First published in 1953, Fahrenheit 451 remains a classic. Much discussion has taken place as to its meaning – was it a response to Nazi book burning? An allegory of the McCarthy era and political censorship in the USA? A forewarning of the excesses of “political correctness”? A story about television’s increasing omnipresence and the accompanying erosion of critical thinking?
Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 in nine days on a typewriter in a library at the University of California Los Angeles.
Among the challengesto the book as recorded by the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom include an incident in a middle school in California in which students received copies of the book with scores of words blacked out. Additionally, it was challenged in a Texas school district for going against the religious beliefs of the complainants. See more on the “Censorship of Fahrenheit 451” page.
Fahrenheit 451 continues to evolve and reborn in new formats. In addition to Truffault’s 1966 movie and a BBC 1982 teleplay, in 2009, Tim Hamilton created an authorized graphic novel version and in November 2011, Fahrenheit 451 became available in e-book format.
Some great resources (including audio and video) about Fahrenheit 451 can be found on the Guardian Book Club site and the National Endowment for the Arts’ “Big Read” site. A good overview of the history of Fahrenheit 451 can be found in this library school student paper by J.C. Brown of Wayne State University. A striking 2007 article in LA Weekly newspaper interviewed Bradbury and laid out the argument that the book had been misinterpreted for decades.
Clearly, like any good book, Fahrenheit 451 has multiple meanings and can be interpreted differently by all readers. It’s not even clear that Bradbury himself was entirely forthcoming about why he wrote the book and what he thought it meant. With FAIFE Book Club, we encourage you to engage with the text and form your own opinions!