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Things You Didn't Know

Every book has a story—check out these 10 unusual facts about Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

Fahrenheit 451 | 10 Things You Didn't Know

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Ray Bradbury's 1953 novel Fahrenheit 451 is regarded as a masterpiece of dystopian literature. Set in a future in which firemen don't extinguish blazes—but instead set fire to books—Bradbury presents a chilling warning against the infectious spread of state censorship. Showing the slippery slope where censorship allows for societal control by the government, many contemporary critics have noted how 21st-century society shares eerie similarities with the presentation of technology, surveillance, and militarism in Bradbury's dystopia.

As a work of literature, Fahrenheit 451 has been praised by critics and taught in schools for decades, and it has spawned numerous film, radio, and theatrical adaptations. Bradbury's novel reminds readers that even the most seemingly inoffensive forms of censorship can escalate over time and give rise to state control over the minds of citizens.

1. Fahrenheit 451 is one of the most frequently banned books.

Bradbury's novel has been banned or challenged repeatedly in school districts throughout the United States. In 1992 copies with curse words crossed out were distributed to a middle school in Irvine, California.

According to The Seattle Times, the teacher, Joan Dann, "said she believed a story could be told without having those kinds of words in it." Her students, however, saw the irony. As eighth-grader Paul Ledesma said:

The way Mrs. Dann is censoring the book is kind of going against the book's whole philosophy.

2. Bradbury wrote the first draft of Fahrenheit 451 in nine days.

Bradbury wrote his first draft over nine days in the basement of Powell Library at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). He had discovered that typewriters were available for rental at the library for 10 cents for half an hour. The author spent $9.80 to type the novel.

3. Bradbury was inspired to write Fahrenheit 451 after being stopped by a police officer.

When questioned by a policeman about what he was doing while walking one night, Ray Bradbury responded that he was "putting one foot in front of the other." The officer reacted with hostility, and Bradbury became so upset that he put a packet of crackers in his mouth and sprayed the policeman with crumbs. This confrontation inspired his short story "The Pedestrian," about state control and overreaching power, themes to which he would return in Fahrenheit 451.

4. In a film version of Fahrenheit 451, the opening credits are spoken, not printed.

In Francois Truffaut's 1966 adaptation of Bradbury's novel, the opening credits are spoken by a narrator rather than printed onscreen for the audience to read. This action replicates the world of the novel in which printed matter is forbidden.

5. Bradbury helped develop a video game based on Fahrenheit 451.

The video game, released in 1984, puts players in the role of Guy Montag as he flees from the authorities and looks for the underground rebellion. Bradbury himself wrote the game's prologue, as well the dialogue for "Ray," an intelligent computer that appears as a character. Bradbury said:

I'm thrilled to be participating in the evolution of my Fahrenheit 451 into a computer adventure. For anybody curious about what happens to Montag after the book ends, or about what science fiction software might be, here is an exciting place to start.

6. An HTTP error code pays homage to Fahrenheit 451.

The code "HTTP 451" appears when a webpage cannot be accessed because it is blocked by a government order, which occurs when websites appear to contain copyright violations or are deemed threats to national security.

7. The headstone for Bradbury's grave mentions Fahrenheit 451.

Bradbury originally wanted his ashes to be sent to Mars in a soup can, but then decided on a burial place his fans could visit. After he settled on an earthly burial, Bradbury specifically requested the engraving on his headstone, which reads:

RAY BRADBURY 1920–2012. AUTHOR OF FAHRENHEIT 451.

The author is buried at Westwood Village Memorial Park in Los Angeles alongside a number of other stars, including fellow writer Truman Capote.

8. The U.S. military developed a real mechanical hound.

Although it lacks the creepy proboscis (nose) of Bradbury's vicious robotic creature, the Pentagon's "Legged Squad Support System," nicknamed Alpha Dog, was a canine-like robot developed, beginning in 2010, to charge electronics and carry gear for Marines in the field. After the robot was tested in 2012, the military decided its motor was too noisy. A second, quieter canine robot was developed but could not carry a sufficiently heavy load. As a result of these drawbacks, both robots have been retired.

9. Bradbury was the descendant of a woman convicted in the Salem witch trials.

Bradbury was the descendant of Mary Perkins Bradbury, a woman who was found guilty of witchcraft in September 1692 at the age of 77. She was sentenced to be executed later that month, but her husband and friends broke her out of jail. She was able to flee to Amesbury, Massachusetts. Her genealogy page reports that she died in 1700 at age 85.

10. Bradbury never learned how to drive a car.

At 15, Bradbury came upon the scene of a terrible car accident in Los Angeles just moments after it happened. The experience shook him to the core and instilled a fear of driving in him. In a 2012 interview with National Public Radio, Bradbury said:

I arrived at the scene of the accident within 20 seconds of hearing the collision. It was the worst mistake I ever made in my life. I didn't know what I was running into. People had been horribly mangled and decapitated. So for months after, I was shaken by them. It's probably the reason I never learned to drive.

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