Set in a future where books are outlawed and firemen burn any they find, fireman Guy Montag questions his role in society and joins an organization committed to starting a revolution.
Below are some reading passages that we have hand picked to supplement this book. Be sure to read the passage summaries and our suggestions for instructional use.
9th Grade Poem
Burning a Book
Passage Summary: William Stafford’s poem “Burning a Book” considers the act of book burning in a new light, emphasizing the greater importance of combating ignorance and sharing ideas.
When and How to Pair: A central aspect of Fahrenheit 451 features the protagonist, Guy Montag, burning books as a form of censorship. Read this poem before beginning the novel, and ask students to discuss if they agree or disagree with the speaker of the poem’s opinion on the threat of censorship. As students read Part One, have them take notes on the role the fireman play in censoring the information people receive in Fahrenheit 451.
10th Grade Letter 1130L
I Am Very Real
Passage Summary: Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007) was an American author and humorist. One month after an English teacher at Drake High School in North Dakota decided to teach Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Slaughterhouse-Five in his classroom, Charles McCarthy, the head of the school board, decided that the novel’s “obscene language” was not appropriate. Every copy of Slaughterhouse-Five at Drake High School was burned in the school’s furnace. In response, Vonnegut wrote this letter to McCarthy.
When and How to Pair: Have students read this essay before starting the novel. Ask students to discuss whether they believe there are particular books that should be banned from schools. What does the type of books that are banned from schools say about the society we live in? As students read Fahrenheit 451, have them keep track of what books and authors are referenced. Why would the author choose to mention those books and authors?
9th Grade Psychology 1030L
Why Do People Follow The Crowd?
Passage Summary: Dr. Gregory Burns, a professor of behavioral science, conducted several experiments to study why humans readily conform. ABC’s Primetime recreated these experiments using several unsuspecting people.
When and How to Pair: In Part One of Fahrenheit 451, the protagonist in the novel begins to question why society has accepted the rule of a totalitarian government that burns books as a form of censorship. After finishing Part One, ask students to use the information from the article to analyze why the society in Fahrenheit 451 has accepted the rule of a totalitarian government. What specific evidence from the article provides clues as to why the people might not rebel?
8th Grade News 1260L
More Facebook Friends, Fewer Real Ones, Says Cornell Study
Passage Summary: Matthew Brashears, a Cornell sociologist, conducted a study that suggested social networks may not be fulfilling our deeper social needs.
When and How to Pair: In one scene from the novel, the protagonist complains about his wife’s inability to have a genuine conversation because she is too concerned with watching television. After finishing reading this scene in Part Two (pg.80-91), ask students to discuss what effect technology has on characters’ lives in the novel. Compare and contrast the effect of Facebook on people’s lives according to the article, with the effect the technology in the novel has on the characters’ lives.
11th Grade Informational Text 1390L
The Salem (and Other) Witch Hunts
Passage Summary: In “The Salem (and Other) Witch Hunts,” Mike Kubic explores the Salem witch trials, and the various other prejudiced hunts that have occurred throughout history.
When and How to Pair: Fahrenheit 451 and this article both feature individuals who are persecuted by the government for their beliefs. In one scene in Fahrenheit 451 (pg. 104-110), the antagonist questions the protagonist’s interest in reading books. Compare and contrast the reasons why the government in the article and in Fahrenheit 451 persecute people for their beliefs. Also, have students discuss this question: Why is the government in Fahrenheit 451 afraid of its citizens reading books?
9th Grade Informational Text 1160L
Total Control in North Korea
Passage Summary: This article describes life in North Korea under totalitarian government rule. In North Korea, the government has total control over the economy, the military, education, and people’s access to information—and it punishes those who try to change the status quo.
When and How to Pair: Fahrenheit 451 and this article both feature totalitarian governments that go to extreme measures to punish its citizens that question the government. After the protagonist in Fahrenheit 451 begins collecting outlawed books, he is turned in to the government by his own wife. After finishing Part 3, asks students to compare and contrast the way the totalitarian government in the article and Fahrenheit 451 coerce their citizens into obedience.
11th Grade Allegory 1150L
Allegory of the Cave
Passage Summary: Plato’s Allegory of the Cave is a piece of philosophy explaining the importance of knowledge in society and for the human soul.
When and How to Pair: Both Fahrenheit 451 and this excerpt feature individuals that transition from ignorance to enlightenment. Guy Montag transitions from being a fireman that does the bidding of a totalitarian government, to a fugitive on the run from the same government for critiquing its repressive control. After finishing the novel, ask students to compare and contrast Montag’s path to enlightenment with the “Allegory of the Cave.”