Fahrenheit 451 is set in a future society where knowledge is considered dangerous and individuality is discouraged. The people are kept complacent with a steady stream of meaningless entertainment. A war is being waged, but no one seems to know why or even whom the enemy is. Books are outlawed because they contain ideas that might cause people to question the status quo. It is the job of the firemen to burn books to prevent the spread of dissension and independent thought.
Guy Montag is one such fireman. He enjoys his job and is happy, or so he thinks until one day he meets his new neighbor. Clarisse McClellan is a 17-year-old who is unlike anyone Montag has ever met. She is inquisitive and interested in the world around her and in other people. She does not want to know how a something is done, but why it is done. Even more strangely, her family sits around each evening talking instead of watching television. Montag finds himself drawn to the sounds of laughter and conversation that are absent from his own house.
After his meeting with Clarisse, Montag goes home and discovers his wife Mildred stretched out cold and motionless on the bed. However, this is not unusual; most nights she lies with tiny seashell radios in her ears, oblivious to the world around her. But tonight, Montag discovers, she has taken an overdose of pills. Two impersonal medical technicians come to clean out her body, but the next morning Mildred acts as if nothing has happened. She is more interested in the interactive play that is to be shown that evening on the parlor walls – huge TV screens that fill the walls of their living room. When Montag asks her what the play is about she cannot say.
One day at work a call comes in reporting a suspected cache of books. Montag and the firemen race to the scene as they have done hundreds of times. This time, however, the police have not arrived first to arrest the suspected book-hoarder. The woman remains in her house while they...