Fahrenheit 451 projects a perfect new world to the human eye yet turning backward literally on new inherits beliefs. A society was living in denial burning years of knowledge given by heritage. It was a new era were burning books became a noble way of living, contradictory and twisted as a fireman’s job. In the book, the society is depicted with not much to do with such actions, but a lot to interpret to the way they regard knowledge as a disposable commodity.
In Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451 a society is depicted as unpleasant due to actions guided by a totalitarian government trying to control society. History and knowledge are obliterated by the ones who are called heroes of society. The agencies known to safeguard our society are now used to destroy it. In this paper, I intend to uncover the how the author uses different literary objects to describe the central symbol of power, fire. The foundation laid in the first chapter by the main character “Montag” using fire to burn books serves as a symbolic mirror throughout the novel. Therefore, without fire Fahrenheit, 451 will not have the same meaning or interest. I intend to utilize scholarly journals to highlight the creation and destruction effects of fire. I will try to reveal how the author uses symbols like 451 the temperature was book paper catches on fire, the Phoenix bird at the conclusion symbolizing hope and new beginnings. Finally, I would like to explore the author’s life background to establish a historical timeline that might influence the author’s ideas in the creation of the story.
History background of the Novel
Several factors influenced Bradbury to write the book Fahrenheit 451. Notably, Bradbury had a passion for books since his young age. The author was natured in an academic environment and in the 1920s and 1930s he used to visit the local library. Bradbury also came to know about the destruction of the Alexandrian library that leads to loss of cultural knowledge. This played a vital role in introducing Bradbury in the world of books. The primary trigger of Bradbury writing this novel was a scene he witnessed at the age of 15 years. He observing books being burnt in Berlin Germany on the street during the reign of the most infamous leader Hitler.
The burning of the books happened in the 1930s, and repression of Nazi Germany preceded it. Typically, Bradbury concern on the threat of books and the artistic repression influenced him to expand the story of “Fireman” into a full detailed Novel. Also, the technological advancement in the libraries and other fields of learning posed a threat to the physical books. Ideally, Bradbury was much worried about the new advancement in technology and relates it to the destruction of books and also saw it as a threat to the society’ knowledge. The novel Fahrenheit was written in the UCLA’ s Powell Library basement on a rental typewriter.
Fire as a Symbol
Symbolisms is the act of using a symbol to represent something or an idea in a hidden way. Bradbury has employed this stylistic device in his works “Fahrenheit 451” to depicted some hidden meaning to the reader and to, make the story more interesting. The symbols in his novel mock the modern world. Notably, the author has applied allegory in all the parts of the book, “The Hearth and the Salamander,” “The Sieve and the Sand,” and “Burning Bright.” Each symbol has a different message that it portrays to the reader. Ideally, fire is used to signify different meaning in various culture depending on the context and time of usage. In some society, fire is used to signify or is recognized as a destroyer, purifier and sometimes to generate power of life, change, and energy. Typically, fire can be used as a symbol of enlightenment and illumination, damnation, spirituality, and renewal.
Historically, fire stands out to be one of the significant element in the principle of human development for some valid reasons such as protection, communication, and lighting. In the novel, Bradbury applies the symbol of fire to an elevated new level. In a broad spectrum, the fire has been used as a destructive force in the novel. Imagine a society full of non-readers, people, with no sense of their original background. Imagine living in a community where the government prohibits reading. The dystopia book depicts the story of a difficult period when books were illegal and any individual caught in possession of a book he/she faces a serious punishment. Montag who was a fireman meets a bright girl named Clarisse while on his way home from work. They enter into a conversation, and the girl tells Montag how thing have changed to worse as today firemen are used to starts fire instead of putting out the fire. Montag ignores the claim as he was sure that it was directed to him. However, later in the story Montag comes to his senses and realizes that fire can have more meanings beyond what he has been using it for. Undoubtedly, Bradbury has used fire to imply different meaning such as a symbol of warmth, destruction, and resurrection.
Firstly, the title itself acts a symbol to represent the temperature level at which the book papers catch fire. According to the novel, books were illegal, and firemen were employed to ensure that the society is clean from any confusing ideas or opinion by burning the books. Montag who was a fireman wears a helmet numbered 451 which acts a s a symbol. The scenario comes as an irony in that Montag who is a “Fireman” is burning the books instead of saving them from the fire. Normally, it is the common duty of the firemen. “it was a pleasure to burn. It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed” (Bradbury 1).
Fire is the most prominent symbol of the book “Fahrenheit 451.” Arguably, the fire seems to have multiple meaning throughout the novel. However, the essential meaning of it in the book is destruction. Notably, fire possesses a lot of power in it such that one flame can burn a whole mansion down. The fire was used to burn books and materials into ashes. In this regard, the fire can be viewed as a damaging power as it burns paperwork and the knowledge they contain. Montag was a victim of this destructive force of fire as his house and books which were inside were burnt to ashes. “The house fell in red coals and Black ash. It bedded itself down in sleepy pink gay cinders, and a smoke plume blew over it” (Bradbury, 54) Montage describes.
