Dystopian Fiction & Fahrenheit 451

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When examining Fahrenheit 451 as a piece of dystopian fiction, a definition for the term "dystopia" is required. Dystopia is often used as an antonym of "utopia," a perfect world often imagined existing in the future. A dystopia, therefore, is a terrible place. You may find it more helpful (and also more accurate) to conceive a dystopian literary tradition, a literary tradition that's created worlds containing reactions against certain ominous social trends and therefore imagines a disastrous future if these trends are not reversed. Most commonly cited as the model of a twentieth-century dystopian novel is Yevgeny Zamiatin's We (1924), which envisions an oppressive but stable social order accomplished only through the complete effacement of the individual. We, which may more properly be called an anti-utopian work rather than a dystopian work, is often cited as the precursor of George Orwell's 1984 (1948), a nightmarish vision of a totalitarian world of the future, similar to one portrayed in We, in which terrorist force maintains order.

We and 1984 are often cited as classic dystopian fictions, along with Aldous Huxley's Brave New World (1932), which, contrary to popular belief, has a somewhat different purpose and object of attack than the previously mentioned novels. Huxley's Brave New World has as its target representations of a blind faith in the idea of social and technological progress.

In contrast to dystopian novels like Huxley's and Orwell's, however, Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 does not picture villainous dictators (like Orwell's O'Brien) or corrupt philosopher-kings (like Huxley's Mustapha Mond), although Bradbury's Captain Beatty shares a slight similarity to Mustapha Mond. The crucial difference is that Bradbury's novel does not focus on a ruling elite nor does it portray a higher society, but rather, it portrays the means of oppression and regimentation through the life of an uneducated and complacent, though an ultimately honest and virtuous,...
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