About Ray Bradbury
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About Ray Bradbury

Ray Douglas Bradbury was born on August 22, 1920 in Waukegan, Illinois. By 1931, he began to write his own stories on butcher paper. In 1932, after his father was laid off his job as a telephone lineman, the Bradbury family moved to Los Angeles, California. Bradbury graduated from a public High School in Los Angeles in 1938. His formal education ended there, but he furthered it by himself. He would teach himself lessons at night in the library and by day at his typewriter. He sold newspapers on Los Angeles street corners from 1938 to 1942. Bradbury's first story punlication was "Hollerbochen's Dilemma", printed in 1938 Imagination!, an amatuer magazine. In 1939, Bradbury published four issues of his own magazine, called "Futuria Fantasia." But his first paid publication didn't come until 1941. He wrote "Pendulum" to Super Science Stories. In 1947, Bradbury married Marguerite McClure, and that same year he gathered much of his best material and published them as Dark Carnival, his first short story collection.

His reputation as leading writer of science fiction was established with the publication of "The Martian Chronicles" in 1950. This novel describes the first attempts of Earth people to conquer and colonize Mars, the constant thwarting of their efforts by the gentle war on Earth.

Ray Bradbury's work has been included in the Best American Short Story Collections. He has been awarded the O. Henry Memorial Award, the Benjamin Franklin Award, the Aviation Space Writer's Association Award for best space article in an american magazine in 1967, the World Fantasy Award for lifetime achievement, and the Grand Master Award from the Science Fiction Writers of America. His animated film about the history of flight, Icarus Montgolfier Wright, was nominated for an academy award, and his teleply of The Halloween Tree won an Emmy.

Currently, Ray Bradbury lives in California and is still actively writing and lecturing.


For those of you who are not familiar with the plot of F451, it is the story of a fireman, Guy Montag. However, instead of putting fires out, he starts them. In the society he exists in, books are illegal, and firemen are paid to burn houses with books in them. One day, however, he meets a young girl named Clarisse who questions his happiness. I believe this is the insighting incident in the novel. Following that incident, Montag becomes confused, and wants to fight the censorship. After that he goes to the house of a former college professor named Faber, who also loves books and wants Montag's help. Soon, it is revealed that Montag has been illegally stashing books in his house, and shortly after that, his wife turns him in to the authorities. The fire chief then summons Montag and forces him to burn his own house down. After doing this, he obtains a flamethrower and kills the fire chief, Beatty as well as the Mechanical Hound, a savage artificial beast. Following these events, Montag is chased around the city by authorities and a second Mechanical Hound, and also gets word that war has been declared. After a stop to plant books in another fireman's house, he visits Faber and sets off to the river. After drifting down the river he meets a group of literature lovers like himself, whom he joins. While looking back towards the city, he sees it blown to pieces by bombs from the war.


Critique by:

Gary K. Wolfe

St. James Guide to Science- Fiction Writers, Fouth Edition, New York, NY. St James press 1996.pp10-12

In this short critique of Fahrenheit 451, Gary K. Wolfe deals with many issues relating to the plot, and the many themes. He first introduces the main outline of the book, describing how the book is a "dystopian satire of a totalitarian state in which 'fireman' are professional book burners who set fires rather than put them outS"

Though many of the themes are introduced in this critique, I do not believe that the critic has gone into enough detail in describing them. Only the surface of each is approached and discussed briefly. But the theme that he does address is censorship. Wolfe believes that Fahrenheit 451 is a response to McCarthy era censorship, "The enforced illiteracy of this future society, we are led to believe, is at least in part due to the desires to avoid offending special interest groups in the mass mediaS" Wolfe also explains the attempts to create a utopia, or politically sound environment, and the result in a dystopia. In trying to keep people ignorant to keep people equal, the society ends up worse than it would have been if nothing was done.

Another viewpoint taken by Wolfe states that, "The novel is as simple as a parable, and few attempts are made to offer a realistic portrait of an imagined society. The police state, it seems, exists almost solely to burn booksS" Here, he shows that the society thinks that the police are out there just to burn books, and nothing else. They aren't there to protect people, to keep people equal, but to just burn books and keep people ignorant.

