Free Study Guide: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

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The novel takes place in an unnamed futuristic city sometime in the 24th century. The atmosphere is fantastic, for technology has transformed society into a land of virtual reality and ultra-futurism. Television is totally interactive. Giant crematoriums collect and dispose of bodies in a monstrous, helicopter-borne contraption known as the Big Flue. Doors are programmed to announce visitors before they even arrive. Books are illegal, as is any true exercise of thought. Mankind has become lazy and stupid because of the excesses of technology. In fact, the people no longer know how to do simple things because some machine has been designed to do everything.

Although there are some familiar things in this society, like neighborhoods, cars, and trees, there are also many fictional creations, like the Mechanical Hound, a robot designed to track and kill violators of the law once it has been programmed with their scent. Houses are so fireproofed that firemen start fires rather than put them out. Houses have built-in alarms that ring when someone has a book in his possession, alerting the firemen to go there and begin the burning. There are so many suicide attempts that traveling orderlies are always on hand to pump stomachs or stitch self-inflicted wounds. In the craziness of this futuristic world, it is comforting to find that beds still have to be made and breakfast still has to be eaten. In short, Bradbury has created a world alien enough to be exotic and threatening, but familiar enough to seem real.


Major Characters

Guy Montag
A fireman in the 24th century who burns books and the homes of the people that own them. He begins to question his life when he meets an extraordinary and fresh young girl. His new sense of purpose propels him headlong into life-threatening danger.

Mildred “Millie” Montag
Guy Montag’s wife. She lives a vacuous life filled with television and radio. She has no ideas of her own and is frightened by the very notion of non-conformity. She ultimately betrays her husband to the authorities rather than face the meaninglessness of her own life.

Clarisse McClellan
The Montag’s seventeen-year old neighbor. She is a fresh young girl whose nonconformist attitudes make her an outcast. She likes to pick flowers and watch birds and her fresh oldfashioned values are cause enough for her to see a psychiatrist. She is the catalyst for Montag’s change, causing him to question his own happiness. A hit-and-run driver kills her.

Captain Beatty
The chief fireman at the station. He has read many books and memorized most of them. He appears to be a hard-core believer in the new system and ultimately forces Montag to burn down his own house. Montag kills Beatty in this confrontation.

Professor Faber
An old English professor whose help Montag enlists when he decides to be a revolutionary.

An author and intellectual exile who is the leader of a group that hopes to re-populate the world with books.

Minor Characters

Mrs. Phelps and Mrs. Bowles
Montag’s neighbors. He frightens them by showing them his stolen books in a fit of anger.

Unidentified Woman
A martyr who sets herself and her home on fire rather than let the firemen do it. Her death preys on Montag’s growing self-awareness. Montag steals a book from her house before he leaves.

Stoneman and Black
Two firemen who work along with Montag. They believe in the system and wish to religiously conform to the rules and regulations. Montag plants a book in Black’s house.

Fred Clement, Dr. Simmons, Prof. West Reverend Padover
Members of Granger’s exiled group. They are all eminent scholars who are non-conformists and idealists.

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Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury: Free BookNotes Summary

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