fahrenheit 451 symbolism

Ray Bradbury's novel Fahrenheit 451 depicts a society in which books are seen as an enemy of the people. In this sense, Bradbury employs symbolism as a literary and stylistic aspect to support and provide further insight into the book's main themes without explicitly promoting the author's view.
A. Fire as a symbol of pain and suffering
i. Montag sent to burn houses with books highlighting violence in society
ii. Captain Beatty believes that books limit the freedoms of expression showing his ignorance.
B. Sieve and Sand
i. The title refers to Montag’s childhood memories where he tried to fill a sieve with sand
ii. Symbolizes the futile human struggle to find knowledge that is hard to identify
iii. The sand represents knowledge and truth, in addition to the beginning of life as per theological scriptures.
C. Mirrors
i. “Build a mirror factory to take a look at ourselves” (Fahrenheit 451)
ii. It represents self-understanding and an objective view of oneself. It can also represent alternative realities as they give reflections rather than the actual object.
iii. Montague needs critical reflection to understand his unhappiness while other characters could benefit from objective reflection.
D. Rising Phoenix
i. Mythological bird that burns and gets reborn from the ashes after the city’s bombing symbolizing hope for new life
ii. Granger also uses as a metaphor for humans who destroy themselves knowingly.
iii. Therefore, Granger and his colleagues preserve knowledge for the next generation giving hope for a rebirth and rediscovering.
E. Hearth and Salamander
i. Hearth provides warmth and comfort while Salamanders live comfortably in fire unharmed.
ii. Montag’s truck is ironically named Salamander since his profession of burning books also hurts society through destroying knowledge.
iii. Millie is also addicted to the Television and sleeping pills.
F. Blood as a symbol of death
i. Montag’s life is filled with fear accompanied by blood flow
ii. Millie tries to commit suicide through poisoning her blood. Although a transfusion saves her life, her soul is already dead.
iii. Also represents human ignorance of the knowledge to be found in books.
G. Illegal books symbolize government oppression
i. State-sponsored repression of the truth creating barriers to knowledge
ii. Millie spends all day gossiping and watching TV while cultivating an addiction to sleeping pills.
H. Granger and Professor Faber represent hope for society
i. Montag collaborates with a professor to learn literature while Faber communicates with him with an ear device to quench his thirst for knowledge.
ii. Books have intelligence as they represent varied perspectives on life
iii. They expose the superficial realities of life like “flowers trying to live on flowers.”
I. Clarisse as a representative of future generations
i. Energetic and a love of life and nature
ii. Asks Montag about the irony of him burning books yet firefighters put out fires
iii. She does not conform to the oppressive norms of society. Symbolism in Fahrenheit 451
In “Fahrenheit 451,” Ray Bradbury uses symbolism as a literal and a stylistic literature device to express different thoughts and give an entire different deeper meaning to the story facilitating improved understanding. Examples of symbols used in the novel include fire, blood, a phoenix, Clarisse, hearth and salamander, mirrors, sieve, and sand. The novel Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury illustrates a world where books are seen to be an enemy to the people. In this context, Bradbury utilizes symbolism as a literary and stylistic element to support and give deeper insight into the major themes of the book without promulgating the author’s opinion directly.
Bradbury uses fire to express the negative happenings in the society such as violence, ignorance, death, and fear. The symbolism becomes evident when Montag the fireman is sent to burn the houses and books belonging to writers. However, sometimes his works lead to deaths as book owners refuse to abandon their houses as they burn. The constant threat of government retaliation shows that there is a lot of violence in the community in question. Oppression of the writers to pass knowledge is observed in the whole novel as the government seeks to repress the spread of knowledge. Another prominent instance occurs where Captain Beatty participates in burning his co-worker’s house; Montag, due to possession of books. The depiction associates fire with destruction and oppression tool to the writers to ensure the extinction of books and their authors.
