Welcome back to my Banned Books Week posts!
Today we’ll be talking about a specific book that has faced its own fair share of censorship/challenges/bans, despite being a book criticizing the practice.
“The classic bestseller about censorship-more important now than ever before”, according to the cover’s tagline, Fahrenheit 451 is a book you may have been assigned in school, or you decided to pick it up and read it yourself. Originally published in October of 1953, the book faced its own battle against censorship and being banned, due to its language, discussion of abortion, and even the fact that the Bible is one of the books burned in the novel.
Don’t know what Fahrenheit 451 is about? Check out the book summary over on The StoryGraph.
Fahrenheit 451 was censored by its own publisher during the 60’s and 70’s. In January of 1967, Fahrenheit 451 was expurgated by its own publishing company, Ballantine Books, by censoring the words “hell”, “damn” and “abortion”, along with modifying seventy-five passages and changing two specific scenes in the book (The first one being a scene with a drunk man being changed to a scene with a sick man; the second one changed a scene where fluff is cleaned out a navel, into cleaning out ears). Bradbury found out about the expurgation in 1979, when a friend of his showed him one of the copies, after which Bradbury demanded Ballantine replace this version with the original version. By 1980, Ballantine was no longer publishing any of the “Bal-Hi” editions, or as it’s now referred to the “Revised Bal-Hi” editions.
The table below documents more instances of book challenges/bans Fahrenheit 451 has faced:
|Year||Reason for Ban/Censorship/Complaint|
|1987||Bay County School Board in Panama City, FL added the book to its tier list, placing it at the third tier. This is for books with lots of “vulgarity” and that needed to be removed from the classroom. However, this tier list was eliminated after a resident-class action lawsuit, negative media attention and student protests against this system.|
|1992||In Irvine, CA, Fahrenheit 451 was censored at Venado Middle School, as students received copies of the book which had all words considered “obscene” blacked out. These censored copies were removed and replaced with uncensored copies after parents brought up the issue with local media.|
|2006||Parents of a 10th grade student in Montgomery, TX demanded the book be banned from the English class’ reading list, after their daughter was assigned to read the book during Banned Book Week. She stopped after a few pages, as she was disturbed by the offensive language, and a depiction of the Bible being burned, while the parents also objected to the depiction of violence, Christians, and firemen in the novel.|
|2017||One mother from Florida complained about the vulgar language in the book, after her eighth grade daughter asked her the meaning of the word “bastard”, and went into further detail about the portrayal of sex, violence, offensive language and abortion in the novel.|
Note: These are only the incidents which were documented and had media coverage, as it’s important to remember a lot of cases concerning books being banned/challenged aren’t always reported to the American Library Association, or receive media coverage.
After having recently read the novel myself the sheer irony of this book being banned, challenged and censored is amazing (as has been pointed out by many others). It’s also a book where various passages and topics covered are still relevant today, and should be discussed in the classroom. Even if they were to just analyze the conversation between Beatty and Montag, where Beatty explains how the world came to what it was in the book, there could be so much meaningful discussion from it.
I mentioned this in my Banned Books post from last year, but when I was assigned to read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn my junior year of high school, we had a discussion about the use of the n-word in the book before we started reading. If the language is the main issue for Fahrenheit 451, instead of outright trying to ban the book, why not encourage a discussion between the teacher and students before reading? Why is the answer to handling issues we don’t like is to push them out of sight, out of mind, instead of using it as a lesson to understand the world? If we don’t understand the world, and the present issues, we can’t actually come up with an effective solution. A great place we can begin these discussions, and explore the issues, is in the classroom. So, why try and stop your children from learning about the world and being exposed to new ideas?
Side Note: I don’t know where this would fit into the overall post, so I’ll just stick it here. When I was doing research about the history of Fahrenheit 451’s banning, I found out that although the book was published during the McCarthy era (the Red Scare), and was about censorship, later on, Bradbury claimed the book was about how TV and technology can rot your brain. I just thought it was interesting how the meaning of his work changed over time, and it makes me think about how many authors go through the same type of thought process.
On a final note, here’s a video of Bradbury’s opinion of censorship and book burnings, including his own books being banned from schools and public libraries.
If you would like to do further research about Fahrenheit 451 and its history of being banned and censored, check out these links:
I also have an exciting announcement!
(This is completely unrelated to Banned Books Week)
I just wanted to let you all know, that I am now an affiliate with Bookshop.org!
Bookshop is an online bookstore where you can buy books, and the proceeds will go to independent bookstores around the country. If you want to learn more about them, you can go visit their About page. I think it’s a great way to support independent bookstores if you aren’t able to go visit the store in person, hence why I decided to become an affiliate with them 👍
As an affiliate, if I link to a book on my blog from now on, then you click on it and buy something, I earn a 10% commission on it! Woohoo, super exciting!
I also have a page with book lists which I curated myself, so if you want to visit my bookshop page, you can click here to go check it out 👌 (It’s still a work in progress, so I only have a couple of lists with a few books on them, but don’t worry, I will be adding more).
So, if you wanted to get your very own copy of Fahrenheit 451, click on the title, and if you purchase through that link, I’ll earn a small commission from the purchase 😉
Now, that’s the end of today’s post 😊 I hope you had a fun time reading through everything, and I will see you tomorrow with a new one!
If interested, you can donate to the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom
You can also sign the petition for the Literature Locked Up campaign: Tell Congress: Stop the largest book ban in America
Updated carrd of global issues : https://allcards.carrd.co/