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35. Ray Bradbury: Fahrenheit 451

Brian Baker

Subject Literature

Key-Topics science fiction

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405112185.2005.00037.x


Fahrenheit 451 is, famously, the temperature at which book-paper catches fire and burns. The world of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 is a police state where agents of the government, known as “Firemen,” control the populace through the destruction of printed material. Books are publicly burned in spectacular raids on secret caches and libraries maintained by dissident individuals. This burning is a manifestation of censorship and control, a system reinforced by omnipresent radio and television. The narrative of Ray Bradbury's 1953 novel charts the trajectory of alienation of Guy Montag, a Fireman who begins to doubt, then oppose, the system of control of which he was once a part. Montag begins to find value in the books he once burned. Ultimately this leads to his estrangement from the Fireman-state, and his exile: he is hunted by the “Mechanical Hound,” a lethal tracking device, while millions in the city watch his flight on television. Montag crosses the river which divides the city from the country, the mechanical from the natural. When the city is destroyed in a nuclear or atomic blast, Montag and the community of men he has found outside the city - each of whom has memorized a book - return to rebuild “civilization.” In Fahrenheit 451 , opposition to the repression and censorship of a dystopian state is focused on books (representing “high culture”), a locus of repression ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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