Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury utilizes the
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury utilizes the literary device symbolism to give the story a deeper meaning. In this story symbolism is used to address the major themes and concepts to voice the authors opinion indirectly.
The books are a major piece of symbolism used throughout the book. The job of the firemen is to destroy all books but what harm can a book cause. The purpose of books is to help a person connect what they have learned to what they are reading, thus expanding a person’s knowledge. An example of this would be in learning something in school. A person may know the basics of a certain topic but the teacher and or school provides the student with a textbook that gives them a more complex explanation of that topic.
Books are significant and help whoever is reading it get a better understanding of something or to simply entertain the person reading it. In the book, just like in real life books represent ideas and knowledge and knowledge often displays power. The Firemen are stripping people of the right to have any more knowledge than the next person. Individuality equates to murder and having a greater knowledge than everyone else is like robbing a bank. On page 102 Captain Beatty quotes Alexander Pope stating, ‘A little learning is a dangerous thing.
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring: There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain and drinking largely sobers us again (Bradbury 102).’ This quote backs up the idea that books are dangerous, providing the firemen another reason to strip people of any sign of acceleration. The firemen, who are toys for the government to use whenever necessary, do not want dissatisfied thinkers to question the way things are. The result of this is the firemen destroying the things that can further knowledge and produce questions.
In the novel fire is a two-sided force. As the plot progresses the reader wonders if it has a deeper meaning than just to destroy books. Fire is a tool of demolition, but the reader finds out later in the book it is also a sign of knowledge. When used responsibly fire can be considered a tool.
For example, near the end of the novel Guy Montag flees the city and comes across people who are using fire to warm themselves. In this example fire is being used to bring people together, thus making fire dualistic. Fire provides a symbol of demolition, warmth and all things new in the novel. In the beginning of the Guy Montag finds joy in the fire and burning, he states on page 3 “It was a pleasure to burn.
It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed (Bradbury 3).” This expresses the joy Guy Montag receives from burning books, he believed that fire was good, and it was the solution to everyone’s problems. He was equating the warmth of fire to the warmth someone feels when they do something good. A well-known symbol for new beginnings is a phoenix. Guy Montag just wants to break free from all things he knew and was forced to follow. When Guy Montag barely escapes the city, he sees the true meaning of fire.
In Guy Montag mind fire stopped being a significant weapon for Guy Montag to use. Fire stopped being significant because it was the very thing that was used to destroy what Guy Montag started to love, books. Guy Montag realized the potential books had so in his eyes fire started off as something used to destroy books and strip people of their individuality but at the end of the novel Guy Montag realizes that fire is power, power to rid people of knowledge.
In the book, the author, Ray Bradbury gives the torch a different symbolic meaning than it does with fire. In the book the torch is merely a door being opened to allow more destruction to take place, but its impact isn’t small. The torch gave Guy Montag and other firemen the window of opportunity to do what they thought was right. Without the torch the fireman would not produce as much power as expected in the novel. The torch in the novel is used to help harness the destructive power of fire guiding it to books and all the house with books in them. This is the source of power until a woman decided to take a match and burn herself and her books in her home. This suggested the idea that the power the torch once had was not as strong as it once was.
A torch can be represented as insight or enlightenment and understanding. For example, in New York there is a Statue of Liberty, this statue holds a book and a torch. These symbols represent the very foundation of things Americans value.
In the book the torch is used as a weapon but later in the novel there is hope the torch will be a light to rekindle new beginnings and knowledge. Guy Montag feels an overwhelming sense of regret for torching the books. This was because he had discovered that books were things that could produce a great impact in the city and the torch was the very thing threatening the need for knowledge and individuality. The torch Guy Montag once held with confidence robbed Guy Montag of who he really was and who he could truly be in the society he once loved. In the book the firemen are a tool being used to make the society “better” by ridding the society and all the people in it of the basic need for knowledge, knowledge that threatened the system the totalitarian government prided themselves on. They represent the backbone and the foundation of this novel; the fireman were merely ploys in the totalitarian governments plot to control everyone and what knowledge they obtain so that no single soul was better than the next.
Without the firemen the totalitarian government would be forced to do its own dirty work though the people of the city did not consider it dirty work because the people doing the work were people thought of as leaders. In the novel the firemen symbolize secret police. Throughout the novel the firemen are a representation of the secret police for totalitarian government, whose job is to track down political dissidents. These firemen are called to destroy illegal books that some rebellious members of the society have.
The firemen arrest people who threaten the power and control the government has just like Ustase of Croatia. A salamander is the proper image for firemen, salamanders were once thought to live in fire, giving them the ability to withstand fire. A firemen’s job is to put out fire but, in this case, they are causing the fire when they burn books thus giving them the ability to withstand fire like salamanders. In the novel the firemen are weapons themselves. A weapon can be defined as something used to get ahead or defend oneself. In this novel the firemen are the totalitarian governments weapon to conform everyone to a certain standard of being. Just like a martyr would do anything even die to show their loyalty to a certain cause or belief, the firemen are doing anything the government is telling them to do to prove their loyalty even if it means ruining people in the process.
