Born Eric Blair in India in 1903, George Orwell was educated as a scholarship student at prestigious boarding schools in England. Because of his background—he famously described his family as “lower-upper-middle class”—he never quite fit in, and felt oppressed and outraged by the dictatorial control that the schools he attended exercised over their students’ lives. After graduating from Eton, Orwell decided to forego college in order to work as a British Imperial Policeman in Burma. He hated his duties in Burma, where he was required to enforce the strict laws of a political regime he despised. His failing health, which troubled him throughout his life, caused him to return to England on convalescent leave. Once back in England, he quit the Imperial Police and dedicated himself to becoming a writer.
Inspired by Jack London’s 1903 book The People of the Abyss, which detailed London’s experience in the slums of London, Orwell bought ragged clothes from a second-hand store and went to live among the very poor in London. After reemerging, he published a book about this experience, entitled Down and Out in Paris and London. He later lived among destitute coal miners in northern England, an experience that caused him to give up on capitalism in favor of democratic socialism. In 1936, he traveled to Spain to report on the Spanish Civil War, where he witnessed firsthand the nightmarish atrocities committed by fascist political regimes.
Unlike many British socialists in the 1930s and 1940s, Orwell was not enamored of the Soviet Union and its policies, nor did he consider the Soviet Union a positive representation of the possibilities of socialist society. He could not turn a blind eye to the cruelties and hypocrisies of Soviet Communist Party, which had overturned the semifeudal system of the tsars only to replace it with the dictatorial reign of Joseph Stalin. Orwell became a sharp critic of both capitalism and communism, and is remembered chiefly as an advocate of freedom and a committed opponent of communist oppression. His two greatest anti-totalitarian novels—Animal Farm and 1984—form the basis of his reputation. Orwell died in 1950, only a year after completing 1984, which many consider his masterpiece.
Show full bio ↓
George Orwell Quotes
In a time of universal deceit - telling the truth is a revolutionary act.
If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever.
Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.
All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.
All the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting.
War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.
Political language. . . is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.
Show all quotes ↓
Brief Biography of Ray Bradbury
Arguably the most celebrated American author of science fiction and fantasy, Ray Bradbury grew up in Illinois, Arizona, and Los Angeles. He graduated from high school, chose not to go to college, got a job selling newspapers, and began seriously writing science fiction and fantasy stories. His first book, Dark Carnival, was published in 1947. Over the course of a long and prolific career, he has produced over five hundred short stories, plays, novels, and poems, not to mention screenplays and teleplays. Many of Bradbury's tales have been reworked for film, television, and radio. In addition to Fahrenheit 451, his best known works include The Martian Chronicles, Dandelion Wine, and Something Wicked This Way Comes. In 2000 he received the National Book Award for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.
Historical Context of Fahrenheit 451
Book burning and censorship feature prominently in Fahrenheit 451. Under the Nazi regime in Germany, book burnings of works by "degenerate" authors were held in public. The 1950s in the United States saw the blacklisting of certain filmmakers, actors, and screenwriters who the FBI considered Communists, as well as faculty purgings at universities for similar reasons. The 1950s also saw the rise of television ownership and the expansion of television broadcasts in the U.S.—perhaps foreshadowing the full-room four-walled televisors that Bradbury imagines in Fahrenheit 451.
Other Books Related to Fahrenheit 451
Many authors have created states and societies in their works of fiction and philosophy. Some authors have created utopias, or ideal states, with the intention to show how civilization might be improved. Plato's Republic is one of the earliest and best-known utopias, while Sir Thomas More's sixteenth century work Utopia gives the genre its name. Edward Bellamy, writing at the end of the 19th century, imagined an ideal future society in Looking Backward: 2000–1887. In the 20th century, fictionalized societies frequently took on a darker, oppressive aspect. Rather than create ideal societies meant to serve as models for improvement, authors instead created dystopias, or nightmare societies, designed to sound a warning about modern society's problems. Yevgeny Zamyatin's We, George Orwell's 1984, Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, Kurt Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron," and Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, are among the most-read dystopian novels and short stories of the past century. Fahrenheit 451 fits squarely into this dystopian literary tradition.
Key Facts about Fahrenheit 451
- Full Title: Fahrenheit 451
- When Written: 1947–1953
- Where Written: The United States
- When Published: 1953
- Literary Period: Modern American
- Genre: Dystopian novel
- Setting: An unnamed city in America in the future
- Climax: Montag's escape from the Mechanical Hound; the bombing of the city
- Antagonist: Captain Beatty; the Mechanical Hound
- Point of View: Third person