Farenheit 451 has been analyzed and reinterpreted by every successive generation to change its meaning. This is chiefly because the book is full of assumptions and vague symbolism which can be taken many ways, and rarely does anyone come away from the book with the conclusion the author intended, which would suggest that it is a failed attempt.
There are grounds to contend that even the title is inaccurate, since contemporary sources suggest paper combusts at 450 degrees Celsius, which in Farenheit would be more than 800 degrees. The truth is, paper combustion is gradual and dependent on many factors; even if some paper might combust at 451F, his title is at best an oversimplification, but Bradbury was more interested in a punchy message than in constructing a thoughtful and well-supported argument.
It's not a book about book censorship, but a book about how TV will rot your brain. Bradbury himself has stated this again and again, as evidenced in this article which quotes Bradbury and in videos from Bradbury's own website.
This book falls somewhat short of its satirical mark based on this cranky lawn-loving neighbor's message. Then again, it was written in the course of a few days in one long, uninterrupted slurry (mercifully edited by his publishers, but now available utterly restored). Contains archetypes, misconceptions, and an author surrogate; but can still be seen as a slighting view of authority and power, and of the way people are always willing to deceive themselves.
Unfortunately, Bradbury did not seem to recognize that reading has always been the province of a minority and that television would do little to kill it. More books are written, published, and read today than at any other point in history. Most of them are just redundant filler, but so is 90% of any mass creative output, books, art, movies, or TV, as Sturgeon said. And there's nothing new about that, either: cheap novels have been a joke since the Victorian.
Television is a different medium than books, and has its own strengths and weaknesses. Bradbury's critique of TV--that it will get larger, more pervasive, and become an escape for small minds--is just as true of books. As for television damaging social interaction, who is less culturally aware: the slack-jawed boy watching television or the slack-jawed boy reading one uninspired relic of genre fiction after another? I read a lot of books as a kid and watched a lot of TV, and each medium provided something different. Neither one displaced the other, since reading and watching aren't the same experience.
There is an egalitarian obsession that people are all capable of being informed and intelligent. We now send everyone to college, despite the fact that for most people, college is not a viable or useful route. The same elitism that values degrees values being 'well-read', and since this is the elitism of the current power structure, it is idealized by the less fortunate subcultures. Bradbury became informed not because he read, but by what he read. He could have read a schlocky pop novel every day for life and still been as dull as the Vidscreen zombies he condemns.
He has mistaken the medium for the message, and his is a doubly mixed message, coming from a man who had his own TV show.
The Conquest of Gaul (Barnes & Noble Library of Essential Reading)What Makes a Rainbow? Mini edition (A Magic Ribbon Book)Im Schatten des VatersThe Road to WellvilleCommentarii Rerum Gestarum, Vol 1: Bellum Gallicum (Bibliotheca Scriptorum Graecorum et Romanorum Teubneriana)