Novels for Classroom Analysis: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Fahrenheit 451 Summary
Guy Montag, while walking home from work after a long day, meets Clarisse, a vivacious girl who opens his eyes to the futility of his life and of his society. Guy returns home to his wife who has attempted suicide one more time. Guy rebels, but in a society that frowns on individuals, undergoes constant external stimulation, and prohibits the reading of books, he may be in over his head. Making his change of heart even more difficult is Montag's profession. He's a fireman whose job it is to find books...and burn them.
Bradbury's novel has stood the test of time. Written shortly after World War II, Bradbury's dystopia looks shockingly similar to modern society. The following topics will make your class discussions productive:
- Elements of Science Fiction: Startling predictions include a society with TV screens the size of walls; individuals who sit around all day and watch TV; people who never read; the encouragement of recklessness and an overexaggeration of the importance of sports, ATMs, and many more.
- The Influcence of the Media: Bradbury's fictional society spends its time being visually stimulated. The media controls individual thought.
- Peer Pressure: Teenagers understand peer influence more than adults. The pressure of conformity pervades the novel.
- The Importance of Books: The society loses its ability to think because it no longer reads.
Fahrenheit 451 Analysis
Legendary Science Fiction writer Ray Bradbury has written hundreds of novels, plays, and short stories including The Martian Chronicles, Dandelion Wine, The Illustrated Man and, perhaps his most popular, Fahrenheit 451. A Fahrenheit 451 analysis should include the following:
- Allusion: Because the central activity of the novel's protagonist is to find books and burn them, along with the house that contains them, there are numerous literary allusions.
- Irony: Firemen start fires. Happy people try to kill themselves. Schools promote reckless behavior, movie watching, and sports playing. People are arrested for going on walks.
- Suspense: Bradbury creates suspense through pacing, foreshadowing, and dangerous action.
- Symbolism: The novel teems with symbolism.
- Figurative Language: Metaphors, similes, personification, synechdoche, and hyperbole allows the novel to be interpreted on many levels.
- Imagery: Burning houses, ghostlike visitors, desperate rebels, and many more haunting images grace the novel's pages.
- Conflict: The novel details one man's inner conflict and his conflict with society.
Student Readability and Appropriateness
Most students enjoy the novel. You may need to explain the figurative language to help students comprehend the novel's theme. Regardless of level, all students should be able to give a Fahrenheit 451 summary without much difficulty. A Fahrenheit 451 analysis, however, probably depends on your teaching expertise. Effective activities include irony charts, suspense graphic organizers, and a chart detailing the predictions from the novel that have come true.
The book's message must be shared. In a society that overly depends on outward stimulation as opposed to intelligent thought, a book like this should be taught in all high schools.