by walls that are actually televisions.
The country is in a state of war, and free thought is discouraged. Bradbury drew on the changing times he lived in as inspiration and stated that, in his opinion, the novel is more of a response to the growing popularity of television than anything. He feared TV would knock literature to the wayside, and that idea shows in what really makes the world of Fahrenheit 451 chilling. Here, books are illegal, and firemen, instead of putting out actual fires, perform state-mandated book burnings.
Why Ban (or Burn) Books?
To backtrack for just a second, censorship is a really important term, especially when we’re talking about Fahrenheit 451. Censorship is the act of suppressing something, and, since we’re talking about a form of art here, censorship in this case means specifically the act of suppressing something the censor finds objectionable or offensive, usually on moral, religious or political grounds. Ray Bradbury firmly stated that Fahrenheit 451 grew out of his fear of television’s growing influence on people and society as a whole.
And that theme is clearly present. However, due to the laws banning books present in the novel, it’s pretty obvious that censorship is also a key theme, and it deserves to be studied.So the idea of banning books, or removing a certain book from libraries, school curriculums or other places/lists, grows out of an inflated idea of censorship.
More often than not, books are banned because one or two people, or maybe a group of people, fear what the book has to say. A good example of real-life book banning run amok is a book about witchcraft banned in old times, when such things weren’t understood. Or in Nazi Germany, works by Jewish authors were publicly burned. That’s fear; being so afraid of different ideas that you want to not only ban those ideas, but you want to obliterate them with actual flames.
This shows how much impact the written word can have. It brings forth new ideas (or maybe old ideas that have gone out of favor with whatever government is in power). It questions the status quo. It voices concerns.
Why Ban Fahrenheit 451?
The human race has a talent for trying to destroy things we’re afraid of, or things we don’t understand, and when it comes to books, this can be accomplished by either banning said book or burning it. This is actually ironic when we talk about the banning of Fahrenheit 451. Irony is a term you’ve probably heard before in regard to something funny or comedic.
There are different types of irony, but in this situation it means that the result (banning a book about books being banned) is pretty much the exact opposite of what one would expect the result to be. With this novel, Ray Bradbury drew attention to the problem of ignorance and censorship in society by writing about a world where books are burned because of a requirement by the government, only to have his own work banned.There are some things in this novel that people were offended by. There’s some profanity and some taking of the Lord’s name in vain. There’s some burning of the Bible and some derogatory lines about Christianity.
In 2006, a Texas couple got angry about this and campaigned to have the book removed from their daughter’s high school curriculum. And in the early 1990s, a California school distributed copies of the novel to its students with all profanity and all offensive words blacked out. In the late 1980s, a Florida school superintendent attempted to remove Fahrenheit 451 for vulgarity. Again, the irony should be lost on no one that people have attempted to ban the book about book burning.
The fights to ban Fahrenheit 451 have never really succeeded. The Texas couple who objected to the burning of the Bible never gained enough traction within the community, although they received quite a bit of publicity. The California school was forced to replace its blacked-out copy with the uncensored version after parents, students, and teachers alike protested and the media got involved.
The Florida school from the 1980s was also the subject of much protest for its ;This book is too vulgar!; argument, so that didn’t pan out so well either. As a result of attempts to ban the book, as is the result with most attempts to ban a book, the popularity of Fahrenheit 451 soared, and the irony of each situation brought the discussion of censorship to light.Fahrenheit 451 remains a popular, important book to this day, and it’s used in classrooms across the world to discuss censorship and the necessity of writing and reading. Even in 2015, attempts to censor literature and other art still exist, and, in this way, Bradbury’s dystopia still exists.
The positive side, though, is that we are able to combat this. Bradbury’s concern about living in a world where literature falls by the wayside has, thankfully, not come to pass, although TV has stuck around. Also, the first line of Fahrenheit 451, ;It was a pleasure to burn; (p. 1), remains one of the most well-known and critically beloved first lines in the English language. It speaks volumes not only about the world he creates, but also who we are as humans. We have a capacity to destroy what scares us, as evidenced by our book-burning past and our attempts to ban books to this day.
But we do have hope, because books are not set alight by firemen in our world, and we are still allowed to read.
In 1953, Ray Bradbury published his dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451. The novel is dystopian because it paints a picture of a terrible future world where free thought is discouraged and people lack the ability to connect to one another. In this world, books are illegal and any that remain are burned by firemen. Ironically, the book can easily be interpreted to be about censorship, or the attempt to suppress material because of religious or moral beliefs, and book burning has been a topic of controversy since its publication. A few schools have even attempted to ban it. Bradbury’s novel remains an important work to this day.