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Symbols and Images in Fahrenheit 451


Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury is a futuristic novel, taking the reader to a time where books and thinking are outlawed. In a time dreadful FOR those who want to better themselves by thinking, and by reading, BECAUSE READING IS OUTLAWED. Books and ideas are burned, books are burned physically, where as ideas are burned from the mind. Bradbury uses literary devices( I ONLY SEE ONE DEVICE!) such as symbolism, but it is the idea (WHAT IDEA?) he wants to convey that makes this novel so devastating. Bradbury warns us of what may happen if we stop expressing our ideas, and let people take away our books, and thoughts. Bradbury notices what has been going on in the world, with regards to censorship THROUGH book burning in Germany and McCarthyism in America.


            Bradbury is also a WRITER WHO incorporates symbolism into his book. Bradbury's use of symbolism throughout the novel makes the book moving and powerful by using symbolism to reinforce the ideas of anti-censorship. (WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY THIS?) The Hearth and the Salamander, the title of part one, is the first example of symbolism. The title suggests two things having to do with fire, the hearth is a source of warmth and goodness, showing the positive, non-destructive side of fire. Whereas a salamander is a small lizard-like amphibian, WHICH in mythology is known to endure fire without getting burnED by it.


            Perhaps the salamander is symbolic of Guy Montag who is described as a ONE because he works with fire, endurING ITS DANGER.  YET HE CONTINUES TO believes that he can escape the fire and survive, much like a salamander does. On the other hand, it is ironic that Guy, and the other firemen believe themselves to be salamanders because both CAPTAIN Beatty's and Montag's destruction comes from the all mighty flame, from which they thought they were invincible.


The symbol of a Phoenix is used throughout the novel. This quote accurately describes the Phoenix,


            "It is known to be a mythical multi-colored bird of Arabia, with a long history of artistic and  literary symbolism, the Phoenix is one of a kind. At the end of its five-hundred-year existence, it perches on its nest of spices and sings until sunlight ignites the masses. After the body is consumed in flames, a worm emerges and develops into the next Phoenix."(24, Cliffs' Notes on Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451)


The Phoenix symbolizes the rebirth after destruction by fire, only to get burnED and be destroyed again. Firemen wear the Phoenix on their uniforms, and CAPTAIN Beatty drives a Phoenix car.


            Montag, after reaching the realization that fire and destruction HAVE indeed destroyed him, wishes to be "reborn". As part of his "rebirth", he goes to Faber with ideas to save the books, and he hides books in his house. Montag even goes SO far as stealing books from houses that he is supposed to be destroying.  But a Phoenix is "reborn" only to get burnED AND destroyed again. *Guy's life is a cycle of getting burnt, then coming alive once again, then being burnt, until one time the Phoenix survives and flies away (where Montag goes to the "escapee" camp), or the Phoenix dies in the flames, never to be reborn again(where Montag kills Capt. Beatty by igniting him with the liquid fire).* (THIS IS A RUN-ON WHICH NEEDS TO BE BROKEN DOWN INTO SEVERAL SENTENCE.)


At the end of the book, Granger makes reference to the Phoenix once more by talking about the city going up in flames in the bomb blast.


            "There was a silly damn bird called a Phoenix back before Christ, every few hundred years he built a pyre and burnt himself up. He must have been first cousin to Man. But every time he burnt himself, up he sprang out of the ashes, he got himself born all over again. And it looks like we're doing the same thing, over and over, but we've got one damn thing the Phoenix never had. We know the damn silly thing we just did. We know all the damn silly things we've done for a thousand years and as long as we know that and always have it around where we can see it, some day we'll stop making goddamn funeral pyres and jumping in the middle of them. We pick up a few more people that remember every generation." (163) (I UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU MEAN, BUT YOUR ENTIRE SENTENCE IS A QUOTE.  TRY PARAPHRASING.)



            Fire is another great example of symbolism. Each of us has our own image of fire burning within us, WHICH depending on experiences could be positive or negative. Fire has a dual image in the book, a symbol of destruction, and a symbol of warmth. For Montag, fire has been good FOR SERVING the PURPOSES of a fireman. Fire has become a symbol of good in Montag's mind, and a solution to all problems. CAPTAIN. Beatty has taught Guy that fire is the solution to everything BY DESTROYING books. When in reality, fire destroyed NOT ONLY books, BUT HOMES AND PEOPLE INCLUDING CAPTAIN Beatty.  In the end, FIRE destroyed the city from which Montag barely escaped. "If you can't solve it... burn it!" Is the single statement that can be made about Guy's thoughts of fire, before his "rebirth".


            However, fire also symbolizes something else, warmth AND goodness. It is not until the end that Guy realizes  fire does not have to be destructive; it can be good BY PROVIDING warmth and security. He associates fire with good when he meets the rest of the escapees, in the secret camp, because they are all sitting around a campfire sharing ideas and reading. The campfire is no longer destruction, it is providing warmth for them, but they are still burning books. They are memorizing the books, and passing them along by word of mouth, and then they are placing the books in the campfire, and letting their power be released. By burning the books, they are remembering them, and protecting them from the destructive fire of the firemen.


            Symbolism added to the power and overall affect OF FAHRENHEIT 451. The symbols were usually descriptive of something or somebody, such as the Phoenix, and the salamander. *Whereas destruction and fire came to be a symbol in the eyes of the reader throughout the novel. Perhaps this novel, written in the early 1950's, spoke out against the future, and spoke out against censorship, but one thing is for sure, we must always attempt to better ourselves with knowledge, and always form our own ideas.* (THIS IS A RUN-ON SENTENCE!) If we do, then we will have gotten the message of Ray Bradbury.






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