"It was a pleasure to burn. It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed."
In the near future, society has become a complacent lot. Gone were the days when people would enjoy nature, think independently... let alone read books — in fact, thanks to The Government's policy of Bread and Circuses, they are now deemed dangerous sources of dissent and unhappiness. Now, it's just state-sanctioned mindless entertainment — reckless driving, three-dimensional interactive television, Fun Parks (where people commit petty crimes with abandon), and the occasional exempt book containing nothing but vapid dross (e.g. trade brochures, pornographic magazines, and caption-less comics).With too many books to deal with — it's only been a year since the ban was implemented — the government decided there could be only one way to dispose of them efficiently: book burning, a job delegated to firemen. Originally a dying breed in a time where all houses are insulated against common fires, firemen found a new purpose in life — making midnight community rounds in search of books. Any house containing books would be doused in kerosene and burnt as a lesson to the community (and the offending party brought to law).Guy Montag is one such fireman — and he's pretty much been married to his job for ten years, his wife preferring to lose herself in vapid self-entertainment. His life is forever changed when he meets a young woman named Clarisse McCellan, whose energetic free spirit forces him to start questioning what's happening with the world and himself. After a house burning gone bad, Montag secretly takes a book home and soon becomes fascinated with it, despite the objections of his wife and fears of his superior Beatty finding out. Deciding he must do something to save himself and at least some books, the question now becomes: how?Fahrenheit 451 is a classic novel by Ray Bradbury which deals with the issues of censorship, individualism versus conformity, and consumerism. Originally written in 1953, it pulls off the rare feat of becoming even more socially relevant as time goes on, and is a favorite for book clubs and literary groups in general to analyze its meaning.It was made into a film starring Oskar Werner and Julie Christie by François Truffaut in 1966, and into a stage play also written by Bradbury in the 1990s.The public is warned not to confuse this with the video game Fahrenheit or the Michael Moore documentary Fahrenheit 9/11.note Which briefly got Moore in mild legal trouble when Bradbury caught wind of the title he was planning to use.Compare Brave New World and Idiocracy.
The following tropes have been found in this work:
Adult Fear: For those who live in countries where certain books are banned, and especially countries where most books are banned. The fall of literacy is also another major concern.
Advert Overloaded Future: Montag tries to read on the subway, but he's constantly distracted by a jingle for Denham's Dentifrice. He eventually screams at the radio to shut up, shocking the rest of the passengers who were singing along.
Bittersweet Ending: Montag manages to leave his old life for good and join the Book People, but not before they witness their home city destroyed in a nuclear explosion, most likely killing everybody, including Mildred.
Blithe Spirit: Clarisse, arguably the most significant character due to her influence on Montag.
Bread and Circuses: Most of the people like the vacuous entertainment, don't care about anything or anyone but themselves and being happy, and don't bother to question or talk about how corrupt the government has become, even as World War III is apparently on the horizon.
Choose Your Own Adventure: Television programs are interactive, with viewers playing the various cast roles, and occasionally they're able to change the outcome of a story. Perhaps averted in the film version where it is arguably implied that Linda's choices have no effect on the story and that her belief that she is auditioning for a role is false, and in fact she is simply one of many playing along but her choices and her own thinking are so limited as to avoid any real ability to influence the story.
Cloudcuckoolander: Inverted. Clarisse is weird by the standards of the story, but to the modern-day reader, she's a normal girl... though still quirky.
Crazy-Prepared: In order for civilization to survive the coming nuclear apocalypse, the Book People dedicate themselves to memorizing every significant literary work and hand it down to their pupils.
Death Seeker: What Montag thought of Captain Beatty's behavior. Suicides are also fairly common, apparently by those who've become utterly jaded with life and need one last thrill or escape.
Delinquents: Culture has been allowed to decline to the point where teenagers bully people, vandalize public property, and run down pedestrians for kicks and jollies. One closer-to-home example happens happens when Montag is nearly struck by a car full of teenagers and Clarisse gets trampled over a bunch of teenage hoodlums.
Dystopia: It's a very grim world; the country (implied to be America in the novel, though the movie and a BBC radio drama had Britain in mind) is prepping for World War III (and no one knows or cares about it), the rest of the world hates it because of its hedonistic ways, empathy is extinct, schools are only concerned in pumping facts into children's heads without any form of discussion or actual learning, teenagers commit petty crimes with abandon, parlor walls air shallow programming that everyone enjoys, children and marriage are brushed off as a necessity to keep this miserable existence going rather than a joy, prescription pill overdoses are so common that medics-cum-doctors are hired to pump out the victims, and nearly everyone is a Stepford Smiler who is deeply depressed. This is a common scenario in Bradbury's works.
Exact Words: The law forbids people from reading any books or literature. Beatty himself owns books in his house's library — he simply never reads them.
Fallen Hero: Implied in Beatty's past. Adaptations and Word of God reveal that he was once a voracious reader and staunch opponent of the government, and he still maintains an extensive library — that he never uses. He can quote many classical authors from memory.
Family-Unfriendly Death: The old woman in the mansion who chose to set herself aflame with her books, and especiallyCaptain Beatty, when Montag turns the stream of fire on him and holds it there until he stops moving.
