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A Study of the Allusions in Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451

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A Study of the Allusions in Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451
Author(s): Peter Sisario[->0] [(essay date February 1970) In the following essay, Sisario examines the source and significance of literary allusions in Fahrenheit 451 and considers their didactic potential for the beginning student of literature.]
Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 is more than just a readable and teachable short novel that generates much classroom discussion about the dangers of a mass culture, as Charles Hamblen points out in his article "Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 in the Classroom." It is an excellent source for showing students the value of studying an author's use of specific allusions in a work of fiction. While writing excellent social criticism, Bradbury uses several direct quotations from works of literature, including the Bible; a careful analysis of the patterning of these allusions shows their function of adding subtle depth to the ideas of the novel.
Fahrenheit 451 is set five centuries from now in an anti-intellectual world where firemen serve the reverse role of setting fires, in this case to books that people have been illegally hoarding and reading. Literature is banned because it might potentially incite people to think or to question the status quo of happiness and freedom from worry through the elimination of controversy. "Intellectual" entertainment is provided by tapioca-bland television that broadcasts sentimental mush on all four walls. The novel, first written in a shorter version for a science-fiction magazine in 1950 and published as a novel three years later, concerns itself with one fireman, Guy Montag, who commits the heresy of questioning his role and seeks to learn why books are considered dangerous.
If we take this imaginary world of the twenty-fourth century as a commentary of our contemporary society, we can interpret the novel on one level as the often-heard…...

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