The title Fahrenheit 451 represents the temperature at which paper burns. Based on a 1951 short story, “The Fireman,” the novel depicts a future America where television dominates culture and all books are banned. Montag, the main character, is a fireman, a member of an elite, Gestapo-like organization whose purpose is to seek out and burn the few books that remain.
Fahrenheit 451 makes no attempt to describe the workings of a totalitarian state. Instead, Bradbury is concerned with developing a parable of sorts about intellectual freedom. The novel can be seen as an attack on Senator Joseph McCarthy’s early 1950s anti-Communist crusade, during which the senator and his supporters attempted to subject government workers, politicians, journalists, and artists to strict government scrutiny. In a broader sense, Bradbury addresses the issues of mass-media-induced illiteracy and anti-intellectualism in general.