In 1954, Galaxy Science Fiction reviewer Groff Conklin reviewed the novel and described it as being among the great works of the imagination written in English in the last decade or more. The Chicago Sunday Tribune’s August Derleth characterized the book as “a savage” and shockingly prophetic view of one possible future way of life, calling it “compelling” and praising Ray Bradbury for his bright imagination. Over half a century later, Sam Weller wrote, “upon its publication, Fahrenheit 451 was hailed as a visionary work of social commentary.” Today, Fahrenheit 451 is still viewed as a remarkable cautionary tale about conformity and the evils of government censorship.
When the novel was first published, some did not find merit in the story. J. Francis McComas and Anthony Boucher were less enthusiastic, faulting the book for being simply padded, occasionally with startlingly ingenious gimmickry, frequent with coruscating cascades of verbal brilliance, however often merely with words. By reviewing the book for Astounding Science Fiction, P. Schuyler Miller defined the title piece as “one of Bradbury’s bitter, almost hysterical diatribes,” while praising its “emotional drive and compelling, nagging detail.” Furthermore, The New York Times was not impressed with the book and accused Bradbury of developing a “virulent hatred for a lot of aspects of today’s culture, namely, such monstrosities like TV, most movies, radio, and other similar aberrations.
After its publication, Fahrenheit 451 has occasionally been censored or banned. The book was also redacted in some schools by parents and teaching staff who were not aware of the inherent irony in such censorship. Some of the notable incidents are provided below:
- In 1987, Bay County School Board gave Fahrenheit 451 a“third tier” status, under then-superintendent Leonard Hall’s new three-tier classification system. Third-tier was meant for books to be removed from the classroom for containing a lot of vulgarity. After a resident class-action lawsuit, a student protests, and media stir, the school board abandoned their censorship system and approved all the currently used books.
- In 1992, Venado Middle School in Irvine provided students with copies of Fahrenheit 451, all “obscene” words blacked out. Parents contacted the local media and managed to reinstall the uncensored copies.
- In 2006, parents of a 10th-grade high school student in Montgomery County, demanded the book be banned from their daughter’s English class reading list. Their daughter was assigned the book during Banned Books Week but stopped reading several pages because of the offensive language and description of the burning of the Bible. Besides, the parents protested the violence, portrayal of Christians, and depictions of firefighters in the novel.