Type ShortStory
Date 1951-02
Tags science fiction, dystopia, censorship

The Fireman

It's a good story, but stylistically, this is a bit too much of Bradbury getting up on a soapbox. He sounds like an old man ranting about those damn kids, with their televisions and their motor-cars. The story fits neatly into the tradition of sf proclaiming the dangers of mass media and censorship.

The people of the future are stupid and violent and shallow and unhappy despite all that, and in the end they blow themselves up and not a tear is shed. There's a lot to unpack in this story, to understand all the different ways the world has gone wrong:

  • No one takes an interest in anyone or anything around them--no one much cares that Mrs. Phelps's husband has killed himself, including, apparently, Mrs. Phelps. Mrs. Masterson's husband, Dick, has been called in by the Army, but she, like the others, simply refuses to worry about the war.
  • A year ago, Montag's wife, Mildred, tried to kill herself, and neither of them appears to know why. In any case, she seems to be miserable: she cannot sleep, and doesn't seem to want to do anything but distract herself with television and radio.
  • Neither Montag nor his wife can remember how the two first met, though it's been only a decade. People don't bother with history, not even their personal history.
  • Kids kill each other for entertainment, and have done so for generations. It's unremarkable.
  • No one walks outside. No one carries on conversations. Probably no one maintains any meaning relationships with anyone else.
  • Life is cheap. When a woman won't leave her home full of books, the firemen are perfectly willing to burn her along with them. When the police can't catch up to Montag, they simply find another unlucky person to kill in his place, so that the television audience will have a satisfying resolution to the drama of the chase.
  • When the cities are destroyed, untold multitudes snuffed out in moments, those who remain are unaffected by it. They make breakfast and life goes on: "Montag felt fine."
Name Role
Ray Bradbury Author

Relations

Relation Sources
Contained in
  • Galaxy Science Fiction, February 1951 (1951-02)
Inspires
  • Fahrenheit 451 (1953-10)