In contrary, the fire has also been used to represent something positive which brings people together, provide light and warmth. In the chapter of “Burning Bright,” fire has been used as a something that provides warmth to people during the cold season rather than being used as a symbol of destruction. In this chapter, Montag who was a fireman happens to meets a group of scholars who were referred to as ‘book people’ who were sitting around a campfire that provides warmness as they share their ideas and memories. Notably, at the beginning of the novel fire was seen as a threat to the scholars and a symbol of destruction but in this case, fire is represented as a symbol of warmth. Consequently, in this regard fire alters its meaning and begins to signify hope. In this chapter, Montag’s opinion on fire seems to have changed and he now interprets fire as a source of warmth and something beautiful. According to the book “He had not known fire could look this way. He had never thought in his life could give as well as take. Even its smell was different” (Bradbury, 68).
Arguably, the government seemed to burn the books as it wanted people not to worry. The idea was that as people read more they get to know many things and this causes complications and confusion. Montag broke the law and ran away and come across a campfire where he meets Granger with other intellectuals warming themselves. In this regard, Montag realized that the fire camp was much different than he knew it as destructive. The fire camp was welcoming, and he was surprised that the fire would bring people together. In this scenario, fire is used as a symbol of warmth and unity. Although at the beginning of the book, Montag had a negative perception of fire, through the hearth that is found in the middle of homes as a heat source, he gets to realize that fire can be warming as well. Later in the book, Montag gets to love fire, and he has a positive perception of it as something beautiful and warming.
The mechanic Hound is an eight-legged robotic with physical appearance of a dog that is used by the firemen to aid them in their destruction duties. The dog-like robot resides in the firehouse, and it is applied to sniffs and attacks people who read books illegally. Moreover, the robot machine is used to destroy individuals who do not abide by the law relentlessly. Johnson depicted the clear picture of the robot by saying “Montag’s particular enemy is the fire station’s mechanical Hound. As Montag becomes more fascinated with books and nearer to a betrayal of his duties as a fireman, the hound becomes more suspicious of him. The hound is then symbolic of the relentless, heartless pursuit of the state.” The mechanic hound was a computerized machine that worked under the control of the firemen, and the author has used it to depict the dehumanizing side of the technology. Notably, the robot has the unusual magic trait that outdoes the human capability. The hound can capture a victim with just one sting of anesthetic and inescapable tracking capability. Typically, the hound was used by the firemen to detect the book readers; in this regard, it was used to aid in the destructive power of fire.
Similarly, Phoenix is used to signify resurrection. In this context, the author tends to depict another perception of fire. To display it clearly, Bradbury used a symbol of Phoenix. “There was a silly damn bird called a Phoenix back before Christ: every few hundred years he built a pyre and burned himself up. He must have been the first cousin of man. But every time he burnt himself up he sprang out of the ashes, he got himself born all over again…” (Bradbury, 76). After the city was bombed during the nuclear war, Granger associates mankind with a phoenix bird gets reborn through burning itself to ashes. Notably, there some differences that distinguish human being and Phoenix in that humans can identify their mistakes, and they are aware not to repeat them. In this regard, fire is used to burn the old and brings a rebirth of new. The novel uses fire to show how fire is used to burn the old society and another society is born which does not fear knowledge and it embraces reading.
In a nutshell, the novel “Fahrenheit 451” have depicted the symbol of fire in to portray different meanings. Notably, the main representation of fire includes Destruction, change. Warmth and beauty. Typically, in the first chapter of the book “Hearth and the salamander” Fire is displayed as something destructive. In this context, Montag seems to know the damaging power of fire. However, the perception of fire comes to change gradually, and it comes to be seen as a symbol of renewal and rebirth. The novel has shown how fire is used to burn homes and books of some characters. Later in the book Montag changes his perception of fire after he finds a group of scholars warming themselves. In this context, Montag views fire as something beautiful that can provide warmth. In the last chapter, Phoenix represents fire because it uses fire to destroy itself and it is reborn. Similarly, the Montag’s world is destroyed by nuclear weapons, and it started a new beginning just like the Phoenix’s rebirths itself after flame. Essentially, the author of the novel “Fahrenheit 451” tries to tell us how fire impersonates the actions of a character besides showing how they perceive fire to be a positive or a negative force. The author has precisely explained the various interpretation fire using Montag. Early in the book, Montag had a negative perception of fire but later in the book his perception changes to be positive, and the same fire that was used to destroy it will assist him to create a new intellectual world.