Understanding Fahrenheit 451

 

This Web page has been designed to assist students to:

  • Explore 20th century literature.
  • Develop understanding of the history of censorship and its influence on literature.
  • Deepen appreciation for the role of science fiction in modern literature.

For ease of study, topics have been divided into 3 categories

  1. Ray Bradbury
  2. Censorship
  3. Fahrenheit 451:
    1. Overview
    2. Themes in focus

Note: Some of these categories will naturally overlap.

Ray Bradbury (1920 – present)

Championed as one of America’s greatest storytellers, Ray Bradbury has helped bring the genre of science fiction into the forefront of literature. His skill for causing readers to think while entertaining them makes him one of the most celebrated authors of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Ray Bradbury The official Ray Bradbury website which includes background information, interviews, and quotes. In the discussion area, fans describe how Bradbury’s books have affected them, as well as show off their favorite fan items – like a gold signet ring engraved with 451.

Ray Bradbury An interview by Rob Couteau in which Bradbury discusses science fiction, his method of writing, and touches lightly on book burning. (The book burning segment is mid-way through the interview.)

Ray Bradbury Don Swaim’s 47 minute audio interview of Ray Bradbury from 1992. Bradbury discusses his writing process and how he came to write Fahrenheit 451.

Ray Bradbury YouTube video of Ray Bradbury in June 2010 discussing Fahrenheit 451, how he developed as a writer, and why he writes. In the interview, “A Conversation with Ray Bradbury”, Bradbury confides which character in Fahrenheit 451 he considers to be autobiographical. This video is part of the NEA “The Big Read” program. (22 minutes)

 

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History of Censorship

Although the practice of prohibiting ideas is recorded as far back as ancient Greece, censorship continues to present-day. In order to fully appreciate Fahrenheit 451, readers benefit from understanding 20th century experiments with book burning and banning.

Censorship During the 40th anniversary of Fahrenheit 451, author Ray Bradbury discussed his ideas about censorship in this audio interview with Don Swaim, September 1, 1993. (Second audio link towards bottom of page.)

Censorship In 1979, Ray Bradbury gave his views on censorship and the irony of how own publishers had censored Fahrenheit 451 in this coda to the 50th anniversary of its publication.

Censorship While encouraging others to speak out about internet censorship, and specifically, Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), Melissa Donovan touches on past censorship of Fahrenheit 451.

Censorship An article about Fahrenheit 451 which lists how many of the items described in the book have come to pass. There is a discussion on censorship in the comment section. (Scroll down to the bottom for comment section.)

Censorship An example of an attempt to ban Fahrenheit 451 from a high school classroom in 1999.

Censorship This website sponsored by the National Library of Norway details many examples of censorship from around the world. There is also a free eBooks link of previously banned books.

Censorship American Library Association’s (ALA) collection of links, quotes, and essays about book burning. Mid-way down the front page is a list of links detailing book burning by the century.

Fahrenheit 451 Overview

Fahrenheit 451 An introduction to a reader’s guide for the NEA’s The Big Read program. The short essay offers insight into the structure of Fahrenheit 451 as well as a summary of the plot.

Fahrenheit 451 Short Wikipedia overview of the novel with a list of characters and additional resources.

Fahrenheit 451 Plot summary by SparkNotes. Caution: advertising pop-ups.

Fahrenheit 451 Book summary of Fahrenheit 451 by CliffNotes. Audio download available.

Fahrenheit 451 James Schellenberg compares Fahrenheit 451 to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and George Orwell’s 1984. It is helpful to also follow the links and read Schellenberg’s essays on Brave New World and 1984, as well as his review of Francois Truffaut’s Fahrenheit 451 (1965) movie.

Fahrenheit 451 A movie trailer created by high school juniors for an English assignment.

Fahrenheit 451 A short (1:14) video about how Ray Bradbury believes Fahrenheit 451 has been misunderstood for years. Produced by The Book Files (Barnes & Noble)

Fahrenheit 451 Matthew Arnold’s poem, Dover Beach, is central to understanding Fahrenheit 451. Commentary to the poem is linked at the top left.

Theme in focus: Technology and Alienation

Technology and Alienation A scholarly essay by Michael R. LaBrie, “Now Was Then, Then is Now: The Paradoxical World of Fahrenheit 451”. LaBrie compares the fictional setting in Fahrenheit 451 with 21st century America. (Must download essay.)

Technology and Alienation An essay, “The Failure of Fahrenheit 451,” by Jeremy Smith. He describes how the book “seeks to prevent a certain future by describing it.”

Technology and Alienation A color-coded theme chart that highlights “Mass Media” and “Censorship” next to a plot summary.

Technology and Alienation A review of the anthology, Future Media, in which Fahrenheit 451 is excerpted. The reviewer makes connections between past and future technology and how Fahrenheit 451 is as current as other works written more recently.

Theme in focus: Literacy and Illiteracy

Literacy and Illiteracy An essay by S.R. Stewart about the fear of knowledge and its effect on the characters in Fahrenheit 451.

Literacy and Illiteracy A discussion from readers of Fahrenheit 451 about “free thinking” people versus “brainwashed” people.

Literarcy and Illiteracy An essay on Fahrenheit 451 which highlights the theme “Knowledge versus Willful Ignorance.”

Theme in focus: Political Correctness

Policitical Correctness A color-coded theme chart that highlights “Action and Inaction” next to a plot summary.

Political Correctness An essay on Fahrenheit 451 which highlights “Political Correctness and Censorship.”

Political Correctness An essay on Bradbury’s exposure of political correctness in Fahrenheit 451.

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