Why is Fahrenheit 451 considered a classic work of literature?

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belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Ray Bradbury's dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 is considered a classic work in the genre, favorably comparing to George Orwell's 1984 or Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. Bradbury's work is more human and sympathetic than many others, though, and as such is considered of great literary importance. It is also very influential in the field, inspiring other works such as the opening scenes in the 2002 film Equilibirum by Kurt Wimmer.

As a dystopian work, Fahrenheit 451 deals with themes of human expression, individualism, and censorship. While other books in the same genre tend to deal with the oppressive nature of government and how it destroys individuality, Bradbury chose to show how individuals can oppress themselves if indoctrinated properly. The people living in the book's degenerate future have been given all they think they need for cultural survival, while at the same time, they believe that the written word is somehow evil and subversive. By giving people the tools and the mentality required to self-censor, the government has created a self-perpetuating society of deliberate, self-satisfied ignorance and neglect.

Although there is criticism leveled at Brabury's elevation of literature over other art forms, and accusations that the book is written from an overly-literary, elitist perspective, Fahrenheit 451 is taught in schools and read by people from all walks of life. The character progression of Montag, the fireman, from serf to individual, is entirely organic to his actions and the events around him, and Bradbury's literary style is second-to-none, melding symbolism, history, and myth with the dystopia of the future. The warning is one of complacency leading to subservience.