Fahrenheit 451

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Fahrenheit 451

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Political Context

Dystopian LiteratureDystopian literature usually incorporates a controlling or oppressive government or no government at all. The citizens usually live in extreme poverty or there is a huge economical gap between the rich characters and the poor characters. Additionally, free thinking and independent thought is banned and propaganda controls all the people's minds. This is in contrast to utopian literature , which usually has a peaceful government and an equal and safe environment for all citizens.

Atomic EraThe atomic era accorded in 1945 when the United States dropped atomic bombs, ending World War II. It was a time of nuclear warfare. It involved a number of 'big powers' developing nuclear power. Images related to this time show desolation and decay. This period in history is related to the book Farenheit 451 because the Atomic Era created the fear of communism and science, which is also a theme within the book. Communism creates the fear of a change in lifestyle and the political threat. During the Atomic Era this threat was nuclear power. Science creates the fear of the human race moving to quickly.

Salem Witch TrailsThe witch trails took place during 1692. During this time certain people were identified as witches as it was easier for the Roman Catholic Church to scapegoat the people that went against their beliefs, and blame them and their so called 'supernatural powers' for the events and tragedies that were occurring rather than looking for scientific explanations. You would most likely be convicted if you were a middle aged female who was related or associated with a known suspect, of English Puritan background, Marie but had few or no children, contentious and stubborn with a turbulent reputation, were accused of other crimes, such as robbery, before or had a revativly low social position. Additionally you could have been convicted if a confessed 'witch' accused you of being a fellow witch. These trails all started when a group of young girls claimed to be possessed by the devil because of certain people. They identified these 'witches'. This may have been influenced by their parents feuds with other families. Historians have attempted to explain or justify the symptoms of the girls scientifically or medically. Many have found that they could have been caused by Indian attacks or eating rye bread which was contaminated by a fungus from which LSDs (lysergic acid diethylamids) derived. Others prefer to believe that their actions were caused by emotions such as jealousy, spite and a need for attention. This event in history relates to Ray Bradbury's, Fahrenheit 451, because in the witch trails the Roman Catholics hunted down innocent people to prosecute them. In the book, the firefighters, hunt down innocent people just because they read books. They both involve higher powers finding the supposed 'enemies' of society.

McCarthyismMcCarthyism refers to the time period of the 1950s where Josef McCarthy, a senator from Wisconsin. In1950 he gave a speech that propelled him into national spotlight. It declared that he had a list of two hundred and five members of the communist party that were shaping policies in the state department, not all of which were true. He only declared this to create fear amongst society. In his second term of senator he was put in change of a committee of government opperations. He launched investigations on communists and aggressively interrogated citizens and as a result two thousand government employees and many other citizens lost their jobs and many others were exiled. Many famous entertainers, including directors and actors were involved. It targeted people who had liberal beliefs, however there were no direct deaths because of the event. This time period relates to Fahrenheit 451 because McCarthism caused many people became the subject of aggressive investigations and in the book people were very suspicious and quick to accuse others of owning books. In both, people become terrified that they would be accused and started accusing others.

TechnologyIn the 1950s, television was first introduced to the world. In the novel, bradbury explores the idea of the 'parlor' walls taking over the lives of the citizens in the society. He wanted to show the world what the exessive use and expansion of the television would turn in to.  This relates to our world as we are becoming attached and addicted to television and technology.

Social Context

Historical Context

SexismThe 1950s showed a time well before sexual revolution. Sexism was tolerated adn actively encouraged, mainly through chauvinistic print ads. Women were depicted as only useful for domestic chores, such as cooking. They were also shown as inferior to men. This relates to the book because Montag's wife, Mildred, didn't work and Montag did all the work. Mildred stayed at home all day and watched the parlor wall. She is what most women are portrayed to be, the stay at home wife who cooks and cleans.

Nazi Book BurningsOn May 10 1933 the Germans gathered in Berlin to burn all the books with 'unGerman' ideas. This event may have inspired Bradbury to write Fahrenheit 451 as he would have had a passion for books as an author and seeing books burnt would have inspired him to show the world without books. It would have created a negative effect on him and made him angry and upset that authors hardworks had been destoryed.  This relates to the theme of censorship as it involved banning books that went against the leading governments beliefs.

Iron Curtain SpeechThe Iron Curtain speech was given by Winston Churchill on 5 March 1946 in his "Iron Curtain" speech. It was about defining the divisions of the cold war. It is speaking negatively about the Soviet Union, pointing out that the Soviet Union controlled all the coutries over the line. Its speaking about the invasion and its imminent threat by the Soviet Union, causing fear. This relates to Fahrenheit 451 because they both have the theme of power of the individual and show elements of a dystopian futuristic society. It shows the way of life being threatened.


Ignorance vs KnowledgeThe firemen’s duty in the novel is to destroy knowledge and promote ignorance in order to equalize the population and promote sameness. Montag's developmental search for knowledge destroys the unquestioning ignorance he used to share with nearly everyone else, and he battles the basic beliefs of the society in which he lives.

AlienationThroughout the novel, Ray Bradbury expresses the idea of exile and alienation. He shows that one may experience a sudden split in which their perspective and feelings changes, causing them to feel indifferent and lonely. Montag feels that he is unusual as becomes frustrated and upset after the long talks with Clarisse and the death of the old lady. He starts to become seperated from the society around him. He could have explored this theme because he felt alienated and isolated from society because of his different views.

CensorshipIn the book, owning and reading books is illegal and not allowed. People in the society only focus on entertainment and speeding through life with no intellectual knowlegde and questioning. If books are found, they are burned and their owner is arrested, or if they refuse they are burnt with their books, such as the old woman. People who challenge the ways of society and are not interested in technology and entertainment are viewed as strangers and possible threats to society.

Fahrenheit 451By Kaila Wainstein


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