How was Ray Bradbury influenced by George Orwell's 1984 in writing Fahrenheit 451?

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George Orwell's 1984 was first published in 1948, three years before Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 . Both are dystopian novels which present oppressive totalitarian governments, and both present dystopian futures in which people have become unwitting slaves to those governments. In both novels too, there is tight control over...

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George Orwell's 1984 was first published in 1948, three years before Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. Both are dystopian novels which present oppressive totalitarian governments, and both present dystopian futures in which people have become unwitting slaves to those governments. In both novels too, there is tight control over what people can read and think.

It is possible that Bradbury could have written Fahrenheit 451 without ever having read 1984. The similarities noted above could be explained by the fact that both authors lived through the same period of history. Both lived through World War II, and both were exposed to the tactics of totalitarian dictators like Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin and Franco. All of these dictators, but most notably Hitler and Stalin, used propaganda to influence or control what people read and thought. It is therefore not surprising that two authors who lived through this period of history would imagine and write novels about two reasonably similar dystopian futures.

However, there are other similarities between the two books which suggest that Bradbury had read and was influenced by 1984. For example, the two protagonists, Guy Montag and Winston Smith respectively, are both average, everyman characters who rebel against the government. Both are also employed (Winston as a records editor at the Ministry of Truth, and Guy as a fireman) in jobs which require the alteration or destruction of literature as part of the propaganda effort.

Another similarity between the two books, which may suggest that Bradbury was directly influenced by 1984, is the presentation of the antagonist characters. The main antagonist in 1984 is O'Brien, and the main antagonist in Fahrenheit 451 is Captain Beatty. Both men are highly intelligent, thinking men, but both renounce their intellectual independence and choose to sublimate themselves to the collective consciousness of their governments. In other words, both antagonists represent the suppression of the individual in the name of the collective, this being a common trait of the extreme ideologies (whether it be, for example, Stalin's form of communism, or Hitler's form of fascism) that both authors witnessed in Europe in the first half of the twentieth century.

It is worth pointing out, however, when considering whether or not, or to what extent Ray Bradbury might have been influenced by 1984, that the styles of both books are markedly different. Orwell famously wrote in a very sparse, dry style, often drafting works again and again to remove superfluous words, whereas Bradbury wrote in a much more florid, dramatic style. So while Bradbury may have been influenced by 1984 in regards to theme and character, the style of writing remained entirely his own.

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Ray Bradbury and George Orwell's novels share many similarities and Bradbury was clearly influenced by Orwell's approach to dealing with authoritarian regimes while creating a protagonist opposed to the oppressive government. Bradbury was greatly influenced by the way that authoritarian regimes use technology to oppress and threaten the population in order to maintain power. In 1984, Big Brother relies on the Thought Police to spy on citizens, closely monitors society via telescreens, and uses propaganda to manipulate the population. Bradbury adopts similar concepts by creating the Mechanical Hound and massive parlour walls, which oppress and manipulate the population. In both dystopian novels, citizens feel threatened by their governments and both protagonists challenge the authorities in order to live independently. Bradbury's focus on censorship was also influenced by Orwell's 1984. While Winston works for the Ministry of Truth fabricating official documents, Montag lives in a society where literature is illegal. Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 also examines a similar theme regarding the suppression of knowledge and truth by the government, which is a prominent aspect of Orwell's 1984.

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