Fahrenheit 56K is a dystopian play written by Spanish writer Fernando de Querol Alcaraz. Partly inspired by English-language novels like George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four and Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, the major themes of the play concern censorship, freedom of speech, and the Internet. The title of the play alludes to both Bradbury's novel and old modems. Background and plot Fahrenheit 56K portrays a society and its institutions through the conversations between diverse personages who communicate both online and in person. In the course of the story, the play tackles such issues as censorship, freedom of speech, democracy, dissent and debate, the stigmatization of dissidents, faith, religious freedom and mass media like the Internet. The people in Fahrenheit 56K are ruled by the Party (el Partido) in an oligarchical dictatorship headed by The Leader. The Party is despotic and corrupt, engaging in such fraudulent activities as falsifying history and refusing to acknowledge that it makes mistakes or that its members have lied. An institution named "The Science Assembly" is set up to both obtain and alter recorded information as the Party sees fit. (There is also a private organization called the The Rationalist Alliance that promotes an unconditional trust in the Party and its doctrines.) The public, however, does have access to the Internet. The Party tries to discredit rumors and opinions of dissent through propaganda, insults, mockery, and the branding of dissidents as mental patients (similar to a practice in the Soviet Union). Denying the most important tenets of the Party's doctrine is punishable by imprisonment. Within the Party itself there are intrigues and power struggles; for example, the present Leader came to power by overthrowing the previous Leader and accusing him of crimes the present Leader was guilty of himself. Two writers called the Master and the Heretic are preparing two books on the same subject, but the Master's work agrees with the the Party on the major points, while the Heretic's work is in fundamental disagreement with Party doctrine. By the end of the story, the authorities locate and close the local shop from where the Heretic sells books by mail. The Heretic then decides to spread his books on the Internet. The Inquisitor, a state official, grudgingly recognizes the necessity of supporting Party doctrines with reasoning. In the final scene, the Master and the Heretic both agree to read the other's book and to consider his arguments. Characters The main characters are the Master, the Inquisitor, the Heretic, and the Leader. The Master The Master is a versatile writer who has written numerous books on diverse subjects. In many subjects he disagrees with the Party, although sometimes only about the details. He is in favor of democracy and freedom of speech, and thinks that the truth should be defended with argumentation and not with persecution. He supports neither the Party nor the Science Assembly, and stands against the persecution of Muslims as well as the persecution of the Heretic. Even so, he is preparing a book intending to refute the Heretic's arguments. His disagreement with the Heretic is one of the few stances of his that the Party shares. The Inquisitor The Inquisitor is a high-ranking state official. Like the Party, he despises democracy and freedom of speech and thinks that the Party is justified in forcing unwilling people to believe in its policies. He considers democracy a ridiculous regime and views dissidents as mental patients. He aims to foster an unconditional loyalty to the Party in the population through propaganda. The Inquisitor also tries to locate and arrest the Heretic. The Heretic The Heretic advocates democracy and freedom of speech, and has written several books that contradict the Party doctrine. He sells these books in a local bookshop. He is currently preparing a book that includes both new material and a summary of his previous books. Because of these books, the Party wants to locate and arrest him. Although they do not always agree, the Master and the Heretic respect each other. Both prefer freedom of speech and rational argument over dogmatism. The Leader The Leader is the Supreme Head of the Party. After a political struggle, he was able to overthrow the previous Leader and accuse him of counts of fraud, many of which the present Leader had in fact taken part in. He seeks to instill in the population an absolute and unconditional loyalty to the Party and its doctrines. These doctrines have gone through several contradictory versions in the past, and the Leader is angry that many citizens still remember the previous versions. Other characters * Julia is the Master's assistant. She is a strong supporter of his views regarding democracy and freedom of speech. * Pablo is a follower of the Heretic. * Daniel supports the Party and approves its methods as well as those of the Science Assembly. * Sara is an ex-Muslim who chats with the Master online. Several other individuals appear in a dream that the Master has. The previous Leader is mentioned, but he does not appear in the script. Relationship with similar works 1984 Orwell's 1984 and Fahrenheit 56K both involve the falsification of history (although to a much smaller extent and with less efficacy in Fahrenheit 56K, in which the Party merely gives successive contradictory versions of history in the hopes that people will forget previous versions), disciplining minds to forget the true past, doublethink, a "Ministry of Truth", and thoughtcrime. Fahrenheit 56K also contains several direct references to Orwell's novel. When the Inquisitor sees electronic books downloaded over the Internet and an accountant who indicates the number of downloads, one of the books is marked "1984". But when the accountant raises the subject of 1985, the Master says, rather ambiguously: "We have left back 1984". During the Master's dream a 1984 appointment on the necessity of disciplining the mind appears. Furthermore, the Master's assistant is named Julia, to whom he reads an excerpt from 1984 on falsifying history. Fahrenheit 451 Aside from the conspicuous similarity between the titles and the shared themes of censorship and free speech, Fahrenheit 56K makes several references to Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. For example, the Master and Julia directly mention Fahrenheit 451. In addition, the firemen that burn the Heretic's books when his bookshop is discovered allude to the firemen in Bradbury's novel. Also, in the same scene with the electronic books mentioned above, the accountant has marked one of the books "451". Still, there are important differences between the two works. In Fahrenheit 451, there is nothing like the Internet, which plays a major role in Fahrenheit 56K. Similarly, the ease of keeping electronic books obviates the need for people to memorize books, as they do in 451. Furthermore, the book ban in 451 is far stricter than in 56K: in 451 almost all books are prohibited, a treatment reserved only for books that contradict a Party doctrine in 56K. Along the same lines, in 56K only publishing or distributing prohibited books is punished, but in 451 simply owning or reading them is a crime. The protagonists of the two stories play different roles. While Guy Montag in 451 is a fireman and therefore a force for the repression of books, the Master in 56K does not participate in the repression; rather he has published many articles and books and is preparing more. Furthermore, 451 is critical of television, while 56K presents arguments both for and against it. The Master and Julia, who criticize some aspects of Fahrenheit 451, even say that they like some TV programs. Finally, in 451 the solution to the problems of society is left for a remote future. Guy and his new friends can only hope that someday books will be printed again. On the other hand, at the end of 56K, better times seem just ahead. The Heretic can spread his books via the Internet, and the Inquisitor recognizes the difficulty of repressing the Internet and the need to support doctrines with reason.