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55 Fahrenheit 451 Quotes on Censorship, Society, and More

Norbert Juma
Published on January 23, 2020 7:10 AM EST
Fahrenheit 451 Quotes on Censorship, Society, and More

From arguably one of the greatest dystopian novels ever written, these timeless Fahrenheit 451 quotes will inspire you to think differently.

The classic novel Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury, is a staple of American high school reading lists. Set in a dystopian future where technology rules society and intellectualism is curbed, books are illegal and professional “firemen” burn any books they find. The protagonist, Guy Montag, begins to rebel against this practice as he relearns the meaning of happiness and decides to fight censorship by committing his life to preserving knowledge.

Fahrenheit 451 Quotes on Censorship, Society, and More

Why is Fahrenheit 451 considered such an important and timeless novel?

Fahrenheit 451 is a classic piece centering on themes of the purpose of life, the role of intellectualism, the decadence of society, the danger of censorship, and the power of books. The collection of Fahrenheit 451 quotes below is drawn from the novel, but also from other sources that expand on the novel’s central themes.

Also check out these 1984 quotes that will change the way you see the world.

Fahrenheit 451 Quotes About the Power of Books

1.) “‘There must be something in books, things we can’t imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there. You don’t stay for nothing.’” – Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

2.) “‘A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it. Take the shot from the weapon.’” – Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

3.) “‘Books were only one type of receptacle where we stored a lot of things we were afraid we might forget. There is nothing magical in them, at all. The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us.’” – Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

4.) “‘The books are to remind us what asses and fools we are.’” – Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

5.) “‘Remember, the firemen are rarely necessary. The public itself stopped reading of its own accord.’” – Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

6.) “I’ve only written one science-fiction book: ‘Fahrenheit 451.’ That book is a book based on real facts and my hatred of people who destroy books.” – Ray Bradbury

7.) “Censorship is a strange situation. There was times when people would burn books because they didn’t like what people were doing.” – Michael Berryman

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8.) “One must always be careful of books,” said Tessa, “and what is inside them, for words have the power to change us.” – Cassandra Clare

9.) “A book lying idle on a shelf is wasted ammunition.” – Henry Miller

10.) “There are some works so luminous…so powerful that they give us strength, and force us to new undertakings. A book can play this role.” – Hervé Le Tellier

11.) “I know nothing in the world that has as much power as a word. Sometimes I write one, and I look at it, until it begins to shine.” – Emily Dickinson

12.) “She was fascinated with words. To her, words were things of beauty, each like a magical powder or potion that could be combined with other words to create powerful spells.” – Dean Koontz

13.) “Let us never underestimate the power of a well-written letter.” – Jane Austen

14.) “Let us pick up our books and our pens, they are the most powerful weapons.” – Malala Yousafzai

15.) “Properly, we should read for power. Man reading should be man intensely alive. The book should be a ball of light in one’s hand.” – Ezra Pound

16.) “Books must be treated with respect, we feel that in our bones, because words have power. Bring enough words together they can bend space and time.” – Terry Pratchett

17.) “One should never underestimate the power of books.” – Paul Auster

Fahrenheit 451 Quotes About Society and Anti-Intellectualism

18.) “‘Cram them full of noncombustible data, chock them so damned full of ‘facts’ they feel stuffed, but absolutely ‘brilliant’ with information. Then they’ll feel they’re thinking, they’ll get a sense of motion without moving. And they’ll be happy, because facts of that sort don’t change. Don’t give them any slippery stuff like philosophy or sociology to tie things up with. That way lies melancholy.’” – Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

19.) “With school turning out more runners, jumpers, racers, tinkerers, grabbers, snatchers, fliers, and swimmers instead of examiners, critics, knowers, and imaginative creators, the word ‘intellectual,’ of course, became the swear word it deserved to be.” – Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

20.) “‘But you can’t make people listen. They have to come round in their own time, wondering what happened and why the world blew up under then. It can’t last.’” – Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

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21.) “Amid apocalyptic dystopia, ‘Fahrenheit 451”s protagonist retains sparks of curiosity, creativity, and courage, and these human characteristics are the seeds of hope that can arise, phoenix-like, from civilization’s ashes.” – Heidi Hammel

22.) “The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.” – Isaac Asimov

23.) “Illiteracy does not impede the practice of democracy, anti-intellectualism does.” – Henry Johnson, Jr.

24.) “I’m tired of ignorance held up as inspiration, where vicious anti-intellectualism is considered a positive trait, and where uninformed opinion is displayed as fact.” – Phil Plait

25.) “‘Fahrenheit 451’ postulates a lot of things I didn’t want to have happen.” – Ray Bradbury

Also read these Lord of the Flies quotes on why humans need structure and rules.

