The Banned Book About Book-Banning
The award for “Most Ironic Case of Book Banning” in history goes to Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451.” Ironic because the book’s subject matter is–well, the banning of books and other forms of censorship.
“Fahrenheit 451” is a story set in the future and tells the story of Guy Montag. As the story opens, Montag’s profession is the burning of illegally-owned books. But as the story progresses, our “heroes” starts to question the value of his job to society. Eventually he steals a book from a collection that he is sent to burn. I won’t tell you the whole story, but by the novel’s end, the hero has seen how important it is that we have free expression in our society, and that people be free to read or listen to the controversial ideas of others.
So why was Bradbury’s novel so controversial? Why did people want to burn a book about book-burning? Keep in mind, this novel was first published in 1951. This was a time when paranoia about Communism was running rampant, and patriotism was praised–and expected. Pro-Communist material was routinely banned from libraries and bookstores. To attack the practice of book-banning was perceived by some as an expression to keep those Communist books in print.
Incidentally, perhaps the greatest irony of all is that author Bradbury has stated repeatedly that he never meant the book as a commentary about book-burning. Rather, the author says it was a commentary about television replacing books in people’s lives.