Ray Bradbury Novel Fahrenheit 451 symbolism

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Ray Bradbury’s book Fahrenheit 451 features several icons that give a broader context to the novel’s narrative. These symbols are crucial to interpreting the novel’s events, and they contribute greatly to the plot’s creation. Symbols, in reality, have clouded the whole novel and helped to attract the reader’s interest. The author extensively employs icons to express greater meaning and give the narrative a dystopian feel. Owing to this aspect, the reader comes to appreciate the importance of these symbols while reading the book. Furthermore, the symbols are used to build and expand on the themes of the novel and have significantly played an important role in the actions that happen and the conflicts that arise in the book. This paper will discuss the symbolism used by Ray Bradbury in his book Fahrenheit 451.

Symbols in the Novel Fahrenheit 451

The Fire

The fire in the novel represents a symbol of warmth, destruction, and renewal. Montag, the protagonist of the story lives in a society where individuals have given up the importance of the books and fire is used to destroy them. Fire is also used to destroy the houses of people and even burning down people and hence presenting to be a form of destruction. On the other hand, the idea of Montag and other men at the end of the book enjoying the burning fire symbolizes renewal. Fire is also used to physically mean the cleansing the world around Montag. Beatty says “Fire’s real beauty is that it destroys responsibility and consequences. A problem gets too burdensome, then into the furnace with it….Antibiotic, aesthetic, practical” (Bradbury 115). Therefore, the fire is also dualistic which represents a two-sided force. The reader is able to quickly judge the responsibility of the fire in the novel as a tool of destruction. The firemen use fire to destroy the books representing a tool for destruction. Nevertheless, the fire is also used to symbolize unity (Duncan Colleen 38). This is particularly evident when Montag flees and comes across men who are warming themselves beside the fire. Montag realizes that fire is able to bring people together and not separate them. This represents the dual nature of the fire.

The Hearth and the Salamander

Bradbury utilizes The Hearth and the Salamander to be the title of the beginning section of Fahrenheit 451. The hearth represents a traditional household while the salamander “shows one of the official symbols of the firemen and also the name that was given to the fire trucks” (Bright 30). All the symbols relate to the fire which is central to the life of Montag. The hearth is seen to have a fire which heats a home while the salamander depicts the ancient belief that it resides in the fire and it is not affected by the flames. However, the hearth and the salamander symbols are ironic as Montag life is wounded by the fire and Montag realizes that the burning of the books has ruined his society (Truffaut et al.17). Besides, the society of Montag has led to the destruction of his home evidence through Mildred’s dependable on the television and the sleeping pills.

Moreover, the title makes a suggestion that the fire used as hearth is a source of warmth and goodness which implicates the non-destructive positive side of the fire. Obviously, the salamander is a small type of a lizard that is well known for having an endurance when it comes into contact with fire. Notably, the salamander could signify Montag, a character that is being described to be like the salamander. He works with fire and has an endurance for it and also holds that he can escape the fire and still survive just like the way salamanders usually does.

The Sieve and the Sand

This is the title presented in the novel’s second section. The childhood memory of Montag is taken to depict the “sieve” and the “sand” title. Evidently, in Montag’s past life, he tried to fill sand on the sieve while at the beach in order to find a dime from his wicked cousin. Montag cries due to the futile of the task (Connor 14). Montag does make a comparison of the story with his attempts to read quickly the entire Bible while on the subway and having hopes that some of the materials he reads will stay in his memory. Undoubtedly, the sand signifies the solid truth that Montag tries to find whilst the sieve signifies the people that seek the truth which remains to be elusive (Connor 16). Metaphorically, the two symbols suggest the impossibility of grasping the idea in a permanent way. The sieve and the sand are the clear symbols that represent the effort that Montag opts to learn and read. Symbolically, the sand could represent the knowledge that escapes Montag while the sieve represents his mind that strives in making a permanent knowledge.

The Phoenix

Granger makes a comparison of the mankind to a phoenix in the aftermath of the burning city. The phoenix does burn up and eventually rises from the ashes time after time (Bright 20). Phoenix symbolizes that the human being’s advantage and capability to recognize when he or she has made a mistake and learns from the mistakes and not to repeat the mistake again. Granger and his friends have set themselves in remembering the past mistakes and have a belief that people are not as significant as the representation of the collective mass in the cultural history (Truffaut et al. 27). The rebirth of the phoenix symbol does imply the rebirth of the human beings, the cyclical nature of the history and also the spiritual resurrection of Montag. According to Bright, the phoenix represents a “mythological bird that bursts into flames” when it dies and rises from the ashes representing a rebirth (Bright 31). Symbolically, as Bright asserts, this is Montag’s spiritual rebirth and the effort of the society to make a rediscovery of itself and the cyclical nature of living (Bright 45).

The Blood

Blood appears in the entire novel which is used to symbolize the suppressed soul of the human beings. Montag frequently feels that his thoughts of revolutionary are circulating and welling in his blood. On the other hand, Mildred’s primal self is permanently lost, she continues to be unchangeable even when her blood is substituted through the mechanical “Electric-Eyed Snake machine” (Emrah 29). The sign of blood relates to the “snake machine” and the author uses the electric devices to demonstrate that the corruption of Mildred along with the thick sediment of misery, delusion and the hatred that is inside Mildred. The snake makes an exploration of “the layer upon layer of night and stone and stagnant spring water” (Duncan and Colleen 32). Nevertheless, the act of replacing her blood did not work towards rejuvenating Mildred’s soul. Mildred’s poisoning and replacement of blood do symbolize the emptiness in Mildred’s life together with the many people who lead a life similar to her.


