Summary of Book Note to Curriculum Guide Writer


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Fahrenheit 451

By: Ray Bradbury

Summary of Book

(Note to Curriculum Guide Writer: Capture the summary from the author’s website. Either source the summary or rewrite. Make certain to always provide credit. The summary only needs to be one or two paragraphs)

Since its publication in 1953, Fahrenheit 451, has stood out as one of Ray Bradbury’s most trenchant works of social criticism. Set in the twenty-fourth century, the novel examines a few pivotal days of a man’s life, a man who is a burner of books and, therefore, an instrument (however unwittingly) of societal repression. This man, Montag, lives in a world where the past has been destroyed by kerosene-spewing hoses and government brainwashing methods.

More generally, the novel as well as film versions it has inspired, introduces a new world in which control of the masses by the media, overpopulation, and censorship has taken over the general population. The individual is not accepted and the intellectual is considered an outlaw. The people live in a world with no reminders of history or appreciation of the past; the population receives the present from television, and television has all but superseded the fundamentally connective bonds of family. Books in particular are considered evil by the totalitarian regime because they are deemed capable of provoking people to question and to think for themselves.The main character, Montag the fireman, presents a particularly ironic inversion of historical roles, initially serving as a flamethrower, a destroyer of books rather than a protective savior against the destructive and cataclysmic properties of fire. Nevertheless, in Bradbury’s dystopian/utopian vision, in a few short days, this man is transformed, through an unforeseen and serendipitous chain of events, from a narrow-minded and prejudiced conformist into a dynamic individual committed to social change and to a life of saving books rather than destroying them.

About the Author

(Note to Curriculum Guide Writer: Capture the author background from the author’s website. Either source the summary or rewrite. Make certain to always provide credit. The author summary only needs to be one or two paragraphs)

American novelist, short-story writer, essayist, playwright, screenwriter, and poet, Ray Bradbury was born in Waukegan, Illinois on August 22, 1920, the third son of Leonard Spaulding Bradbury and Esther Marie Moberg Bradbury. In the fall of 1926 Ray Bradbury's family moved from Waukegan, Illinois to Tucson, Arizona, only to return to Waukegan again in May 1927. By 1931 he began writing his own stories on butcher paper. In 1932, after his father was laid off his job as a telephone lineman, the Bradbury family again moved to Tucson and again returned to Waukegan the following year. In 1934 the Bradbury family moved to Los Angeles, California.

Bradbury graduated from a Los Angeles High School in 1938. His formal education ended there, but he furthered it by himself -- 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 publication was "Hollerbochen's Dilemma," printed in 1938 in Imagination!, an amateur fan magazine. In 1939, Bradbury published four issues of Futuria Fantasia, his own fan magazine, contributing much of the published material himself. Bradbury's first paid publication was "Pendulum" in 1941 to Super Science Stories. In 1942 Bradbury wrote "The Lake," the story in which he discovered his distinctive writing style. By 1943 he had given up his job selling newspapers and began writing full-time, contributing numerous short stories to periodicals. In 1945 his short story "The Big Black and White Game" was selected for Best American Short 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.

Bradbury’s reputation as a leading writer of science fiction was established with the publication of The Martian Chronicles in 1950 (published in England under the title The Silver Locusts), which describes the first attempts of Earth people to conquer and colonize Mars, the constant thwarting of their efforts by the gentle, telepathic Martians, the eventual colonization, and finally the effect on the Martian settlers of a massive nuclear war on Earth. As much a work of social criticism as of science fiction, The Martian Chronicles reflects some of the prevailing anxieties of America in the early atomic age of the 1950's: the fear of nuclear war, the longing for a simpler life, reactions against racism and censorship, and fear of foreign political powers.

Ray Bradbury's work has been included in the Best American Short Story collections (1946, 1948, and 1952). He has been awarded the O. Henry Memorial Award, the Benjamin Franklin Award in 1954, 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 teleplay of The Halloween Tree won an Emmy.

Ray Bradbury's writing has been honored in many ways, but perhaps the most unusual was when an Apollo astronaut named the Dandelion Crater on the Moon after Bradbury's novel, Dandelion Wine.