The use of sieve and sand is also symbolic; the writer uses as the title for the second section of the novel. He uses the title to express Montag childhood doings and memories. Montag tries to fill a sieve using sand to win a dime; he is frustrated. It symbolizes Montag’s struggles and efforts. The sieve represents gaps on how human try to look for the truth that is hard to identify and grasp permanently. The sand represents truth and knowledge in human society where humans try to gain knowledge only for it to slip through their fingers in the form of books. It also represents how time easily passes as Montag’s current situation is somewhat similar to his childhood memories. He is constantly trying to find happiness only for it to elude him. Also, sand in this context represents the beginning of life as multiple religious faiths believe humanity came from sand
Mirrors are also another symbol used in the book. Granger, the leader of the writers, says to Montag, “we must build a mirror factory to take a look at ourselves” (Fahrenheit 451). The author uses mirrors to express self-understanding; on a clear view of oneself. Mirrors can also be used to symbolize alternatives to reality since the mirror gives a reflection image of oneself. When a colleague asks Montag whether he is unhappy he reaches home and realizes that he is not, the books make him understand himself and the surroundings. If only the other people such as captain Beatty took their time to reflect on their lives themselves, they would understand their wrongdoings in the society. Millie is a sad woman suffering from depression, but she doesn’t realize it. She adores her television and takes it as an idol, and watches it almost every time. If she looked at herself in a mirror, she would see how sad and depressed her life has turned. Most of the characters in this novel do not look their life in reality, and that’s why their society is in true dystopia.
The symbol of a Phoenix features in the book to represent rebirth. Granger describes it as the mythological bird which would burn itself wholly and rise from the ashes. He explains this after the bombing of the city as the ashes represent the old life giving new life to a phoenix. Once it dies, it reincarnates from the ashes of its previous existence. The author signifies that the city needs a cleansing before making a new beginning. Granger proceeds and says that all humanity does the same thing and that their difference being that they destroy themselves knowingly through a similar way. Granger and other book writers want to make sure they pass their knowledge to the next generation. By this, they can bring change to the society someday. He says that “when they ask us what we’re doing, you can say, were remembering. That’s where we’ll remember so much that well build the biggest steam shovel in history, dig the biggest grave of all time, and shove war in and cover it up’’ (Fahrenheit 451). The vivid imagery symbolizes the society’s rebirth, and that there will come a time when the society will realize and rediscover itself thus perpetuating the cyclical nature of life.
The hearth and the salamander are used to symbolize fire; a hearth is a traditional fireplace at home. A salamander is known to have a myth that it can get through fire unharmed. Montag’s fire truck is also named salamander. The author uses these symbols in an ironic way ,Montag does not live unharmed by the fire since he at one time realizes how burning his profession of burning books is doing harm to the society and has ruined his wife even his own house, as explained Montag’s wife, Millie is dependent on television and sleeping pills. The writer describes Montag’s house as cold marbled mausoleum after the moon had set complete darkness, with no hint of the silver world from outside. The coldness in Montag’s house symbolizes how cold his world was. He had no real thoughts of his own, and again, the downfall in his relationship (Lorcher).
Blood appears multipel times in the novel symbolizing a lack of life. Montag’s lives in constant fear at work and home which is always accompanied by much-increased blood flow. Millie attempts suicide by poisoning her blood. The doctors save her through a blood transfusion although she does not recover fully. She remains in a vegetative state making the writer speculate that her soul already died leaving the body an empty husk. Her suicide attempt and incomplete recovery represents how humans willfully hide from the knowledge present in the books. Books represent knowledge curated over generations highlighting different aspects of life. In the book, the citizens believe the national narrative that books reduce freedom of expression and lead moral and hardworking citizens astray. In this way, the characters in Fahrenheit 451 willfully ignore the knowledge found in books thus facing challenges that could be easily resolved through critical thinking.
Illegal books as termed by the state, are also symbolic tools used by the author to symbolize how the state intends to prevent people from knowing the truth and creates barriers for the people to gain knowledge. They are pacifiers from the novel. We find Millie living a horrible life as a married woman who would glare at the television the whole day and gossip with other women and friends the whole day. Later, she would take sleeping pills to sleep; this is simply because of lack of knowledge. Later, she betrays her husband, and their house burns down highlighting the reduced rationality in society.
