Fahrenheit 451 Project:
In this project we read and discussed the book "Fahrenheit 451", made an art piece in response to the book, and wrote either a historical/literary analysis or a fiction piece based off of the book.
We exhibited our art pieces on March 11th at the Powerhouse Science Center.
Our art piece is six different paintings of each six different characters within the book, Montag the main character who changed everything, Clarisse the one who inspired Montag to change his perspective, Faber a man who helped Montag understand the meaning of books, Mildred Montag's wife who is awake but always asleep, Beatty a captain who sees the beauty in books but can not read them, and then Granger who leads a group of people to a promised land.
Fahrenheit 451 Historical Analysis
Ray Bradbury often used his experiences and time period to influence his work. The time period that he was writing Fahrenheit 451 is apparent in work. Things like Nazi book burnings, the cold war, and censorship are all things that he was including in his writing. I will go into the similarities of his real life experiences and his characters in Fahrenheit 451.
Ray Bradbury is an American writer born on August 22, 1920 in Illinois. His mother, Esther Bradbury was a Swedish immigrant. As an infant Bradbury was read stories by his family members which is believed to have influenced his writing career. During the Great Depression in which Bradbury was 11 he began to find interest in writing. During his childhood he spent a majority of time reading and writing in the local library. From 1926 to the age of 14 Ray moved around from Arizona to L.A. He was active with drama club throughout his high school years as well as beginning to spark his writing career with small jobs for artists and radio stars around L.A. Bradbury’s hometown, Waukegan is shown again and again as an influential part of his life, showing in his work repeatedly. Bradbury come out with his first story compilation, Dark Carnival in 1947.
During the 1930’s the Nazis burned books, signifying censorship and the end of anything that wasn’t German. Poet Heinrich Heine said,“Where they burn books, they burn people.” My first thought when I heard this quote was about the women that was burned with her books towards the beginning of the book. “There must be something in books, something we can’t imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there. You don’t stay for nothing.” (Pg. 51) The significance of the books was enough to keep her from leaving them, although Bradbury never actually says what it is that is so important or captivating about them there is room to guess. The quote “where they burn books, they burn people connects to the book burnings of Nazi Germany. The Nazi’s were burning and destroying Jewish history and character, basically burning a “personality”, or “person”. On May 10, 1933 students burned 25,000 non-german books. This was shocking and clearly very influential to Bradbury because it inspired the firemen is his book, Fahrenheit 451 that was published 20 years later. Fahrenheit 451 is famous for its cross between science fiction which was a fairly new genre during Bradbury's beginning of his writing career and traditional American writing. It was known as a ‘disturbing’ or ‘corruptive’ story.
During the 1950's the Cold War was a very big concern for the U.S. because of the fear of the atomic weapons. Hydrogen bombs were being developed and tension was growing throughout the world. President Truman said, “There had been considerable discussion in Congress of the prospects of a weapon far more powerful than the atomic bomb and from some quarters there was pressure that the President direct the Atomic Energy Commission specifically to begin research and development of this weapon.” (http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/big/1101.html). While Fahrenheit 451 was being written Bradbury included his fear for the country in his story, often talking about the fighter jets flying above their homes. “A bomber flight had been moving east all the time they talked, and only now did the two men stop and listen, feeling the great jet sound tremble inside themselves.”At the end of the book Montag’s city is bombed and burned, following up on his fear for others lives and his own.
Bradbury uses the wall tvs as a representation of the advancement of technology. During the 1950’s the advancement of tv’s and their popularity was growing. Likely, as a writer seeing the detachment from literature was concerning for Bradbury as it was such an important part of his life. People's fear and unhappiness is shown in the book through the dark description of escalated suicide, drug use, and fast driving. As Faber says, “Our civilization is flinging itself to pieces. Stand back from the centrifuge.” The idea of civilization ruining itself is also present in our society. Seeing destruction is normal, and standing back from it and watching or not doing anything about it is something that we are used to. An example of this is the civil war in Syria. The destruction there is breaking down the country, the U.S. has barely tried to involve themselves in helping the country. Although these things weren’t necessarily fully accurate it definitely showed Bradbury's fears and emotions about the time period. Censorship was a big deal, Bradbury’s book was constantly thought to be corruptive. During 1953 a middle school came out with a censored version of the story which excluded the words hell, damn, and other words that were deemed as corruptive or offensive to religion. Although this specific event isn’t included in the book Bradbury represents similar situations with things such as censorship with books, television, and news. The country knows that there is a war or something similar but there is no way of knowing what is actually going on due to censorship through tv. Instead, they are distracted by things like silly or pointless tv. The censorship of books is an obvious component of the book, influenced by that Nazi book burnings. They burned all non-German books. The censorship of knowledge is a follow up on the book burnings. The reason the fire men burn books was because they were trying to prevent civilians from getting any ideas, probably in fear of rebellion or bringing up past mistakes or events. As Beatty says, "We must all be alike. Not everyone born free and equal, as the Constitution says, but everyone made equal."
Fahrenheit 451 represents a highly exaggerated yet still semi-accurate representation of our society. Bradbury uses significant historical events to influence his writing with the Nazi Book Burnings and the Cold War. He was able to predict America's obsession with the overuse of drugs, the need for a thrill, media, and censorship.