Symbolism in Farenheight 451 by Ray Bradbury
Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury is a futuristic novel, taking the reader to a time where books and thinking are outlawed. In a time so dreadful where those who want to better themselves by thinking, and by reading are outlaws as well. Books and ideas are burned, books are burned physically, whereas ideas are burned from the mind. Bradbury uses literary devices, such as symbolism, but it is the 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 we let people take away our books, and thoughts. Bradbury notices what has been going on in the world, with regards to censorship, and McCarthyism in America. That is what he is speaking out against. Bradbury's use of symbolism throughout the novel makes the book moving and powerful by using symbolism to reinforce the ideas of anti-censorship.
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, and also in mythology, is known to endure fire without getting burnt by it. Perhaps the salamander is symbolic of Guy Montag, who is being described as a salamander because he works with fire, and endures it, but 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 Capt. 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.". The Phoenix symbolizes the rebirth after destruction by fire, only to get burnt, and be destroyed again. Firemen wear the Phoenix on their uniforms, and Capt. Beatty symbolically ...
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... was the Nazi book burning that took place after Hitler came to power. These burings took place to eliminate Jewish and outside ingluence on the Aryans, which is precisely what Bradbury demonstrates in this extraordinary piece of literature. Now to the probability portion of my statement, with the censorship by various parties, political and otherwise it is not unlikely that such a catasrophy could happen again, although it could come in the form of simply choking off the undesireable ideas.
Symbolism added to the power and overall affect behind this book. 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. If we do, then we will have gotten the message of Ray Bradbury. "There is no knowledge that is not power... And all our lives we must search for power, and in that search, we gain knowledge."(Anonymous)