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Week 3

Teen Readers

Fahrenheit 451

Audio Version of Fahrenheit 451

Text Version of Fahrenheit 451

About the Author

Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury (1920-2012)

Author and screenwriter Ray Bradbury was best known for his books Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, and The Illustrated Man. He began writing his own stories at age eleven during the Great Depression.  He grew up in Los Angeles, California entranced by the Hollywood scene and determined to become an actor, but later set his sights on screenwriting.  When he graduated from high school in 1938, Bradbury couldn't afford to go to college, so he went to the local library instead. "Libraries raised me," he later said. "I believe in libraries because most students don't have any money. When I graduated from high school, it was during the Depression, and we had no money. I couldn't go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for 10 years."  He sold newspapers to support himself while he wrote.  He published his first major work, The Martian Chronicles in 1950.  Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury's best-known work was published in 1953, becoming an instant classic in the era of McCarthyism for its exploration of themes of censorship and conformity.  Ray Bradbury wrote for several hours every day throughout his entire life, which enabled him to publish more than 30 books, almost 600 short stories, and numerous poems, essays, screenplays and plays.  Bradbury won a special citation from the Pulitzer Prize board in 2007 for his “distinguished, prolific and deeply influential career as an unmatched author of science fiction and fantasy."

Fahrenheit 451 (1953)

Ray Bradbury’s most famous book was Fahrenheit 451, a novel about a futuristic America where reading books is against the law and “firemen” burn any they find with kerosene and a flame thrower.  Fahrenheit 451 gives readers a view into a dystopian world where the people are obsessed with electronic devices as entertainment and relationships over physical reality.  The novel examines the consequences of censorship, infatuation with mass media, addiction to electronic devices, mindless entertainment, and a society that forgets its literature.  

Ironically for a book that warns against a society that embraces censorship, Fahrenheit 451 has been banned many times since its publication.  Bradbury described himself as "a preventor of futures, not a predictor of them." He hoped that book burning was a part of humanity’s past, and he wanted to warn against its occurrence in the future.

Questions for reading Fahrenheit 451:

At the beginning of the book, how does Montag feel about his job?  How does his attitude evolve?

During his conversation with Clarisse, Montag says of the kerosene, “You never wash it off completely”. What could this mean symbolically?

What about Clarisse makes society regard her as “anti-social”?

Do you agree with Faber that he is a coward?

What is the main conflict in Fahrenheit 451?

What messages or themes is the author trying to impart to his readers?  How do these themes resonate with today’s world?

 

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