In Fahrenheit 451, what is the significance of the books that were saved? Why are there no recent works of fiction included?  

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tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If you woke up one day to discover that the government and everyone in society were burning books, which ones would you save? Of course, most people would save their favorite books. However, for the intellectuals that Montag meets after escaping from such a society, they choose the following books to save through memorization:

"I am Plato's Republic. Like to read Marcus Aurelius? Mr. Simmons is Marcus . . . I want you to meet Jonathan Swift, the author of that evil political book, Gulliver's Travels! And this other fellow is Charles Darwin, and this one is Schopenhauer, and this one is Einstein, and this one here at my elbow is Mr. Alber Schweitzer, a very kind philosopher indeed. Here we all are, Montag. Aristophanes and Mahatma Gandhi and Gautama Buddha and Confucius and Thomas Love Peacock and Thomas Jefferson and Mr. Lincoln if you please. We are also Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John" (151).

Within the above list are some of the greatest writers, philosophers, political leaders, spiritual leaders, and scientists to grace the earth with human thought. If all of these works are lost, it would mean that humanity would have to rediscover such genius again. That might take centuries! Also, Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 in the early 1950s, so anything written after its publication would certainly not be included. However, these intellectuals must have memorized the above list of works because they all have something in common--they are all classic works that not only contain a store of human knowledge and wisdom, but also provide different perspectives on how to live, how to create a free and just society, and how to question the status quo. The society in Fahrenheit 451 uses manipulation and distraction to control the population. Thus, the works memorized would be useful if that society were ever in a position to rebuild. Soon after Montag meets these men, an atomic bomb goes off. Apparently, the time to rebuild and use these valuable works of information and insight might be closer than they realized.

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Fahrenheit 451

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