The True Meaning of the Story Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury



Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 without a solid plan, unlike his other books, his intent was to have fun with this book and add some lessons and teaching along the way. According to Ray Bradbury's audio interpretation, while writing the book Bradbury thought changing the world self-consciously was boring and self-destructive which is why he created an adventurous escape story instead. Bradbury always loved adventure books and films along with any sort of suspense novels, which is what he used to base Fahrenheit 451. Bradbury sees himself as a preventer not a predictor, he doesn’t wish to foretell fates in his book, just ways to avoid them (Fahrenheit 195). In this way Bradbury's theme and intent of the book has often been misinterpreted. Dave Itzkoff, journalist for the international New York Times, explains that Bradbury intended his book to be “less about big brother and more about little sister”. He wished for his readers to read his book and learn to move away from the small discouragements in life that takes us away from our intellectual pursuits whether it be peer pressure, apathy or technology. Bradbury describes that we have created a shelter mechanism for ourselves that protects us from these distractions by avoiding it, however we have and always will have the option to use it or not (“Itzkoff”). Bradbury uses these examples to tell us that we must not succumb to such displeasures by showing a world where people have lost their sense of individuality and can no longer question opinions because of it. According to the audio interpretation, Bradbury believes he too can become destructive if he lets his forceful self surface which is why he put the importance of protecting those impulses in his book. To preserve knowledge, he says, we must understand how precious it is to keep it (Fahrenheit 195). 

The intent of the book is very much intertwined to what type of book Bradbury wrote. He hoped for his book to serve as a warning to his readers thus making it a cautionary tale, it's a story used to advise readers to steer away from the discouragements one might face and what might happen if we don't cherish what we have. Bradbury hopes to warn readers from things such as apathy and technology. Dave Itzkoff, journalist for the international New York Times, explains how Bradbury exhibited passivity. Bradbury demonstrated indifference by clearly expressing that if people cannot expand their minds to express or accept new ideas they will become emotionless. The advancement of technology implies what will happen if there was no television or a source of media to give people knowledge, wonder, or a sense of imagination, people will become 2-dimensional and thoughtless (Itzkoff). This can also be seen through the book, as when Mildred isn’t watching television, she is always listening to music and advertisements through her headphones. Mildred remains “plugged in” at all times, Montag describes her as emotionally distant by showing a lack of empathy towards those around her when she says, “she's nothing to me; she shouldn’t have had books”(Bradbury 48). This shallowness and heartlessness of Montag’s society as a whole comes from their collective addiction to technology. 

These cautions told by Bradbury can be perceived as many different things, however they all relate to these themes one way or another. An article by EXPLORING Novels shows this different perspective, it states that the government is affecting the people's heads in many tiny ways. Though it can be seen as censorship, it can also be seen as caution used to show how the government wants to break society. The government's very intent is to have the people destroy each other with things such as peer pressure, apathy and technology, which is why Bradbury cautions readers to not let the little things get to them or to not take for granted the power people have by being independent (“Themes”). It’s a toxic way to make people turn on each other, the ultimate plan of the government is to make the people easily persuadable by making, “examiners, critics, knowers, and imaginative creators, the word ‘intellectual’, of course, became the swear word it deserves to be” (Bradbury 5), by outlawing knowledge and creativity, people succumbed to anything which is what Bradbury tried to advise readers against. Apathy makes people turn on each other, like what happened to Mildred and Guy. Mildred in particular became emotionless to the things and people around her making her completely uncaring. This can be seen when she disregards the health of other people such as those who die from speeding cars or commit suicide, making her more likely to turn on her community for her own wellbeing. Peer pressure will make people easy to persuade therefore easy to bend, people can use others as they wish. The world would become a place of survival of the fittest, those who will control others and those who are controlled, with nothing better to do and think about people will succumb to anything. This tragic reality is what Bradbury is preventing by writing his book. 

In more ways than one Bradbury uses imagery in his book to show the people and the world in his book. One unique way he shows character conflict is through characters' hands, something that is easily overlooked if not shown through literary criticism. Writer Rafeeq O. Giverson analyzes in an article how Bradbury uses imagery of the hands to reflect the characters conscious mind. Emotions such as nervousness or being misguided causes your hands to shake, when happy or relaxed your hands reflect that by being calm and collected. Montag's hands reflect the progression in his thoughts as he unfolds all sorts of information in this dystopian world. In the beginning Montags hands are described as majestic but as he learns to question the world around him his hands begin to show his conflicted thoughts. For example when talking to Beatty after stealing the book Montag is described to be quivering, his hands deceive his guilty conscience at the time whereas Beatty has graceful fingers. This illustrates how clear-minded Beatty is compared to Montag. Beatty won’t let, or is simply unable to let, his thoughts and feelings interfere with his work unlike Montag who does exactly that (“Giverson”). Hands may move before your mind has truly made the decision, it’s your conscious which is often driven by your deepest desires that follows through before anything else, showing both uncertainty and confidence. These critics can change how one sees and perceives the book. If Bradbury uses imagery in hands to showcase Montag's inner most desires, how much of his thinking was truly reflected in his actions. For example Montag wishes to read a book and his hands steal a book for him to read, he wants to break the firefighters system, Montag starts by killing Beatty. These actions reflect Montag's inability to separate his physical and mental feelings showing his conflict with himself.

Censoring books is a big part of Fahrenheit 451 story and can be seen in today's society as well. EXPLORING Novels Historical Context: Fahrenheit 451 states that books today are censored for content and won't be sold in certain places. Books are also being disregarded with the many technology advancements we see such as ebooks, kindles and the numerous online copies of books. People spend more time on social media than they do reading books, causing many libraries to shut down and people to become more impressionable. This has caused the wide majority to start looking down upon individual thinking and instead agree with what everyone else’s opinions, this seems to be influenced by the numerous social media trends and wide range communities these platforms have created (“Historical”). This can be prevented if we educate the people about such issues and how to prevent them as Bradbury tried to do. Information is what we are lacking, we need to learn to go with the trend of technology and educate people using these platforms. 

Privacy is another issue seen in both Bradbury's book and our lives today. Technology has not only become an issue with books but also with the idea of privacy. Phones, laptops, computers, these handheld devices are possessed by everyone and much like in Fahrenheit 451 this can become an issue. Compared to modern day society approaches the ongoing debate on whether our phones or other handheld devices truly keep our information private. Bringing to question if people are listening and watching us through our devices, with cameras everywhere along with mics the people begin to wonder how much of our information is truly secure from unknown eyes(“Fahrenheit 451”). This fear and paranoia can all be solved if the people became informed about what is happening inside their devices. The reason people become so scared is because they are blind and ill informed for “you always dread the unfamiliar”(Bradbury 55). If we can become educated and the government becomes more transparent the people's fears can be solved. A peaceful community is what Bradbury tried to help create by informing his readers about privacy in his book, as he said he is a preventer not a predictor.