Outside of his literary achievements, Ray Bradbury was the idea consultant and wrote the basic scenario for the United States Pavilion at the 1964 New York World's Fair. He conceived the metaphors for Spaceship Earth, EPCOT, Disney World, and he contributed to the conception of the Orbitron space ride at Euro-Disney, France. He was creative consultant for the Jon Jerde Partnership, the architectural firm that blueprinted the Glendale Galleria, The Westside Pavilion in Los Angeles, and Horton Plaza in San Diego. Ray Bradbury passed away in June 2012.

(1950) The Martian Chronicles - Fix-up novel consisting of mostly previously published, loosely connected stories.

(1953) Fahrenheit 451

(1957) Dandelion Wine - Fix-up novel of previously published, loosely connected stories.

(1962) Something Wicked This Way Comes

(1972) The Halloween Tree

(1985) Death Is a Lonely Business

(1990) A Graveyard for Lunatics

(1992) Green Shadows, White Whale - Fictionalized autobiographical reminiscences, portions of which had been previously published as individual stories.

(2001) From the Dust Returned - Fix-up novel of previously published, loosely connected stories.

(2004) Let's All Kill Constance

(2006) Farewell Summer
The above list comprises only Bradbury’s novels. For a complete list of all his works please visit
Discussion Questions (Note to Curriculum Guide Writer: As you read through the book, think of appropriate/applicable questions. Keep in mind that the questions should be directed to a 9th/10th grade reading level. Try to avoid yes-or-no questions without requiring further elaboration from students, e.g., how, why)


(Note to Curriculum Guide Writer: If the title is self-evident, a question(s) regarding the title may not be necessary or applicable)
What did you think the book was about before you read it? Would the title Fahrenheit 451 draw your attention to this book on a shelf? If so, why? If not, why not?


What is the significance of the title? Read the quote by Jimenez at the beginning of the book. What does it mean? How does it tie into the book’s title and theme?


What is the significance of the chapter titles? Why was the book divided into these sections?


Was the book believable to you? Why or why not?


The book was written over 50 years ago, before televisions and computers were commonplace in homes. Does it show the novel’s age? Is it still relevant? Has any of it come closer to coming true? Why or why not?


What is this book about? What is Ray Bradbury trying to say?



(Note to Curriculum Guide Writer: You do not need to have questions in every section. This section is just a guideline to ensure comparability with the other curriculum guides)
Content/ Plot:

(Note to Curriculum Guide Writer: You do not need to have questions in every section. This section is just a guideline to ensure comparability with the other curriculum guides)
Why, according to the story, did books have to be banned? Does this reasoning make sense? Did it have the intended result? Explain.


According to the book, what are the most important things in this new society? What is the meaning of family?


Guy Montag met two people who influenced him greatly, who were they? How do you think they reached Guy and made him move in the direction he did? What role do these two characters play in the progression of the book?


(Valentina’s Montag/Clarisse question) What do you think happened to her? Why did the author make Clarisse disappear? How might the book have been different if she was still part of Guy’s life?


How would you characterize the relationship between Montag and his wife? Does he love her? Does she love him? Why did she try to commit suicide?


Beatty seems to know a great deal about literature and is able to quote books very easily. Did that surprise you? What does this say about his character?


Why do you think Montag became so passionate about this cause? What aspects of his life had he begun to question


Structure/ Narrative:

(Note to Curriculum Guide Writer: You do not need to have questions in every section. This section is just a guideline to ensure comparability with the other curriculum guides)

From what narrative perspective is this book written? Why would the author have chosen this perspective?  How would the novel have been different if it had been written in Montag’s 1st person voice?

Use of Language/ Symbolism

There’s a great deal of animal imagery in the book – the Mechanical Hound, the salamander on the fireman uniform, the snake that pumps Mildred’s stomach – although no live animals. Why did the author use these animal representations? From these examples, what do you think is the author’s attitude towards nature and technology?


Bradbury used some interesting descriptions. "her hair burnt by chemicals to brittle straw", "the body as thin as a praying mantis". How do these descriptions affect your reading?


Which specific works of literature are quoted in the book? Why did the author choose those particular pieces?



