In Fahrenheit 451 , how does setting affect the story?

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belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Fahrenheit 451 is a dystopian novel by Ray Bradbury.

While Bradbury intended the story to be about the growing influence of television over that of literature, most interpretations focus on the themes of censorship and social adjustment. The setting is a dystopian future United States, with its television-addicted citizens largely content and unaware of the vast ongoing global war. Montag, the protagonist, is uneasy with his life, even though it is exactly the life he pursued as a child. His happiness is marred by his exposure to a free spirit in Clarisse, his wife's unexpected suicide attempt, and his growing obsession with saving and hiding books.

"Didn't firemen prevent fires rather than stoke them up and get them going?"

"That's rich!" Stoneman and Black drew forth their rulebooks...

"Established, 1790, to burn English-influenced books in the Colonies. First Fireman: Benjamin Franklin."

RULE 1. Answer the alarm swiftly.

2. Start the fire swiftly.

3. Burn everything.
(Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451)

History itself has been rewritten to force a new worldview on the populace, and as each new bit of incorrect history appears, the reader realizes that most of the characters simply don't have the imagination to question. Scenes that should be simple and positive are instead claustrophobic; the reader sees what the characters do not, creating sympathy with Montag, whose slow transformation arc is defined by a need to question authority. The cheerful, suburban society is therefore exposed as useful idiots without ambition or motivation; the plot of the novel then continues, as it must, to their inevitable destruction.