Why teach Fahrenheit 451?

In his introduction to Fahrenheit 451, Neil Gaiman, another science fiction writer, says:

Fahrenheit 451 is speculative fiction. It’s an “If this goes on…” story. Ray Bradbury was writing about his present, which is our past. He was warning us about things; some of those things are obvious, and some of them, half a century later, are harder to see.


If someone tells you what story is about, they’re probably right.

If they tell you that is all the story is about, they are very definitely wrong.”[1]

Ray Bradbury wrote a short story, The Fireman, and subsequently Fahrenheit 451 in response to the rise of television. He feared that as even radio declined, books would fade away completely. He had also written a short story, The Pedestrian, about a world where no one walks.

Neither of Bradbury’s fears have come to pass. He was making observations about the 1950s, but in the process, he’s given us a lens through which we can examine our present, too. The history of book burning and cultural destruction through to modern destruction of books and cultural artifacts; the self-censorship of university students; and the process of social change are all touched on in this study guide.

[1] Gaiman, Neil (2013) “Introduction”, in Fahrenheit 451 (2013 [1951]) Simon & Schuster Special Sales Edition. pp. xii

Farenheit 451 Study Guide

Exercise Sheets

Chapter 1 Exercises

Chapter 2 Exercises

Chapter 3 Exercises


Supplementary Resources

Discussion with Ray Bradbury (video)

Chapter 1

U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum: Resource on book burnings (photos)

U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum: Joseph Goebbels speaks during book burning (video with transcript)

CBC Timeline Book Burnings since WWII

Destruction of Nimrud (National Geographic) (includes video) and Destruction of Hatra (The Guardian) (includes video)

UNESCO information on World Heritage Site: Hatra

Short Story for comparison: Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

ABC News Interview – Is having a loving family an unfair advantage?

Chapter 2

Ithaca Voice – Ithaca College student gov. considers new reporting system for microaggressions

The New York Times – In College and Hiding From Scary Ideas

Aeman Ansari – Ethnic Minorities Deserve Safe Spaces Without White People

Parents Dedicate New College Safe Space in Honor of Daughter Who Felt Weird In Class Once (SATIRE: The Onion)

Chapter 3 and Cumulative

Methods for Social Change

Fahrenheit 451 full 1966 Film (Full film available on YouTube)