In the ending of the novel, Granger indicates that they have to build a factory mirror in which they will use to see themselves. The remark made by Granger does implicate the discovery option of Montag Clarisse as a mirror in “The Hearth and the Salamander” (Mancini 27). The symbol of the mirror, in this case, shows the self-understanding and seeing oneself in a clear way after a rediscovery. The mirrors are utilized to represent the aspect of coming to know oneself and understanding who people are. This represents a reflection of oneself and the ability to remember. In literary analysis, Montag did not see himself as being clear at the start of the novel. Montag saw a reflection of his image in a shiny piece of glass. Montag clearly understood that when he returns to the firehouse, he could see himself to be a burnt soul in the mirror. Certainly, Montag was arrogant concerning himself particularly concerning being a fireman. Montag later comes to see himself in a clear manner. The suggestion of Granger to build a mirror and take a look at themselves translates to the importance of seeing and understanding oneself.

The Books

The books used in the novel have been one of the major symbols cherished by the reader. The primary objective of the firemen is to cause the destruction of the books along with the properties that are contained in them. The questions that are more threatening the reader is what could be lying in the books and the reason for their destruction. Undeniably, the books represent the ideas, knowledge and the power that lies in the knowledge. The firemen are responsible for ensuring that no one gains knowledge. Captain Beatty states that “A little learning is a dangerous thing. Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring; their shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, and drinking largely sobers us again” (Bradbury 102). This is used to mean that when a person begins to learn, it does develop thirsty for getting more knowledge and an individual ultimately becomes aware of more things through the books. The firemen are a representation of the interest of the government who question the status quo and the way things are currently done. Therefore, it is simply beneficial to the government to have the destruction of the vital items that could further knowledge.

Therefore, the books represent ideas and even Montag believes that the future of the world lies in the idea of saving the books from the act of burning. Faber states that “the books are to remind us what asses and fools we are … The things you’re looking for, Montag, are ninety-nine per cent in a book” (Bradbury 86). The quote demonstrates that the books are a strong symbol of knowledge and that they spread ideas along with giving individuals the power of deciding their course of life. The books are evident to be pivotal to the citizens and a hope for getting to know more. The books are also used by the author to represent censorship (Mancini 41). They depict how the government is oppressive, cruel and stifled with the novel books presenting a protest against the acts of the government.


Montag, the protagonist of the story frequently talks about hands and he refers to them numerous times in the novel. He refers to them as having the acting and lying ability. Symbolically, the hands signify the actions that people do and the way these people could be in conjunction with the mind while at the same time present to be totally separate of thought.

Water and Nature

The water is used to symbolize the distinction that exists between nature and the world of technology. The water signifies the thought process which requires being adopted when one goes into bridging the gap between knowledge and facts. Facts represent the city while knowledge represents the nature. The book that is hidden in the forest away from the city addresses nature in its purest manner. The individuals here are rejected from staying in the city. Nature makes a physical representative of the way the society has to behave including being intricate, open, textured and detailed (Bradbury 83). The Mechanical Hound is also another symbol in the novel. The author depicts the mechanical hound in a mockery nature. He writes “the dead beast, the living beast” (Bradbury 24). The mechanical hound symbolizes the lack of human nature in people and the society. The society is increasing taking the savagery that is their only solace from reality.


Certainly, the use of symbolism in the book achieves the purpose of developing the novel’s story. For example, fire is used to represent pain and destruction along with renewal. From the way, a woman burns in the house and destruction of the book. The fire along with many other symbols have given the novel its enigmatic nature and attracted the reader. The symbols makes the reader to dig deep in order to find the meaning that the author intended to pass across in using the symbols. Indeed, Bradbury has significantly shown the importance of incorporating symbols in any literary writing.

Works Cited

Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451. 1st ed., Clinton, MD, Recorded Books, 1982,.

Bright Summaries.,. Book Analysis: Fahrenheit 451 By Ray Bradbury. 1st ed., [Place Of Publication Not Identified], Primento Digital, 2015.

Connor, George. “Spelunking With Ray Bradbury: The Allegory Of The Cave In Fahrenheit 451”. Extrapolation, vol 45, no. 4, 2004, pp. 408-418. Liverpool University Press, doi:10.3828/extr.2004.45.4.7.

Duncan, Meriah, and Colleen M Madden. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury. 1st ed., Auburn Hills, MI, Teacher’s Discovery, 2006.

Emrah, ATASOY. “Impediment to Knowledge and Imagination in Ray Bradbury’S Dystopian Novel, Fahrenheit 451”. Ankara Üniversitesi Dil Ve Tarih-Coğrafya Fakültesi Dergisi, vol 55, no. 1, 2015, pp. 399-414. Ankara University, doi:10.1501/dtcfder_0000001440.

Mancini, Candice. Censorship In Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. 1st ed., Detroit, Mich., Greenhaven Press, 2011.

Truffaut, François et al. Fahrenheit 451. 1st ed., München, Süddeutsche Zeitung, 2005.

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