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1920: Ray Douglas Bradbury is born in Waukegan/Illinois
parents had a private publishing firm
=> he was connected to books from his childhood on
1934: he moves to California
1935: first attempts to write
mostly short stories
1937: he became member of the “Los Angeles Science Fiction League”
1947: Dark Carnival
1950: The Martian Chronicles (in German: Die Mars-Chroniken)
novel about the settling of the Mars
1951: The illustrated Man (in German: Der illustrierte Mann)
collection of different science-fiction stories
probably his best know book
1953: Fahrenheit 451
1957: Dandelion Wine
since 1983: he lives in Los Angeles with his wife and his children
he is still writing actively
The Story plays in the future in a town, where books are illegal Guy Montag works as a fireman, but his job is not to extinguish fire, but to burn books. His attitude towards books and the system changes, when he meets Clarissa McClellan. She tells him, that firemen were once there to extinguish fire. He starts stealing some of the books, he should burn and hides them in his house. One day Clarissa is not there anymore. Montag does not know what happened to her. The next day he is called to another job: He should burn a library which belongs to an old woman. This woman finally gets burned with her books, because she does not want to leave them. When Montag comes home after work, his wife tells him, that Clarissa was run over by a car. The next day, Montag doesn’t go to work, so Captain Beatty comes to Montag’s. Montag asks him, what would happen to a fireman, who takes a book home? Beatty says that nothing happened to a fireman, when he burns it in 24 hours. Montag decides to show the book to his wife Mildred, who is shocked. By chance he meets the former English professor Faber. They agree to do something against the government. Their plan is to hide books in the houses of firemen and the alarm the other fireman. Faber gives Montag some kind of microphone, so that Faber can hear everything that Montag hears. But they can’t put their plan into reality because the next who is accused of owning books is Montag himself. His wife had alarmed the firemen! Montag is forced to burn his house and the books inside. Their Beatty discovers the microphone in Montag’s ear and wants to find out, who helped Montag. That’s why Montag kills Beatty. Then he flees to Faber’s. After that, the whole town is searching after Montag but with Faber’s help he can escape through the river. There somewhere outside the city, he meets a group of dissidents, which pass on books orally. The leader of the dissidents Granger also tells Montag about the war which is to come soon. Suddenly there is a jet, which bombs the city and so the whole city and everybody in it is destroyed. That is the end, but for Montag and the dissidents it’s also some kind of new beginning!
Divided into two group: oppositional and system conform.
Guy Montag: protagonist of the story; works as a fireman first but then discovers the worth of books and turns to a rebel
First: Does not ask why he does it, he just does it!
After Clarisse and Mildred’s suicide try: his opinion turns against the system
Starts to question what he does
Clarisse McClellan: describes herself as “seventeen and crazy”; she makes Montag think about his work and the system
Wants to change the system from the beginning! Will never assimilate to it
Not really sure whether she was really killed in an accident
Captain Beatty: captain of the firemen; kind of antagonist to Montag;
Very intelligent! Has read many books; not so really happy with his life/job! Does not really do something against being killed
Professor Faber: former English professor; Montag convinces him to do something against the system
First: passive character; against the system but does nothing
After Montag: gets active again; wants to fight the system
Mildred Montag: Guy’s wife; totally conform to the system
Typical citizen of that time; spends most of the time watching TV
Election: candidate who looks better
Granger: something like the leader of the dissidents; becomes Montag’s friend
Immediately integrates Montag when he arrives.
Wants to build up a new city after the old one has been destroyed
Bradbury’s book is a classical “Anti-Utopia”. Just as the “1984” or “Brave new world” the book is very critical against society. The firemen fight books, because they are dangerous for the complete conformity of the people to the government. Montag never asked “why” he is doing that, he just did it. He starts thinking about it first, when he meets Clarissa. He now sees the absurdity of the system. The system destroys that thing which makes a man a human being: individuality! And that’s exactly what Bradbury warns of in his book: the loss of individual thinking! The book is a very sad look into future. The only really positive aspect is the end, when the city is destroyed and the system is destroyed and the dissidents can build a new one!
What really makes the book worthy to read, is the fact, that our society is not so far away from “Fahrenheit 451” than it seems…