Tone of Fahrenheit 451

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  • 0:01 What Is Tone?
  • 0:56 Drama, Bradbury Style
  • 2:15 A Tone of Mourning
  • 3:41 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Liz Breazeale
Every book has its own tone, just like every person has his or her own personality. In this lesson, you'll learn about the tone of Ray Bradbury's famed novel 'Fahrenheit 451' and discover why the book was written this way.

What Is Tone?

Everyone has his or her own personality, his or her own way of seeing the world, along with his or her own unique feelings. And books are no different! Every book you pick up tells a story in its own unique way.

This is usually called a work's tone, or its general atmosphere, its attitude. Tone is something an author works hard to achieve, and every word choice, every sentence, is structured to craft the right tone for the work. It all depends on how the author presents the text. And each book is different, which is awesome. Like people, they can be mean, angry, optimistic, or even ironic.

In this lesson, we'll examine the tone of Ray Bradbury's classic dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451. Like much of Bradbury's work, the tone of this novel could be described best as dramatic and a bit mournful.

Drama, Bradbury Style

Ray Bradbury has a flair for the dramatic in this book - everything seems like a huge production. There are cars running off roads and fire bombings. In fact, the book starts with the sentence, 'It was a pleasure to burn,' for crying out loud. The protagonist, Montag, works as a fireman, a man who burns books that have been outlawed. There's nothing more dramatic than that, since Montag is constantly being called to burn someone's hidden library. Take this quote for example:

With the brass nozzle in his fists, with this great python spitting its venomous kerosene upon the world, the blood pounded in his head, and his hands were the hands of some amazing conductor playing all the symphonies of blazing and burning to bring down the tatters and charcoal ruins of history.

Yikes! Somebody's enjoying his job, wouldn't you say? And this is still only the first page. Not only is this passage beautifully written, but it's an excellent example of how Bradbury uses figurative language, or the technique of giving the words a different meaning than their literal ones, to give this work its dramatic tone.

Bradbury's use of figurative language gives the reader something flashy to hold on to. It paints an exceptional picture in your mind, one you're bound to remember, and isn't that the point of drama?

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