"It was a pleasure to burn. It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed."
Fahrenheit 451 is a classic novel by Ray Bradbury which deals with the issues of censorship and individualism versus conformity and consumerism in society. 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.The story centers around Guy Montag, a fireman. However, in this near future, all houses are insulated from common fires. The firemen serve a different function: namely, they exist to burn books. Thanks to The Government's policy of Bread and Circuses, all books note with the exception of trade magazines, pornographic magazines, and captionless comic books in the novel version are now considered dangerous sources of dissent and unhappiness, and there can only be one way to clean them up: flames. The public is kindly encouraged to watch their three-dimensional televisions instead or go to the Fun Parks, where people commit petty crimes, like breaking windows, bullying innocent bystanders, and smashing cars. Montag, along with the rest of the crew, finds houses with books hidden in them, then soaks the offending literature and the rest of the house in kerosene from their hoses and burns it from the inside, instead.At first, Montag is happy with his job. However, several unfortunate violent incidents note his wife almost dying of a drug overdose that may or may not have been an intentional suicide, hearing that his new best friend was hit by a car [novel version only], and seeing an old woman commit self-immolation to keep from being arrested for having books in her house makes him question what's happening with the world and his life. After a house burning gone bad, Montag takes one book home, and soon becomes fascinated, despite his wife's objections and the fear that Beatty (Montag's superior) may find out about what he's been doing. Now he knows he must do something to save himself and at least some books, but how?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:
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.
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.
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: One possible interpretation of Captain Beatty's behavior. Guy himself soon comes to believe this. Suicides are 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. This 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 grim world; the country (implied to be America in the novel, though the movie and a BBC radio play had the country implied to be England) is prepping for World War Three (and no one knows or cares about it), the rest of the world hates the country because of their hedonistic ways, empathy is extinct, schools are only concerned in pumping facts into children's head without any form of discussion or actual learning, teenagers bully people and commit vandalism and vehicular homocide, the 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 deliberately sets 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.
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 difference between them and they have a platonic, short-term frienship. 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 savage violent man 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 the 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.