Fahrenheit 451 was published in 1953 but it began as a short story called “Bright Phoenix” (1947), was expanded and renamed “The Fireman” (1951), and the coda was added in 1979. In all of its manifestations, Bradbury wrote this as a cautionary tale, warning about the possibility of a totalitarian or oppressive state. Book burning played a central role in all versions and this is a reference to the Nazi book burnings and censorship in general, the latter of which likely (initially) referred to the McCarthy era in America when Joseph McCarthy went after (and in some cases imprisoned) anyone whom he felt expressed “anti-American” activity.
In the novel, the citizens were kept in line by the state and of course the Mechanical Hound. The citizens were also pacified by technological devices such as Mildred's television shows which become like family to her. The Mechanical Hound represented the militarized oppression of the state and, being mechanical, the hound also represented the domination of humanism by technology. Bradbury wrote this story as a warning that any country, even the United States, could be headed for such a bleak future wherein a state would use technology to pacify citizens in order to more easily enforce its ideology. There continues to be considerable scholarship on this story, and others like it, as technology continues to play a larger role in our lives. The 1979 coda extends this argument about the dangers of censorship.
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