6 Things About Ray Bradbury’s Dystopian Novel, “Fahrenheit 451” As it Turns 70

Books Burning AI Art

The futuristic novel Ray Bradbury brought us in 1953 delves into the future of books being banned, the dumbing down of society and who could forget the “parlor wall” of large screen TVs? The main character, Montag, is a fireman but these firemen are sent out to destroy books by burning them, not putting out fires. If one should run they will be hunted down by a mechanical dog referred to as “The Hound” and he doesn’t leave survivors. Meanwhile, in Montag’s personal life, his wife Mildred is living an isolated life with only her walls of TV to keep her company as well as a pill-popping problem that led to an accidental overdose. Montag on the other hand feels what he is doing is wrong and falls into an underground society that all still love to read books and hide in fear of being found out.

And think, this book turns 70 years old today, you would think it was written this year!

To celebrate this literary masterpiece here are a few fun facts you may, or may not have known.

Fahrenheit 451 was adapted from Ray Bradbury’s short story “The Fireman”

The Fireman short novella by Ray Bradbury

It first appeared in 1951 as a novella that he wrote in 9 days that appeared in Galaxy Science Fiction. Motivated by the Cold War, TV’s rising popularity and his devotion to books and libraries, Bradbury wrote “The Fireman” in the UCLA library, completing his first draft in just nine days on a typewriter he rented for 20 cents an hour. Total cost of creating the start of his literary masterpiece: $9.80. It wasn’t until he was urged by a publisher at Ballantine Books to turn it into a full novel.


Although Bradbury seemed Anti-TV, he didn’t stay away from it

THE RAY BRADBURY THEATER, host Ray Bradbury, 1985-92.

USA Networks/Everett Collection

While he may have shown a large distaste as to what TV was starting to do to our culture he sure didn’t shy away from it. He wrote episodes for The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents and even had his own show that he hosted in the ’80s, The Ray Bradbury Theater.


Bradbury helped develop a video game based on Fahrenheit 451

In 1984, a DOS-based adventure video game was built by Trillium and released on the Apple II, Atari ST, Commodore 64, MS-DOS, Macintosh, MSX and Tandy platforms. The goal was to help Montag avoid the authorities and connect with the underground movement. Bradbury helped write many of the prompts and dialogue for the game.


Fahrenheit 451 is Ray Bradbury’s most popular novel

1st edition Fahrenheit 451 Book

Bradbury has stated that this is the only book of his that is science-fiction because it could become real. All his other books to him were considered fantasy since they most certainly couldn’t happen in reality. He may have been on to something.


The book is often on the banned books list

Stock photo of books with lock and chain

Often part of a high school curriculum (I read it) it has popped up from time to time to be on the banned books list due to swear words, drug usage and graphic content to censorship. Huh? So we are censoring a book on censorship?


From Book to Screen

Fahrenheit 451 promo shot Oskar Werner and Julie Christie

© Universal via MovieStillsDB.com

Fahrenheit 451 is, as the novel’s tagline reads, “the temperature at which book paper catches fire, and burns … ”

The book was first brought to the screen in 1966, 13 years after the novel was first published. Bradbury’s story was the only English-language film completed by French director Francois Truffaut, who took four years to put the production together (he didn’t speak English). While his fights with lead actor Oskar Werner (Montag) became tabloid gossip, he’ll forever be credited for his use of visual abstractions with surprising results. It also starred Julie Christie who played both the roles of  Clarisse and Montag’s wife Mildred Do you remember? The first book fireman Guy Montag read instead of burned was Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield.

FAHRENHEIT 451, from left: Michael Shannon, Michael B. Jordan, 2018.

Michael Gibson/HBO /Courtesy Everett Collection

In 2018, HBO along with director Ramin Bahrani behind the camera, rebooted the fiery classic for a digital world. Depending on your perspective, making a contemporary film adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s book-burning classic Fahrenheit 451 in the era of Snapchat and Twitter, “fake news,” handheld devices and monster flat screens is either brilliance or insanity.

Have you read this book or seen either of the movies? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!

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March 2020

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