Granger and Professor Faber in the book represents the hope for the society. They are the guides. The professor teaches literature at Montag and even goes ahead to speak to him using an electrical device in his ear. The ear device is intended to make sure that Montag thirst for knowledge find a suitable solution. Faber says Montag “do you know why books such as this are so important? Because they have quality” (Fahrenheit 451, 83). He thinks that books have a character of intelligence. He further explains, “Do you now see why books are hated and feared? They represent the pores in the face of life. The comfortable people only want to wax moon faces, poreless and expressionless. We are living in a time when flowers are trying to live on flowers, instead of growing on good rain and black loam.” According to Fahrenheit 451, the flowers in this context are symbols representing the people in the book (83).
Clarisse, a 17-year-old girl from Montag s neighborhood, is used to represent the youths. The author describes her as attractive, energetic and a lover of nature and life. Her enthusiasm represents the nature of the young generation, who are buried from knowing the truth and gaining knowledge from the destroyed books. Clarisse talks to Montag and seems to be a much wise girl when she asks him if the firemen as supposed to put off the fire or start the fire; this is ironical. She loves doing odd things that draw her to Montag. She does not conform to the roles and laws of the oppressed community. She says to Montag, “they want to know what I do with my time. I tell them that I sometimes just think, but I don’t tell what. I have got the running and sometimes, I tell them, I like to put my head on my back and let the rain fall into my mouth” (Fahrenheit 451 23). Her names mean shining, bright and gentle. Her optimism and dynamic nature and society are used to show how the youths require knowing the truth and have knowledge.
Guy Montag represent a living spirit, his name means. After the incident of the woman burning in the house, he starts realizing that books might be of much importance. He goes ahead and steals a book. In discussion with his wife, he says “there must be something with this books, things that we can’t imagine, to make a woman burn stay in a burning house; there must be something there. You don't stay for anything” (Fahrenheit 451 51). These words show that he has understood the importance of the books and wants to help the society change. Even after his house burns, he goes on to join the other writers at the river. His change foreshadows the future of the society that there will be a revolution, once people start having a rational thinking.
After Montag’s wife betrays him and his house burns, he joins professor Faber at their camp at the river. The river symbolizes salvation and enlightenment of the society; the author uses the river to show how the society will soon have a rebirth. The revolution would take time, but afterward, the whole world would come to realize the need for the books in society. Montag draws all his clothes and threw them in the river and gets in the river too. His actions symbolize cleansing from the old identity of egocentrism to a new and a much better identity. The people at the river have memorized the books and waited to pass the knowledge to their children. Afterwards, the city is bombed, and no life is left in the city. Only the people in the forest remain. They decide to bring up a new society Montag relates this to the Bible as, “time to sew and time to reap” (Fahrenheit 451).
The author has used symbolism to enhance understanding by embedding a deeper meaning into the content thus developing particular themes. The symbols play an important role in the book. They all explain the need for knowledge from books and the value it adds to the society. Captain Beatty quoted Alexander pope saying, “a little learning is dangerous. Drink deep, or taste the Pierian Spring; their shallow draughts intoxicate the brain and drinking largely sober us once again.” According to Fahrenheit 451 (102), this quote was used to explain that once the society starts learning, they will have the thirst and yearn to know more, this in contrast with what the government wants. Use of fire in the novels also brings the hidden meaning that fire can be used as a destructive weapon and also a tool that can unite people if used responsibly.
The author has used symbolism to derive the whole story and give its intended lesson, at the beginning there is with fire, death and a lot of violence and ends with a new life in the city, beginning from the river, here river water symbolizes life. The remaining characters after the bombing are to start a revolutionized city with peace, and thirst for knowledge and truth. They all understand the power of knowledge. It’s through symbolism that the author achieves the intended theme of the novel which is censorship (Johnson). Works Cited
Anwar, Maria. "Postmodern Dystopian Fiction: An Analysis of Bradbury’s ‘Fahrenheit 451’." International Journal vol. 4, no.1, 2016, pp. 246-249.
