Who Wrote Fahrenheit 451?

Instructor: Liz Breazeale
'Fahrenheit 451,' written by famed author Ray Bradbury, has been studied ever since its publication. In this lesson, discover the author behind the novel and test yourself with a quiz.

Background on Fahrenheit 451

The novel Fahrenheit 451 was published in 1953 to wide acclaim and some controversy for its, at times, racy content. It was written by the acclaimed American author Ray Bradbury as a response to what he felt was the growing sinister influence of television on society at the time. That idea can certainly be found in the novel, as it tells the story of a populace obsessed with the televisions covering the walls of their homes and sedated by a constant flow of medications, and who, oh, yeah, have a tendency to burn books. That's right: this is a book about a society in which books have been banned, and firemen don't put out fires but set them in order to burn books.

But who is the man behind the novel? Who is Ray Bradbury?

Ray Bradbury
Ray Bradbury

Bradbury's Early Life

Ray Bradbury was born on August 22, 1920 in Waukegon, Illinois. His parents were middle class and had a great deal of family living around them in Waukegon. His family was a literary one, and often read to the young Bradbury, even before he could read himself. This formed the foundation for his love of literature. When he learned to read, he often spent time at the city library reading science fiction that profoundly influenced his own work.

But the young author didn't stay long in Waukegon, as his father needed to look for work during the Depression's early years in the 1930s. Also in the early 1930s, at the ripe old age of 11, Bradbury wrote his first short story. He never looked back.

After several years of moving, the Bradbury family finally landed in Los Angeles, California, a place the young author loved. As a teenager, Bradbury was mentored by writer Bob Olsen and also attended meetings of the Los Angeles Science Fiction Society. This time of his youth spent in LA proved hugely influential to Bradbury's development as a writer. He published his first short story at the age of 18.

Ray Bradbury in high school

Writing 451

Flash forward to 1947. Bradbury had been a full-time writer for some time and published many stories and collections, even sometimes branching out from science fiction. But he began to be bothered by ideas and themes that couldn't be covered in one short story, and began revisiting certain things over and over. This is how he began developing the story nugget that would become Fahrenheit 451.

It all started with the story 'Bright Phoenix,' which actually wasn't published until several years later. In this piece, a librarian confronts the chief book burner in town. This character was totally a foreshadowing of the main antagonist of Fahrenheit 451. But this idea still bothered Bradbury, and he kept refining it in later works.

A particular incident played a large role in the development of the society of Fahrenheit 451. One night in 1949, Bradbury was walking at night and was harassed by a policeman for doing so. Bradbury took the best revenge a writer can for these sorts of things: he wrote about it and turned it into an awesome piece of work. This became the short story 'The Pedestrian', a tale of a man in a dystopian society, or a society in which the misery of the citizens is characterized by some shortcoming of the entire society, like climate change or extreme poverty caused by a terrible government. Bradbury ended up combining 'The Pedestrian' and the book burning from 'Bright Phoenix' and writing The Fireman, a novella he pounded out on a typewriter in the basement of the UCLA library.

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