Last Updated on July 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 458
In Fahrenheit 451 Bradbury offers a dark vision of twenty-first-century America. The novel portrays a society where rigid conformity is expected of all individuals, and where independent thought is highly suspect. Most members of this society seem to willingly embrace the opportunity to escape the burdens of individuality and intellectualism, but their unconscious frustration manifests itself in the violence that permeates their bleak world.
In Bradbury's narrative, America has started and won two atomic wars since 1960. Suicide attempts and drug abuse are so commonplace that special machines that can be operated by "handymen" have been invented to treat drug overdoses. Carloads of teenagers speed along the highways and run over pedestrians for sport. The firemen regularly unleash their vicious Mechanical Hound on chickens, cats, or rats, placing bets on which animal the Hound will kill first. A discussion that focuses on any of these issues is likely to be lively.
1. As a member of the band of book memorizers that appears at the end of the novel, you must select a book to become? What is your selection?
2. Bradbury metaphorically compares books to birds several times in the narrative. Find a few of these passages. Why does Bradbury make this comparison?
3. Why does Montag decide to stop burning books?
4. Can you draw any comparisons between the firemen's arguments for burning books and the arguments of people today who want to ban or censor certain books?
5. What is Bradbury's opinion of the mass media? What is the point of the scene where the Mechanical Hound, having failed to track Montag, attacks an innocent man as newscasters report that the victim is Montag?
6. How might Senator Joseph McCarthy's anti-Communist crusade of the early 1950s have influenced Bradbury's writing of Fahrenheit 451?
7. The characters in Fahrenheit 451 live in a society ruled by a totalitarian government; that is, the government controls almost all aspects of their lives. In Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell also depicts a society dominated by a totalitarian government. Compare Bradbury's and Orwell's visions of life under a totalitarian government. How close are we now to either vision?
8. Fire imagery appears throughout the novel. For example, Bradbury at one point refers to Montag and Mildred's living room as a volcano. How does Bradbury use fire imagery? Is it an effective device?
9. Watch Francois Truffaut's film version of Fahrenheit 451 and compare it to the book. What changes does Truffaut make in the story line? Why do you think he made them?
10. Written in 1953, Fahrenheit 451 paints a bleak picture of future American society. Do you think that the social problems that prompted Bradbury to write the novel have improved or worsened since the book's publication? Can you find parallels in today's society for the novel's Seashell radios and the "parlor walls"?
Michael M. Levy