Written in the early 1950s, “Fahrenheit 451” is both a speculative work of the future while also a semi-prophetic piece by Ray Bradbury. A fireman of the future who burns down homes, instead of saving them, because they possess books begins to question his profession and society after he begins reading.
Guy Montag, a professional fireman, has been secretly hoarding books he’s suppose to be burning when he meets Clarisee a young neighbor that asks a lot of Why? questions. Then after his wife’s suicide attempt and Clarisee’s sudden disappearance, Guy begins questioning his profession and society openly leading him to lose both his wife and home then being condemned as a public threat because of his love of books.
Bradbury wrote about a futuristic society that lived through television, or interactive media, a world only like our own. However, Bradbury’s world has outlawed books because they make people feel bad or are contradictory or are lies or the actual truth; taking “political correctness” to a extreme and creating a society that indulges people’s self-esteem. Bradbury then questioned what if one of the men charged with preserving that society leading to Guy Montag’s challenging his society, in particular his wife and his boss.
Bradbury explores this speculative world and society through a narrative that reads both as a short story and a novella, but comes off as something in the middle. Overall the entire narrative is good, however it’s not without it’s flaws especially when it comes to the death of Clarisee, the introduction of Faber, the entity of the Hound, and the sudden ending of Montag’s society through mutually assured destruction. But in balance the foolishness of Captain Beatty at taunting a man holding a flamethrower and Bradbury’s correct assumption of the future entertainment value of the highway chase are strong additions.
“Fahrenheit 451” is both a speculative story of the future from time of it’s first publication as well as important warning for us today about the over-protection of an individual’s feelings. Bradbury worried that radio and television would be used to control people’s opinions and lifestyle to their own determent, especially if there was nothing to compete with them like books. Although Bradbury doesn’t say it, one has the feeling that just after World War II he thought that the idea that it was a small step between burning books to burning people was still something to fear because only the instruments had changed.