Where Does Fahrenheit 451 Take Place

In what city and time period does Fahrenheit 451 take place?

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The place where the novel takes place is only identified as the "city," with no name ever given. It seems to be a place with good weather, and it also seems to be in what was once the United States. Other than that, we get no specifics.

Bradbury, however, moved to Los Angeles with his family at age fourteen, and lived there into adulthood. He recounts that he had a revelation as he was writing Fahrenheit 451 while he was walking one night on the streets of Beverly Hills. He describes seeing a woman strolling with her husband. The woman had a radio plugged into her ear and was so focused on listening to it that she was oblivious to her surroundings and her spouse. Bradbury, working on Fahrenheit 451 at the time, had thought what he was envisioning might occur in forty or fifty years, but realized it was actually happening as he was writing (from Kingsley Amis, New Maps of Hell: A Survey of Science Fiction).

Given that incident, it may be that Bradbury had L.A. in mind as he wrote, but he is careful not to identify the city in the novel with any that now exists. 

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In terms of placing the novel in time, the author informs the reader that, in this world, two atomic wars have taken place since 1990. This also helps to account for the dystopian setting which drives so much of the book's plot. Many believe this to indicate that the story takes place sometime in the 21st century, but others believe it may be as far ahead as the 24th century. 

As a previous Educator suggested, this deliberate ambiguity serves a purpose. Not explicitly identifying the year and location of the story lends an additional layer of tension, while allowing the content to resonate more deeply with the reader. This causes the reader to think, "This book could take place in my town, in this very year."

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Ray Bradbury wrote this novel in response to several things going on during the 1950's, such as the McCarthy hearings and the aftermath of World War II. Even though Bradbury was writing with specific world events in mind, he seemed to have intentionally made the setting of Fahrenheit 451 ambiguous. He most likely did this so that the book might be applicable to anytime, anywhere. In truth, it is an unnamed future time in an imaginary place, where nightmarish things are taking place. However, there are many aspects of the setting that make the reader feel as if it could be happening right now in the very city in which he lives.

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Bradbury is careful not to be too specific here. The time is the 21st century, and the setting is a large American city, but beyond that, we aren't told where or when it is set. This could be, if not Anytown, at least Anycity, USA, and right now.

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