Imagine that a group wants to ban Fahrenheit 451 because Montag defies authority. For the sake of the argument, assume for a moment that you wish to "ban" Fahrenheit 451 from the library shelves. To do so, you must do a number of things. First, you must establish why defying authority is wrong. What are its consequences? What are the probable effects on youth to see flagrant disregard of authority? (In regard to these questions, you may want to read Plato's Apology to get a sense of how to argue the position.) Second, you must have some theory of psychology, either implied or directly stated. That is, you must establish how a reading of Fahrenheit 451 would inspire a student to flagrantly disregard authority. Why is reading bad for a student? How can it be bad? Next, you must establish how a student who reads Fahrenheit 451 will read the book and extract from it a message that says "Defy Authority Whenever Possible" and then act on this message.
Stephanie, reader-response theory is an excellent lens to view this book through. However, to do this successfully you need to consider how readers at the time of publication would have received this book, and compare it to how we now interpret it given the vast changes in our culture since that time. Since the book was published in 1953, reviews and reactions to the book at the time of publication should be available (ask the librarians for help!). Finding recent responses is even easier – Amazon has 1,449 reviews from readers posted between 1997 and 2012 : http:///Fahrenheit-451-Ray-Bradbury/product-reviews/0345342968/ref=cm_cr_pr_btm_link_145?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=0&pageNumber=145&sortBy=bySubmissionDateDescending
What conclusions can you draw from reading interpretations of this text? What message is received by readers who engage with Fahrenheit 451?
Professor Fish analyzes Mr. Rushdie’s actions as a lawyer looking for a violation of some constitutional, criminal or civil law. Yes – Random House’s actions are not “censorship” in that they violate the First Amendment as currently construed by the courts, but what does it matter what word Mr. Rushdie used to describe the decision to withdraw the novel? He’s using a word as it is commonly understood. And there is a civics lesson on the First Amendment – the fact that Mr. Rushdie could send his opinion to the AP and they could choose to freely publish it.