Bradbury seemed to be predicting our present day when he wrote this book over 50 years ago. How has our society changed since then?
In Ray Bradbury's "Coda" (epilogue) to Fahrenheit 451, he says that publications like Readers Digest, minority groups, and high school reading list watch-dogs are all modern day firemen, or censors.
Today, books are still protested by minority groups and radical religious groups. Salman Rushdie received multiple death threats from Islamic groups after writing The Satanic Verses.
Books are being reduced at an alarming rate via technology. Instead of Readers Digest condensing books, we have the Internet summarizing books using cheat sites. We have search engines replacing the paper indexes, blogs replacing edited books and articles, Wikipedia replacing encyclopedias. In short, the physical library has become electronic.
Why burn books when one can just let them collect dust on the shelves or never go to print at all?
Here's more from Enotes:
- 1950s: During the McCarthy hearings, artists and writers lost their jobs for their politically liberal and left-wing leanings.
Today: More outlets exist for artists with out-of-the-mainstream views, both liberal and conservative, but when most media companies are owned by giant business corporations, these individuals are less likely to be heard by many people.
- 1950s: The fear of nuclear conflict with the Communist Soviet Union was at its height.
Today: Fear that atomic bomb capability will fall into the hands of terrorists prevails.
- 1950s: Censorship was accepted by many as an unofficial good and is allowed by the federal government in cases like motion picture content.
Today: While government-sponsored censorship is considered a threat to personal freedom, more people are inclined to support the restriction of exposure of pornographic and violent media material to children. These forms of expression, it is believed, corrupt the values of society.
- 1950s: Most people conform to the social norms of the day. Social outcasts like the "beats" are small in number.
Today: Multiculturalism flourishes as various ethnic and cultural groups celebrate their differences from "mainstream" society while at the same time a backlash can be seen in groups like the "English (Language) First" movement.
- 1950s: Television made a technological impact on how people entertained themselves.
Today: Computers compete vigorously with television as an entertainment source. The film industry has been reinvigorated both at the movie theater and as producers of videos for home entertainment.
Our society has changed in many ways since Bradbury was writing this book back in the early 1950s. Some of the ways seem to be similar to what envisioned, but others do not.
What seems similar is the increased pace of society and focus on entertainment. We are a very busy society with people who constantly want something to be happening. We seem to have shorter attention spans (or so it is said) than we used to. Bradbury seems to have foreseen this.
However, we do not seem to be moving toward a society like his. Instead, we seem to be getting more tolerant of differences than we used to be. We certainly are more tolerant of different races, different political ideologies, different religions and other such differences. This seems to be very different than his vision of a society that was no longer thinking and no longer tolerating people who deviated from the norm.