(Note to Curriculum Guide Writer: You do not need to have questions in every section. This section is just a guideline to ensure comparability with the other curriculum guides)


According to Webster’s dictionary, censorship is _____________. It was a key theme to Bradbury’s novel. Can you think of any type of censorship in our country today? In another country? Under what circumstances, if any, do you feel censorship is justifiable?



What roles do books play in our lives? Do you feel today's computer oriented society detracts us from forming this love of books the author is writing about? Can you imagine the world Mr. Bradbury describes with no books or more importantly no libraries? How would this feel? How would this be?


Where did you imagine Guy Montag's immediate future was leading him? What do you think will happen at the end of the book? Will the world change – if so, how?


Did you find the ending hopeful? Why or why not?

10 General Questions for any book

  1. How did you feel about the book?  What was the experience of reading it like for you?

  2. What do you think the author was trying to accomplish with this novel?

  3. Who was your favorite character? What did you appreciate about him/her?

  4. Sometimes when we read we relate to a particular character.  Did you find anyone you related to in this book?  Why?   If you didn't, is there value in reading about people very different from ourselves?  

  5. Consider the main character: what does he or she believe in? What is he or she willing to fight for?

  6. At the end of the book, do you feel hope for the characters?

  7. Are any of the events in the book relevant to your own life?

  8. Was the story credible? The characters credible?

  9. What is the favorite book you've ever read, why?

  10. What is your favorite Book -to- movie?  Why?  What were the differences between book and movie?  What did you like better in which version?

Enrichment Ideas for Discussion
  • Discuss concepts of censorship

Enrichment Ideas for Teachers

  • Show movie in classroom

Common Core

Purpose: The purpose of the Read Think Write Pair Share document is to help Words Alive volunteers increase high-level thinking and student participation with the classroom.


Use the Learning Targets and Success Criteria to select a passage from the book.

Give students 7-10 minutes to sit quietly to read the passage and write down their thoughts.

TIPS for using this activity:

  1. Read the questions out loud to get students thinking about the activity sheet they’re about to complete.

  2. Read the passage out loud in the group.

  3. Encourage students to use their books to pull evidence to support their ideas.

  4. Give students 7-10 minutes to write down their ideas.

  5. Break-down in small groups to discuss their answers. Assign a volunteer to each group.

  6. Use different passages with different learning targets and questions. Have each group with the same learning target discuss their ideas and solutions and report out to the entire group.
  7. Create separate sheets, based on the number of learning targets, for all students to complete. When reporting out to the entire group, allow students to who have not already spoken to share. The purpose of the activity is to get as many students to speak and voice their opinion. Having them write down their ideas give the students an opportunity to have something to share with the class

Learning Target: Identify ways the government can use censorship.

Success Criteria: Students will be able to discuss ways the government uses censorship and why.

Read the following quote from page 35.

“You know the law,' said Beatty. 'Where's your common sense? None of those books agree with each other. You've been locked up here for years with a regular damned Tower of Babel.” 

After some thought, please write down your ideas about the passage you just read. Here are the questions that we would like you to answer:

  1. Captain Beatty is talking to the person who owned a hidden library and burned herself along with the books. Why did she burn herself and the books? Why is the government censoring books? How is the censorship of books related to controlling the masses? Are you familiar with any countries that have similar laws? (volunteers can share the link about China and their laws:

  2. What are some other ways that the book discusses to control the masses?

  3. What would happen if we banned all intellectual books, thoughts or ideas that were different from the government?

Note: Please be prepared to share your written thoughts and ideas with the class.






How to Use the ABG Curriculum Guide:

1. Review the author information, discussion questions and enrichment ideas

2. Select a few questions (e.g. 5-8) to ask/review at the ABG session

3. Reword the question(s) to make your own. Think of good follow-up questions. (i.e., What is the character’s relation to the family housekeeper? Are social classes important in Iran? What characteristics determine a person’s social class? Describe the family’s social class.)

4. Do not use the curriculum guide as your only source of preparation. It is recommended to conduct your own research in addition to reviewing the guide. If the guide is too overwhelming, please just use the questions/information that is applicable to you.

5. Make the facilitation your own – showcase your personality. The guide is designed to provide suggestions. Your facilitation should not directly mirror what is provided in the guide.

6. If you need more support, please consult your site manager and/or the Words Alive Program Manager.

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