Foil: Beatty to Montag; Clarisse to Mildred/Linda (the latter is emphasized in the 1966 movie, where both were played by Julie Christie [with a wig as the only difference between them]).
Foreshadowing: The opening quote of the page becomes very ironic when you apply it to the ending.
Beatty: "Alone, hell! [Clarrise] chewed around you, didn't she? One of those damn do-gooders with their shocked, holier-than-thou silences, their one talent making others feel guilty. God damn, they rise like the midnight sun to sweat you in your bed!"
Informed Attribute: The Mechanical Hound isn't much like a hound at all. Its name simply refers to its use as an artificial bloodhound. Averted in the comic book adaptation (yes, there is one) where it actually does look like a robotic dog.
Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Clarisse for Montag. Her intuitive, unorthodox character prompts Montag to question his own lifestyle.
May-December Romance: In the novel, Clarisse is seventeen and Montag is thirty, so they have a relatively small age gap and they have a platonic, short-term friendship. However, this trope features in the script, where Clarisse, unlike in the film, is still a young girl (although her exact age is never specified) and the affection between her and Montag is more explicit than in the novel.
Meaningful Name: It was stated somewhere that Montag's name is a play on "Man Friday," a violent savage turned to the side of good and used as a servant. In Montag's case he is the tamed savage and Faber is the master. Furthermore, Faber's name comes from famous German pen-making company Faber-Castell, and Montag is the name of a paper company.
Bradbury notes that the Faber/Montag naming was unintentional but very subconscious.
Monster Clown: One of Millie's "family members," her favorite TV characters, in the novel are a group of homicidal white clowns.
A Nazi by Any Other Name: The Firemen, especially in the movie, where it is lampshaded with a Not So Different directed at the audience. Captain Beatty, in pointing out doctrine, comments: "If you are going to burn some books...you have to burn all the books!" He does so while holding up a copy of Mein Kampf.
New Media Are Evil: Bradbury claims that this was the real point of the novel. The shallow, mind-numbing television programs that everyone has become hooked on are slowly destroying society. Television at the time of the novel's writing was indeed pretty shallow, serving as little more than corporate and government propaganda, with mindless sanitized entertainment designed to make you want to buy products. Ironically, Bradbury would go on to host a television show, Ray Bradbury Theater.
Perhaps not so ironic, as in the book, Faber makes it a point to tell Montag that television doesn't necessarily have to be so shallow, it's just the way people have used it.
Painting the Medium: The film begins with an announcer reading the credits out loud over shots of TV aerials; at the end, as Montag is walking with the other Book People, the words The End appear onto the screen.
Rousseau Was Right: When Montag recites classic poetry to his wife's equally vapid acquaintances, one of them cries, commenting on how she forgot that feelings like that existed (the rest of them condemn Montag for being nasty and dismiss the poem as trash for evoking awful emotions).
Sexless Marriage: Montag and Mildred in the novel. They sleep in separate beds, their bedroom is described as a cold tomb, Mildred can't remember when she met Montag, and Mildred only cares about her TV family and Montag going out and making money to keep the house and earn enough to get a fourth TV wall.
Small Role, Big Impact: Clarisse is written out of the story almost immediately, but her brief role instigates
Spared by the Adaptation: Clarisse in the filmnote In the film, Clarisse has also been turned from a 17-year-old high school drop-out to a 20-year-old teacher who had just been fired because the teachers didn't like her subversive lesson plans and play.
Suicide by Cop: In the novel, at least. It's heavily implied that Beatty was belittling Montag because he wanted Montag to burn him alive.
Technology Marches On: Today, the contents of several libraries can be hidden on USB flash drives, DVD roms, and external hard drives, all of which can be carried in your pocket . And their digital format makes them instantly copyable. Fortunately, book burning, today, is not as effective as it used to be.
Teens Are Monsters: In the novel, Clarisse tells Montag about how kids her age like to bully people, smash cars, and just be generally wild and destructive — and some of Clarisse's friends and peers have died from car accidents, gun violence, and suicide.
There Are No Therapists: There are psychiatrists in this world, but their job is to weed out people like Clarisse who still have a shred of humanity left in them, rather than, say, help living zombies like Mildred who may have deep suicidal tendencies. Not even the "paramedics" who pumped her stomach tell Montag that she needs psychiatric help.
Zeerust: Though the novel merely takes place in an unspecified future time after 1990, the movie's technology is zeerust-y. However, technology like the "parlor walls" and the "seashell radios" mirror today's big, flatscreen TVs (some of which can be mounted onto walls, making them "parlor walls" to some extent), while the seashell radios are similar to either Bluetooth phones or iPod earbud headphones.
Beyond that, the entire idea that in the 21st century paper books would still be an institution, let alone one important enough to dedicate entire government squads to purging, has a Zeerust quality to it.
The pocket transistor radio was first introduced a year or so after the novel was published. Ray Bradbury recalled seeing a woman walking down the street oblivious both to her male companion and to her surroundings as she listened to one via an earpiece, and described his shock at seeing his predictions so soon coming true.