Critique by: William F. Touponce American Writers:Supplement IV, New York, NY. Charles Scribner's Sons,1990. pp107-9

In his critique, William Touponce describes Fahrenheit 451 as a utopian novel, and, "As such [it is] a critique of mass culture and technology- the negative effects of enlightenment and progressS Bradbury stands with those who believe in rational enlightenment and the critique of prejudices, and wants to expose the distortions of communication brought about by hidden violence and domination."

With the obvious aside, this critic continues by explaining two unique points about Bradbury's novel. First, he introduces Bradbury's conviction of the role of nature in independent thought and creativity. As the critic states, Fahrenheit 451 delivers "blissful reveries of Earth that restore the utopian imagination."

Although the following passages were not referred to in the critique, there many are numerous examples of the importance of nature in developing independent thought and creativity.

'Bet I know something else you don't. There's dew on the grass in the morning.'

He suddenly couldn't remember if he had known this or not, and it made him quite irritable.

'And if you look'- she nodded at the sky- 'there's a man in the moon.'

This demonstrates how various forces kept people ignorant. They were banned from individuality, and independent thought. They could not realize what went on around them. People need to take time to observe and think.Faber also explains,

"'Do you know why books such as this are so important? Because they have quality. And what does the word quality mean? To me it means texture. This book has pores. It has features. This book can go under the microscope. You'd find life under the glass, streaming past in infinite profusion. The more pores, the more truthfully recorded details of life per square you are. That's my definition, anyway. Telling detail. Fresh detail. The good writers touch life often.'"

This explains that good pieces of writing must have quality, and different textures of quality, as do things that are found in nature. Not every book is going to be the same. Some will have different qualities than others.

The other unique perspective of the critic is that "The book takes the form of a three part 'diagnosis' of the cultural disease known as nihilism. The first part shows Montag becoming sick; the second part deals with a search for an antidote-the ‘naive' value of imaginative and pleasurable reading-and the third with a revaluation of values, as Montag understands the true value of books: preserving the utopian ideal." This is saying that the book first explains Montag's disgust of books. His job is to burn them, and prevent people from reading them. The second part, is Montag is beginning to realize the value of independent thought and reading. He is beginning to think like Clarisse, who thinks into the deeper meaning of things. She likes to take walks in the woods, just to think and understand. Montag is taught this by Clarisse; how to think and how to learn. The third part, is the revaluing of the values. Montag finally recognizes the real values of books, which is preserving the utopian ideal.

Comments Made by Ray Bradbury

"If I were to advise writers my advice would go simply like this: Begin writing when you are 12 if possible. Fall in love with all the arts, for from them you will learn how to touch, see, smell, know the world. Educate your hands by drawing, educate your ear by listening, educate you nose by running against the wind, keep your eyes wide and your mouth shut. Write every day and every day of your life until it becomes such an immense love you can't help yourself. It should be as crazy as any love is for any man. It should be like the first love you know when you are sixteen or seventeen and go out of your mind because the fruit is high on the tree and you are shaking the tree like mad and it won't fall down into your arms and if it does not fall down soon and smother you with returned affection, why, damn it to hell, you'll climb the tree and get it or hang yourself, one or t'other. Crazy love. Mad love. Love comic strips. I have collected them all my life. Love radio shows. I used to clean out the garbage cans in back of NBC and CBS after every Jack Benny Show or Burns and Allen Show. Start bad. Become mediocre. Get better. Become excellent. By any means at hand. But love, love, love. Love to be around actors and directors. Paint sets. Write bad plays. Do terrible essays. Write awful poems. But all because you are so full of things you want to say you cannot stop.

Know all the books in your local library better than the librarian. Go there every night. Live there. Educate yourself. Know all the stock in the local book store. I do. There is no day in my life I do not go to at least one book store. Go to art galleries. Look. Fill up. See every film ever made. Fill up on that medium. Know everything that is bad. Only by knowing what is bad can you avoid badness. The snob who refuses knowledge in mediocrities remains always second-rate himself. I have collected Prince Valiant for 30 years. Listen to bad music and good music and great music. Study architecture. Read science fiction, because it is the one fiction which is curious about ALL the above, all and everything, on every level. In sum: run, shout, search, be puzzled, go on, from day to day, with high enthusiasm."

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