Baker, Brian. Ray Bradbury: Fahrenheit 451. Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2005.
Gale, Cengage L. Study Guide for Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. Detroit: Gale, Cengage Learning, 2015.
Irsyad, Izzaty. "Book Banning Discourse and American Society in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451." Vivid Journal of Language and Literature vol. 4, no.2, 2016.
Lee, Sunjoo. "To Be Shocked to Life Again: Ray Bradbury's FAHRENHEIT 451." The Explicator vol. 72, no. 2, 2014, pp. 142-145.
Partington, Gill. "Films in books/books in film: Fahrenheit 451 and the media wars." Kittler now: Current perspectives in Kittler studies, 2015, pp. 154-173.
Syvertsen, Trine. "Evil Media in Dystopian Fiction." Media Resistance. Springer International Publishing, 2017. Pp. 35-53.
Thakur, Rajita, and Dr KV Divya. "Symbolism and The Dystopian Tradition in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451." English Studies International Research Journal vol.3, no.2, 2015, pp. 237-241.Annotated Bibliography
Anwar, Maria. "Postmodern Dystopian Fiction: An Analysis of Bradbury’s ‘Fahrenheit 451’." International Journal vol. 4, no.1, 2016, pp. 246-249.
Maria (2016) evaluates Fahrenheit 451 in light of postmodernism as a literary movement. The movement began after WWII when humans lost hop in scientific progress due to the destructive side effects. Relentless war created a constant sense of fear which sets the theme for Fahrenheit 451. She also shows how TV is used to shape social perceptions.
Baker, Brian. Ray Bradbury: Fahrenheit 451. Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2005.
The author Ray Bradbury of the novel Fahrenheit 451 written in 1987 was written in a historic time where he tries to address censorship in the book. It clearly outlines a society which is led by illiteracy and examines the importance of knowledge to the society. The book is futuristic since it explains the use of high technology during its setting. The author has used the genre of science fiction to show the future developments of the society. He uses different literature devices such as ,symbolism ,story within a story and many others in order to bring out the novels expected message.
Gale, Cengage L. Study Guide for Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. Detroit: Gale, Cengage Learning, 2015.
The study guide gives additional insight into the themes and context of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. It gives the reader alternative interpretations of the symbols and themes depicted in the novel as well as how they reflect in contemporary life.
Irsyad, Izzaty. "Book Banning Discourse and American Society in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451." Vivid Journal of Language and Literature vol. 4, no.2, 2016.
The article analyzes Fahrenheit 451 using a foucauldian perspective. The author discusses two opposing perspectives in the novel where book banning represents system surveillance while a freedom of reading discourse shows the important role of books in society.
Lee, Sunjoo. "To Be Shocked to Life Again: Ray Bradbury's FAHRENHEIT 451." The Explicator vol. 72, no. 2, 2014, pp. 142-145.
Sunjoo holds that repression of the senses results in conflict while a recovery fosters harmony. Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 shows conforming individuals as identical and repressing their desires increasing their unhappiness. In this context, she argues that making everyone equal and similar is not a pre-condition for happiness.
Syvertsen, Trine. "Evil Media in Dystopian Fiction." Media Resistance. Springer International Publishing, 2017. Pp. 35-53.
Syversten acknowledging the role of media in shaping social ideologies including negative perceptions designed to perpetuate the existing hegemony. In Fahrenheit 451, the government suppresses books as a method of disbursing information and instead popularize TV which only report a curated and state-controlled narrative.
Thakur, Rajita, and Dr KV Divya. "Symbolism and The Dystopian Tradition in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451." English Studies International Research Journal vol.3, no.2, 2015, pp. 237-241.
Thakur and Divya explore the multiple elements of symbolism present in Fahrenheit 451 such as the phoenix symbolizing rebirth and books representing humanity. Moreover, the author evaluate Bradbury’s use of symbolism against a review of the broader genre of Dystopian Tradtion.

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