Fahrenheit 451 and "Harrison Bergeron"

We may be into the whole online education thing, but we love our books more than anything. So the thought of someone burning them? Or of a life without them? Now that’s our definition of a dystopia.

American LiteratureAll American Literature
AuthorBradbury - Ray Bradbury
Early 20th-Century LiteratureEarly 20th-Century American Literature
FormNovel
LanguageEnglish Language
LiteratureAmerican Literature

Transcript

00:27

Book burning was popular in real-life dystopias

00:30

like Nazi Germany, where they burned books written by...well, anyone they disagreed with.

00:35

Which included... a lot of people. It may have inspired Ray Bradbury to create

00:40

Fahrenheit 451 in 1953, a world where firemen don't fight fires...

00:45

...they start them. In Bradbury's vision of the future, all

00:49

books are banned, and whenever one is found the firemen are sent in like pyromaniac-exterminators

00:53

to deal with the problem.

00:59

When one fireman named Guy Montag starts questioning whether it's really such a good idea to incinerate every book out there, he's

01:05

in for a world of trouble...

01:07

A world of trouble that includes vicious, mechanical dogs.

01:11

Though many assume that Fahrenheit 451 is about censorship...

01:15

There's actually some debate on the subject.

01:18

On one side is its author, Ray Bradbury, who says the book is actually about the evils

01:21

of television sapping our attention spans.

01:28

On the other side is...just about everyone else.

01:31

Um...what were we talking about again?

01:35

Oh, yeah...TV. And books. That's right.

01:39

Maybe Bradbury's right, and TV has corrupted our attention span.

01:46

Another story about the dystopia that television has wrought is Kurt Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron."

01:51

In case you didn't guess it from the title of the story, the main character is named Harrison Bergeron.

01:57

... a kid who was born with the terrible curse of being tall, athletic, and handsome.

02:02

In most places these traits would be awesome, but in Harrison's world, being exceptional

02:07

is forbidden by law.

02:10

Everyone has to be equal, so anyone who is smart, strong, attractive, or... in any way

02:16

awesome... is weighed down so that they become as common as everyone else.

02:20

When Harrison tries to rebel and let his awesomeness shine, he faces a fate worse than mechanical dogs.

02:28

What's a person to do when exceptional people

02:29

like Harrison aren't allowed to shine?

02:32

Sit around and watch TV, of course.

02:34

Unfortunately the TV is pretty boring, too. The comedy isn't funny.

02:39

The soap operas don't have any hot people.

02:45

And people sing worse than the last batch of rejects on Bulgerian Idol.

02:54

Imagine it: nothing to read, nothing to watch, nothing to do.

03:00

Eternal boredom.

03:02

Maybe you can get a job as an accountant to... liven up your life.