Any sign of a disruption in the system the totalitarian government made resulted in an uproar calling for the firemen to do everything they can to put a stop to any disobedient person in the society. In the book the main character Guy Montag represents hope. The hope for a better tomorrow is what drives the plot in this novel. In the beginning Guy Montag views his job as something that was necessary to make the society a better place for everyone to live in. Guy Montag took pride in his work and what it stood for.
Traits and characteristics that made guy Montag himself were highly illegal. Though these characteristics have positive connotations Guy Montag could not applaud himself because to him and to the standards set by the totalitarian government he was a traitor. Being a traitor was already bad enough, but Guy Montag’s occupation made this even worse being a fireman traitor is the same as being a dirty cop. Guy Montag’s name means sensible, relating to his character because he just wants to live and be whoever he wants to be with no objections or disapproval from anyone. Later in the novel Guy Montag realizes book are an essential that should be used and not abused.
Guy Montag states ‘We have everything we need to be happy, but we aren’t happy. Something’s missing. I looked around. The only thing positively knew was gone was the books I’d burned ten or twelve years. So, I thought books might help us.
‘ This shows the sense of hope that there will be better days, but they come with a price. Guy Montag had to pay that price when decided that what the society offered just was not enough for him. This hope was first discovered when Guy Montag met Clarisse McClellan.
She was the person who questioned Guy Montag thus making him question himself and the choices he has made based on the totalitarian governments rules and regulations. In the book Clarisse McClellan represents a foil of Mildred Montag. This use of symbolism questions all that Guy Montag knows and based part of his life off. Before Guy Montag met Clarisse McClellan, he was a robot to the system, the system set in place by the totalitarian government.
When Clarisse McClellan is first introduced in the novel she comes off as someone who challenges every rule set in place. She stood out to Guy Montag and challenged all that he knew. In this novel by Ray Bradbury, the main character Guy Montag interacts with two different women, one being his wife Mildred Montag and the other being Clarisse McClellan. In this book they are foil characters. Clarisse McClellan is a young girl that sees the world in a different light than everyone else in this society. Through her abstract thinking she strikes Guy Montag as someone he has known over a long period of time. Mildred Montag was the opposite she treated Guy Montag like he was invisible, she could never even spare him a glance due to her strong fascination with whatever the television had to offer.
In the book, I believe Ray Bradbury, the author made Mildred Montag and Clarisse McClellan ages differ a lot to show Mildred Montag’s lack of maturity. In this book these two characters have a very different lifestyles and ways they handle various situations in their life. Clarisse McClellan is a person who thinks outside the box and test the limits but then there are people like Mildred Montag who rely on technology and cannot be bothered with the likes of actual human beings, not even her husband. Clarisse McClellan is happy and content with her life and that it brings, but Mildred Montag tried to commit suicide in the beginning of the novel. This shows the reader that Mildred Montag feels unjust with her life and the decisions she has made.
The difference between Clarisse McClellan and Mildred Montag guides Guy Montag’s choice on whether to stay conformed to the ways of the government or to live life as he thinks it is intended to be. In the novel Guy Montag finds himself in the waters of a river at the edge of town this river gives Guy Montag a new meaning for his life. This river represents new life and change that is about to happen in Guy Montag’s life. Rivers can be a powerful representation of life and change. Once Guy Montag enters the river he can wash away any sign of his former life and start over fresh with the things he was once frowned upon, books. This also allows the main character Guy Montag to reflect on what his life was and what this new beginning had to offer.
He could be a new person looking through the eyes of a changed person. The river is used to contrast fire showing the difference between good and evil. The river symbolizes the innocence of the society before the government corrupted it. This shows how the river could change Guy Montag and show him the potential he has. Guy Montag’s experience with the river can be compared to being baptized. Once Guy Montag came across the river he was freed form any shackles and chains holding him back. The river symbolizes a border that separates the good from the evil.
The river saves Guy Montag from the wicked ways the totalitarian government put in place for the society and brings peace in his life. As Guy Montag floats down the river is whole world is changing, everything he once knew was now a distant memory Guy Montag was leaving behind. The life Guy Montag once loved was now what he hated the most, discovering the truth opened his eyes and the river cleansed him of it. The book Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury is a story that effectively displays the use of symbolism very often throughout the novel in various cases.
This novel uses symbolism and it makes a big impact on the story. It drives the plot in various directions to keep the reader interested. Without these various uses of symbolism, the novel would not have the same impact. The books, the fire, the torch, the firemen, Guy Montag, Clarisse McClellan the foil of Mildred Montag, and the river are just a glimpse of what this story symbolizes and how powerful it is.