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Farenheight 451 Symbolism Essay, Research Paper

Book Report Analysis Trevor Stauble

5/30/01

Period 3

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, where as

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 drives a Phoenix car. Montag, after

reaching the realization that fire and destruction has 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 as far

as stealing books from houses that he is supposed to be destroying. But a

Phoenix is “reborn” only to get burnt 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). 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.”

Fire is another great example of symbolism. Each of us has our own

image of fire burning within us, and depending on experiences, it 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 to

serve the purpose of being a fireman. Fire has become a symbol of good in

Montag’s mind, and a solution to all problems. Capt. Beatty has taught Guy

that fire is the solution to everything, it destroys books, andus, and

depending on experiences, it 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 to serve the purpose of being a fireman. Fire has

become an image of destruction in the eyes of Montag. Guy believes that fire

is good, and that fire symbolizes the solution, the ultimate solution to all of

the world’s problems. When in reality, fire destroyed books, it destroyed

homes, it destroyed people, it destroyed Capt. Beatty, it destroyed Montag’s

house, and in the end, it 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, goodness. It is not until the very end that

Guy realizes that fire does not have to be destructive, it can be good, and

provide you with 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.

People and culture are so intermingled with my reading selection that I

would say they are inseperable. This is based on historical events and

probability. In terms of the historical events the most thought provoking 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)


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