Ray Bradbury -His Book


The story of fireman Guy Montag first appeared in "The Fireman", a short story by Ray Bradbury published in Galaxy Science Fiction in 1951. Montag's story was expanded two years later, in 1953, when it was published as Fahrenheit 451. While the novel is most often classified as a work of science fiction, it is first and foremost a social criticism that warns against the danger of suppressing thought through censorship. Fahrenheit 451 uses the genre of science fiction, which was enjoying immense popularity at the time of the books publication, as a vehicle for his message that oppressive government, left unchecked, can do irreparable damage to society by limiting the creativity and freedom of it's people. In particular, the "dystopia" motif popular in science fiction - that of a futuristic technocratic and totalitarian society that demands order and harmony at the expense of individual rights - serves the novel well.

Developed in the years following World War II, Fahrenheit 451 condemns not only the anti-intellectualism of the defeated Nazi party in Germany, but more immediately the intellectually oppressive political climate of the early 1950's - the heyday of McCarthyism. That such influential social criticisms via fiction as Orwell's Animal Farm and 1984 and Skinners Walden Two were published just a few short years prior to Fahrenheit 451 is not coincidental. These works reveal a very real apprehension of the danger of the US evolving into an oppressive, authoritarian society that existed in the post-WWII period.

On a more personal level, Bradbury used Fahrenheit 451 as a vehicle through which to protest what he believed to be the invasiveness of editors who, through their strict control of the books they printed, impaired the originality and creativity of writers. Ironically, Fahrenheit 45I, itself a vehicle of protest against censorship, has often been edited for foul language.

Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury's most popular novel, has been reprinted scores of times since it was initially published in 1953.

The lesson of this American classic is one that has become increasingly important and is as relevant today as it was when it was first written.


EXCERPT: It was a pleasure to burn. It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed. With the brass nozzle in his fists, with this great python spitting its venomous kerosene upon the world, the blood pounded in his head, and his hands were the hands of some amazing conductor playing all the symphonies of blazing and burning to bring down the tatters and charcoal ruins of history. With his symbolic helmet numbered 451 on his stolid head, and his eyes all orange flame with the thought of what came next, he flicked the igniter and the house jumped up in a gorging fire that burned the evening sky red and yellow and black. 

He strode in a swarm of fireflies.  He wanted above all, like the old joke, to shove a marshmallow on a stick in the furnace, while the flapping pigeon-winged books died on the porch and lawn of the house. While the books went up in sparkling whirls and blew away on a wind turned dark with burning. Montag grinned the fierce grin of all men singed and driven back by flame.

He knew that when he returned to the firehouse, he might wink at himself, a minstrel man, burnt-corked, in the mirror.  Later, going to sleep, he would feel the fiery smile still gripped by his face muscles, in the dark. It never went away, that smile, it never ever went away, as long as he remembered.


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