“I am a preventer of futures, not a predictor of them. I wrote Fahrenheit 451 to prevent book-burnings, not to induce that future into happening, or even to say that it was inevitable.”
Ray Bradbury was a lover of books and libraries. After graduating from high school, he was not able to afford going to college. Instead, he would spend several hours each day reading in the library. After several years of this, he decided that he had amassed enough knowledge to try writing a novel for himself.
Bradbury never stopped visiting the library, or reading as many books as he could. It is striking, then, that one of his most famous novels is about a fireman who burns books. As someone who was practically raised in libraries, Bradbury knew the importance of books and their value to society.
Naming characters can be difficult, but you might not have to look as far as you think. Ray took inspiration from Faber-Castell pencils and Montag paper company, both brands that would have been on his desk as he wrote.
Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler was cited by Ray Bradbury as an inspiration for Fahrenheit 451. Darkness at Noon is a seminal work of twentieth-century literature, a penetrating exploration of the moral danger inherent in a system that is willing to enforce its beliefs by any means necessary.
Ray wrote the first draft of Fahrenheit 451 on rentable typewriters in the UCLA Library. He spent 9 days and $9.80 (49 hours at 10 cents per hour) completing what was then known as “The Fireman.”
His original inspiration came from a previous short story called “The Pedestrian,” in which it is illegal to walk. Watch the video to learn more about the beginnings of Fahrenheit 451.
Fahrenheit 451 was published by Ballatine Books in October 1953. The first edition included 2 additional short stories: “The Playground” and “And the Rock Cried Out.”
Hugh Hefner, the editor of Playboy, was greatly inspired by Ray Bradbury. In March, April, and May 1954, the magazine reprinted Fahrenheit 451 in 3 parts.
In 2010, Hefner publicly thanked Ray for his contributions to the magazine. Ray’s involvement included mentoring some of its early writers like Charles Beaumont. Ray’s legacy is still felt today at the magazine.
This adaptation of the novel was the first for film. The British film was directed by French director François Truffaut and starred Julie Christie and Oskar Werner.
Several changes were made for the film, such as changing Montag’s wife’s name from Mildred to Linda and introducing a love story between Montag and Clarisse.
Though Bradbury adapted the novel to a stage play in the 1970s, the world premiere performance is claimed by the Civic Theatre of Fort Wayne, Indiana in 1988. Bradbury himself adapted the story, but seems to have drawn inspiration from changes made in the 1966 film.
Illustrated by Tim Hamilton, this adaptation was approved by Ray, who wrote an introduction for it. The graphic novel was also nominated for an Eisner Award, one of the most prestigious comic awards in the United States.
Proving that Bradbury’s work is longer lived than he was, Fahrenheit 451 was once again adapted to film in 2018. This film was directed by Ramin Bahrani and starred Michael B. Jordan and Michael Shannon.
This adaptation also made notable changes to the source material. It chose to eliminate the character of Mildred entirely, and made the firemen celebrities.
1.Why would the idea of censorship of books be of particular interest to Bradbury?
2. What are the whimsical or magical elements of Fahrenheit 451? What may have inspired Bradbury to include those elements?
3. Bradbury later influenced many people like astronauts, engineers, and Disney Imagineers. Can you think of any real world examples of something that is seen in the book?
4. What books are specifically named throughout Fahrenheit 451? Why did Bradbury choose to draw attention to these books in particular?
5. Bradbury chose to write using a typewriter, even when computers became popular. What can you infer about his feelings toward technology based on Fahrenheit 451?
Learn more about the Fahrenheit 451 pieces in the collection at the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies at Indiana University.
Fahrenheit 451 was partially inspired by Nazi book burning. Learn more and make connections to the book here.
Burning draft cards was a political statement during the Vietnam War. Learn more and make connections here. Free registration required.