Fahrenheit 451

Writing and development

Fahrenheit 451 developed out of a series of ideas Bradbury had visited in previously written stories. For many years, he tended to single out "The Pedestrian" in interviews and lectures as sort of a proto-Fahrenheit 451. In the Preface of his 2006 anthology Match to Flame: The Fictional Paths to Fahrenheit 451 he states that this is an oversimplification.[29] The full genealogy of Fahrenheit 451 given in Match to Flame is involved. The following covers the most salient aspects.

Between 1947 and 1948,[30] Bradbury wrote the short story "Bright Phoenix" (not published until the May 1963 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction[31][32]) about a librarian who confronts a book-burning "Chief Censor" named Jonathan Barnes. Barnes is a clear foreshadow of the ominous Captain Beatty of Fahrenheit 451.

In late 1949,[33] Bradbury was stopped and questioned by a police officer while walking late one night.[34][35] When asked "What are you doing?", Bradbury wisecracked, "Putting one foot in front of another."[34][35] This incident inspired Bradbury to write the 1951 short story "The Pedestrian".[notes 4][34][35] In "The Pedestrian", Leonard Mead is harassed and detained by the city's remotely operated police cruiser (there's only one) for taking nighttime walks, something that has become extremely rare in this future-based setting: everybody else stays inside and watches television ("viewing screens"). Alone and without an alibi, Mead is taken to the "Psychiatric Center for Research on Regressive Tendencies" for his peculiar habit. Fahrenheit 451 would later echo this theme of an authoritarian society distracted by broadcast media.

Bradbury expanded the book-burning premise of "Bright Phoenix"[36] and the totalitarian future of "The Pedestrian"[37] into "The Fireman", a novella published in the February 1951 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction.[38][39] "The Fireman" was written in the basement of UCLA's Powell Library on a typewriter that he rented for a fee of ten cents per half hour.[40] The first draft was 25,000 words long and was completed in nine days.[41]

Urged by a publisher at Ballantine Books to double the length of his story to make a novel, Bradbury returned to the same typing room and expanded his work into Fahrenheit 451, taking just nine days.[40] The completed book was published by Ballantine in 1953.[42]

Supplementary material

Bradbury has supplemented the novel with various front and back matter, including a 1979 coda,[43] a 1982 afterword,[44] a 1993 foreword, and several introductions. In these he provides some commentary on the themes of the novel,[43] thoughts on the movie adaptation, and numerous personal anecdotes related to the writing and development.


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