Lesson 2: Lecture Notes Context: Post-ww II america



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Lesson 2: Lecture Notes

Context: Post-WW II America
(1) Ray Bradbury- Background and Trivia

- American, born in Illinois


- He was influenced by science fiction heroes like Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers.
- He attributes his lifelong daily writing habit to the day in 1932 when a carnival entertainer, Mr. Electrico, touched him with an electrified sword, made his hair stand on end, and shouted, "Live forever!" The following day, Mr. Electrico brought Bradbury behind the scenes of the carnival and discussed philosophy with him


  • Bradbury once said in an interview that he does not like using computers when writing a book..

- Bradbury claims that the entirety of his novel was written in the basement of the UCLA library on a pay typewriter. His original intention in writing Fahrenheit 451 was to show his great love for books and libraries. He has often referred to Montag as an allusion to himself.

(2) Context: Introduction

- When you think this book was written?



- Fahrenheit 451 was originally published in a 1951 (within an anthology, under a different title--The Fireman)

- Considering yesterday’s discussion (Censorship, book burning), what do you think the author thought about his own society?

- ‘Thought destroying’ censorship, culture of paranoia, powerful people threatened by opposing ideas, people becoming increasingly resistant to books.

- Ray Bradburdy was an American. What do you know about American society in late 1940s and early 1950s?

- Post WW II, beginning of the cold war, the ‘red scare,’ Television
(3) The Invention of Television

- Image of an early television set:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f6/OTVbelweder-front.jpg

- Regular network broadcasting began in the United States in 1946, and television became common in American homes by the mid 1950s.

- The 1950’s is considered by some to be the ‘golden age’ of television.

- T.V. at that time became the dominant mass media

- In the early 50’s in America, young people often watched T.V. for more hours than they went to school. (Has this changed?)

- What was portrayed on T.V. was accepted as ‘normal.’ (Has this changed?)

- Birth of the sitcom

- How does Bradbury treat television in Fahrenheit 451?



- Mind-numbing, replacement for reality,

- Consider what T.V. was like in the 1940s and 1950s. How did Bradbury envision the ‘future’ of television? In what ways was he correct?

- In the 1950s, TVs were black and white, and very small. Bradbury envisioned giant screens that replaced walls, surrounding an entire room and completely absorbing the viewer for countless hours. Today our TVs are getting larger and larger, and it is certainly possible to manufacture wall-sized screens.
(4) The Cold War
- A period of conflict, tension and competition between the United States and the Soviet Union (and their allies) from the mid 1940s until the early 1990s. (See map of the world from the 1950s)
- U.S., Japan, Western Europe, and Canada vs. Eastern Europe and China

- Rivalry between superpowers lead to…

- military coalitions

- conflicts in ideology

- espionage

- military, industrial, and technological developments

- immense spending on defense

- a massive conventional and nuclear arms race

- proxy wars (i.e. Korean war)
- Is there any reflection of the cold war in Fahrenheit 451?

- Impending war, ‘us and them’ mentality, technology, powerful governments


(4) Senator Joseph McCarthy


  • Republican U.S. Senator from 1947-1957

  • He became notorious for insubstantiated claims that there were Communists and Soviet spies throughout America and even in the U.S. government.

  • Communist beliefs were never illegal, but it was the popular belief that support of communism equated to treason.

  • This political cartoon coined the term ‘McCarthyism’: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/9/90/Herblock1950.jpg

  • Video on the McCarthy era: http://video.google.ca/videoplay?docid=5139711319040083472&q=senator+joseph+mccarthy)

    • Contains a more detailed description of the Senator

Brainstorming Activity


  1. Consider what we’ve discussed today:

    1. The impact of television

    2. The Cold War

    3. McCarthy era censorship and paranoia

Can you relate these issues to anything going on in the world today? Take 10 minutes to write down your ideas. Consult with a partner if desired.
Review Questions


  1. Fahrenheit 451 was first published in 1951. In what ways is it a product of its time? (i.e. How does the context in which the novel was written influence its content? )




  1. If Fahrenheit 451 was written today, how would it be different? What might remain the same?




  1. Senator McCarthy is stigmatized for his ruthless persecution of those he believed were Communists. Do you think that every political belief should be tolerated, even if that belief is racist, sexist, or otherwise ‘objectionable’?


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