Why Is Fahrenheit 451 Banned?

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  • 0:00 Intro to ''Fahrenheit 451''
  • 1:39 Why Ban (or Burn) Books?
  • 3:28 Why Ban ''Fahrenheit 451''?
  • 5:07 Burning Implications
  • 7:03 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Liz Breazeale
Expert Contributor
Jenna Clayton

Jenna received her BA in English from Iowa State University in 2015, and she has taught at the secondary level for three years.

In 1953, Ray Bradbury published his famous dystopian novel ''Fahrenheit 451''. Since its publication, the novel has been the subject of much praise but also much controversy. Learn why ''Fahrenheit 451'' has burned so bright and test yourself with a quiz in this article.

Intro to Fahrenheit 451

By 1953, World War II had been over for a few years, and the world was sort of returning to normalcy. For famed author Ray Bradbury, this offered more questions than it did answers and led him to create perhaps his most famous work: his 1953 novel Fahrenheit 451.

The world Bradbury creates in Fahrenheit 451 is an authoritarian, dystopian one. An authoritarian society is where individuality is discouraged, even punished, and complete obedience is heartily encouraged. A dystopian society is a fictional, futuristic, otherworldly society that paints a picture of an awful reality nobody would want to live in. The dystopian world painted by Bradbury for his novel is a society in which citizens are literally surrounded by television in their homes, by walls that are actually televisions. The country is in a state of war, and free thought is discouraged. Bradbury drew on the changing times he lived in as inspiration and stated that, in his opinion, the novel is more of a response to the growing popularity of television than anything. He feared TV would knock literature to the wayside, and that idea shows in what really makes the world of Fahrenheit 451 chilling. Here, books are illegal, and firemen, instead of putting out actual fires, perform state-mandated book burnings.

Why Ban (or Burn) Books?

To backtrack for just a second, censorship is a really important term, especially when we're talking about Fahrenheit 451. Censorship is the act of suppressing something, and, since we're talking about a form of art here, censorship in this case means specifically the act of suppressing something the censor finds objectionable or offensive, usually on moral, religious or political grounds. Ray Bradbury firmly stated that Fahrenheit 451 grew out of his fear of television's growing influence on people and society as a whole. And that theme is clearly present. However, due to the laws banning books present in the novel, it's pretty obvious that censorship is also a key theme, and it deserves to be studied.

So the idea of banning books, or removing a certain book from libraries, school curriculums or other places/lists, grows out of an inflated idea of censorship. More often than not, books are banned because one or two people, or maybe a group of people, fear what the book has to say. A good example of real-life book banning run amok is a book about witchcraft banned in old times, when such things weren't understood. Or in Nazi Germany, works by Jewish authors were publicly burned. That's fear; being so afraid of different ideas that you want to not only ban those ideas, but you want to obliterate them with actual flames. This shows how much impact the written word can have. It brings forth new ideas (or maybe old ideas that have gone out of favor with whatever government is in power). It questions the status quo. It voices concerns.

Why Ban Fahrenheit 451?

The human race has a talent for trying to destroy things we're afraid of, or things we don't understand, and when it comes to books, this can be accomplished by either banning said book or burning it. This is actually ironic when we talk about the banning of Fahrenheit 451. Irony is a term you've probably heard before in regard to something funny or comedic. There are different types of irony, but in this situation it means that the result (banning a book about books being banned) is pretty much the exact opposite of what one would expect the result to be. With this novel, Ray Bradbury drew attention to the problem of ignorance and censorship in society by writing about a world where books are burned because of a requirement by the government, only to have his own work banned.

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Additional Activities

Fahrenheit 451 Writing Activities

Journal Prompts

All questions should be answered thoroughly and in complete sentences.

  • Why are books banned? What causes people or schools to want to ban books?
  • What is ironic about the banning of Fahrenheit 451?
  • What was Ray Bradbury's purpose in writing Fahrenheit 451? What message did he want to share?

Research Writing Activity

Research three other books that have been banned. Write a paragraph for each book explaining why and where the book was banned. Make sure to include the book's title, the author, and the date published.

Argumentative Essay

Fahrenheit 451 brings up the issue of censorship, which is the act of repressing certain information for various reasons. Write an argumentative essay that answers the following question: Should literature or any form of the written word ever be censored?

First, decide where you stand on this issue. Once you have determined your position on the issue, it's important to develop a plan or outline for your paper. Your introduction should introduce the topic of censorship in an interesting way, and it also needs to contain your thesis statement. Your thesis statement should clearly answer the prompt's question. Next, do some research to help develop your supporting evidence. If you believe that censorship is wrong, find some credible sources that explain why censorship is unjust. It is a good idea to leave your strongest point for the end of your essay. It is also strategic to include some counterarguments and then invalidate them with strong points and evidence. Finally, write your conclusion. Your conclusion should restate your thesis statement and summarize the points you have made. Make sure to cite your sources correctly with in-text citations and a Works Cited page. Keep in mind that paraphrasing is typically preferred unless there is absolutely no better way to say something. Direct quotes are acceptable, but they should be short. Most of the words in your essay should be your own words. After you're done writing your essay, make sure to edit and revise it before publishing or turning-in.

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