Fahrenheit 451 Quotes About Life and Happiness

26.) “‘Stuff your eyes with wonder,’ he said, ‘live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic that any dream made or paid for in factories. Ask no guarantees, ask for no security, there never was such an animal. And if there were, it would be related to the great sloth which hangs upside down in a tree all day every day, sleeping its life away. To hell with that,’ he said, ‘shake the tree and knock the great sloth down on his ass.’” – Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

27.) “‘Bet I know something else you don’t. There’s dew on the grass in this morning.’ He suddenly couldn’t remember if he had known this or not, and it made him quite irritable.” – Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

28.) “‘That’s the good part of dying; when you’ve nothing to lose, you run any risk you want.’” – Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

29.) “We cannot tell the precise moment when friendship is formed. As in filling a vessel drop by drop, there is at last a drop which makes it run over; so in a series of kindnesses there is at last one which makes the heart run over.” – Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

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30.) “Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.” – Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

31.) “It doesn’t matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.” – Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

32.) “Don’t ask for guarantees. And don’t look to be saved in any one thing, person, machine, or library. Do your own bit of saving, and if you drown, at least die knowing you were heading for shore.” – Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

33.) “I don’t talk things, sir. I talk the meaning of things.” – Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

34.) “It was a pleasure to burn.” – Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

35.) “‘What is there about fire that’s so lovely? No matter what age we are, what draws us to it?’ Beatty blew out the flame and lit it again. ‘It’s perpetual motion; the thing man wanted to invent but never did.’” – Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

36.) “He was not happy. He was not happy. He said the words to himself. He recognized this as the true state of affairs. He wore his happiness like a mask and the girl had run off across the lawn with the mask and there was no way of going to knock on her door and ask for it back.” – Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

37.) “‘Why is it,’ he said, one time, at the subway entrance, ‘I feel I’ve known you so many years?’ ‘Because I like you,’ she said, ‘and I don’t want anything from you.’” – Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

38.) “‘We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?’” – Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

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39.) “I’ll hold onto the world tight some day. I’ve got one finger on it now; that’s a beginning.” – Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

You might also like these Brave New World quotes or these powerful Animal Farm quotes on the power of too much power.

Fahrenheit 451 Quotes About Censorship

40.) “‘And when he died, I suddenly realized I wasn’t crying for him at all, but for all the things he did. I cried because he would never do them again, he would never carve another piece of wood or help us raise doves and pigeons in the backyard or play the violin the way he did, or tell us jokes the way he did. He was part of us and when he died, all the actions stopped dead and there was no one to do them just the way he did. He was individual.’” – Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

41.) “‘We’re going to meet a lot of lonely people in the next week and the next month and the next year. And when they ask us what we’re doing, you can say, We’re remembering. That’s where we’ll win out in the long run. And someday we’ll remember so much that we’ll build the biggest goddamn steamshovel in history and dig the biggest grave of all time and shove war in it and cover it up.’” – Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

42.) “To everything there is a season. Yes. A time to break down, and a time to build up. Yes. A time to keep silence and a time to speak. Yes, all that.” – Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

43.) “The first condition of progress is the removal of censorship.” – George Bernard Shaw

44.) “There is a fine line between censorship and good taste and moral responsibility.” – Steven Spielberg

45.) “Censorship is advertising paid by the government.” –  Federico Fellini

46.) “Even with censorship, the Internet is a force for change.” – Peter Singer

47.) “The only thing that is obscene is censorship.” – Craig Bruce

48.) “Censorship, like charity, should begin at home, but, unlike charity, it should end there.” – Clare Boothe Luce

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49.) “Censorship is saying: ‘I’m the one who says the last sentence. Whatever you say, the conclusion is mine.’ But the internet is like a tree that is growing. The people will always have the last word – even if someone has a very weak, quiet voice. Such power will collapse because of a whisper.” – Ai Weiwei

50.) “Censorship reflects a society’s lack of confidence in itself.” – Potter Stewart

51.) “The ultimate censorship is the flick of the dial.” – Tom Smothers

52.) “I suppose that writers should, in a way, feel flattered by the censorship laws. They show a primitive fear and dread at the fearful magic of print.” – John Mortimer

53.) “Censorship in all its forms must be challenged.” – Deeyah Khan

54.) “Censorship ends in logical completeness when nobody is allowed to read any books except the books that nobody reads.” – George Bernard Shaw

55.) “People who believe in freedom of expression have spent several centuries fighting against censorship, in whatever form. We have to be certain the ‘Net’ doesn’t become the site for technological book burning.” – John Ralston Saul

How does Fahrenheit 451 apply in the era of the Internet?

Books can be burned to censor the ideas within, but that may not be true for the ideas expressed on websites and social media. Published in 1953, Fahrenheit 451 could not have predicted the Internet.

Today it would be impossible to completely erase anyone’s ideology. However, there is a dangerous trend of labeling some topics as being unacceptable. This stands in contrast to the world of Fahrenheit 451, where ideas are simply erased by burning books.

Instead of explaining why they may be wrong, critics today force topics like racism and sexism to be discussed in places where there might not be dissenting voices. This allows truly harmful beliefs to fester where exposure to the light of public discourse could heal them. It is clear that we still have much to keep in mind from Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.

What’s your biggest takeaway from these Fahrenheit 451 quotes and lines? Do you have any other favorite quotes to add? Let us know in the comment section below.

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